Life is difficult after a loved one passes away. It can feel overwhelming, however, when the death of a loved one happens because of a tragic, preventable accident, or as a result of someone’s negligent or reckless actions. Even when the pain subsides, we feel a need to hold someone accountable. Money will not bring back a deceased loved one or heal the scars of a loss, but it can help in moving on and finding support during this difficult time.
The compassionate, dedicated wrongful death attorneys at Boohoff Law have the resources and experience to investigate and litigate claims seeking damages and other remedies for a wrongful death that occurred in the Seattle area. If someone’s careless mistakes or harmful actions leave you mourning the loss of a loved one, we can help. Contact us today to learn more.
Why Hire Boohoff Law Wrongful Death Lawyers
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and her team of skilled legal professionals possess decades of combined experience representing the families and estates of those killed in tragic accidents and circumstances. Attorney Boohoff earned a reputation as a top-notch personal injury law firm with a strong commitment to client service. She takes pride in having assembled a team of compassionate, accessible attorneys who listen and respond to their clients’ needs.
Tatiana attended Boston University School of Law, consistently ranked a top-25 law school by U.S. News and World Report. In more than a decade since graduation, she and the talented group of lawyers she has assembled around her have established a track record as fearless trial lawyers who are also passionate about advocating for the rights of families struggling to adjust to a tragic, untimely loss.
About Wrongful Death Claims
Under Washington law, “[w]hen the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another his or her personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death.” The surviving family members who have an absolute right to bring a wrongful death claim under the provision above include a spouse, a state registered domestic partner, a child, or a stepchild. If none of those people is alive to assert a claim for wrongful death, then a parent, brother, or sister who lives in the United States and may have depended on the victim for support can bring the claim.
If the person legally responsible for causing a wrongful death has died, then the parties above have the right to file and maintain a lawsuit against that person’s estate.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Liability for someone else’s wrongful death can arise from a wide variety of circumstances. It would be impossible to list all of those here. However, there are a number of scenarios that commonly lead to the tragic loss of life, for which Boohoff Law possesses a rare combination of skill and experience to pursue a wrongful death claim. They include:
Motor vehicle accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents account for about a quarter of all accidental deaths in the United States annually. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports there were 565 fatalities from motor vehicle accidents on Washington roads in 2017. Occupants of passenger cars and small trucks, and pedestrians, accounted for the majority of those deaths. Of course, not all motor vehicle accident fatalities result in an actionable claim for wrongful death, but many of them do.
Workplace/construction accidents. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries keeps close track of workplace fatalities in the state. In 2017 alone, there were 75 traumatic work-related incidents that led to a worker’s death. Workers in the construction, transportation, and warehousing industries are most at risk for these types of tragedies, but the data show workplace deaths can happen in virtually any industry. Workers’ compensation covers some of the damages associated with a workplace death, but other parties may also have legal liability for these accidents.
Product defects. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, a wide variety of consumer products injure millions of Americans annually. Some of those injuries result in fatalities. When a product has a defect because of its design, or how it was constructed, or its lack of adequate warnings, Washington law makes it possible for anyone injured by the product, or the survivors of someone killed by the product, to seek damages from those involved in putting the product into the stream of commerce.
Medical malpractice. Sometimes, medical service providers make mistakes that result in the death of a patient. The precise number of these incidents is the subject of some controversy, but could be in the hundreds of thousands annually. When medical service providers fail to provide the standard of care required under the law, and a patient dies as a result, Washington statutes permit the victims’ families and others to pursue an action for medical malpractice.
These are just a few of the most common categories of incidents that can lead to wrongful death. Whether or not your loved one’s death resulted from one of the circumstances above, or from another cause entirely, the skilled attorneys at Boohoff Law have the knowledge and experience to help you recover the damages you deserve.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
The laws applicable to proving a wrongful death claim are largely identical to those applicable to proving any other type of personal injury claim. The vast majority of wrongful death claims require an attorney to show that the defendant’s negligence or wrongful conduct led to the victim’s untimely death. Broadly speaking, this means the attorney must present evidence sufficient to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The defendant owed the wrongful death victim a duty of care not to harm the victim;
- The defendant breached the duty of care through certain actions that were reasonably likely to cause the victim harm;
- The defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the harm that came to the victim; and
- The victim was damaged as a result.
Not all wrongful death (or personal injury) cases follow this inquiry, however. An experienced Washington wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether there are other legal standards applicable to a claim related to your loved one’s death.
Of course, even in the most straightforward wrongful death cases, the attorney is at a potential disadvantage because the victim has passed away and cannot provide testimony about what happened. What’s more, many wrongful death cases are not straightforward, but rather involve complicated facts and analyses. That is why it is critical to select an attorney with sufficient resources and know-how to investigate and litigate a wrongful death.
Potential Damages for Wrongful Death
Washington law permits the survivors of a wrongful death victim to recover compensatory damages for the losses and injuries incurred by the victim, and for their own collateral losses as a result of the victim’s death. Damages for a wrongful death generally fall into two categories: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages reimburse out-of-pocket costs associated with the victim’s injuries and care the victim may have received before passing away, as well as for the economic losses of the victim’s survivors connected to the injury or death. These may include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Lost wages from time-off from work; and
- Lost income resulting from the victim’s death.
In certain cases, a defendant may have the legal right to make periodic payments of economic damages, rather than a lump sum payment.
Non-economic damages cover subjective harm that is more difficult to translate into dollars and cents. The types of non-economic damages the survivors of a wrongful death victim can pursue include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
Washington law limits non-economic damages to 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by what the victim’s life expectancy would have been had the wrongful death not occurred (which can be no less than 15 years). Unlike many states, in most cases, Washington law does not allow a court to award punitive damages.
The Job of a Seattle Wrongful Death Attorney
Attorneys who represent clients in wrongful death matters know the stakes are high. The survivors of wrongful death victims have suffered an unimaginable tragedy. Not only do they face enormous emotional struggles in coping with the loss of a loved one, but they also confront the practical challenges of an unexpected death, especially financial worries.
A Seattle wrongful death attorney’s role is not merely to sue someone. It is to support the survivors of a wrongful death victim through this difficult time of their lives by shouldering some of their burdens.
Investigating Facts and Fault
An attorney will take over the process of investigating how the victim lost his or her life, and who may have had responsibility for causing a wrongful death. That inquiry routinely involves gathering evidence from a wide variety of sources, such as medical records, police reports, and witnesses. It also involves seeking expert advice and analysis about what the evidence shows. At Boohoff Law, for instance, we regularly work with experts in the fields of accident reconstruction and medical care, to establish the mechanism by which our clients’ loved one died.
Equally important to discovering how a wrongful death occurred is figuring out who caused it. Evidence in a wrongful death case can point in many different directions. In the four common categories of wrongful death case detailed above, for example, any of the following parties could have legal liability for causing the victim’s death:
- In motor vehicle accident cases, parties with legal liability could include other drivers, businesses who owned vehicles involved in the accident, government entities responsible for maintaining roads, and manufacturers of cars and car parts, to name just a few;
- In workplace/construction accident cases, co-workers, construction managers, engineers, architects, property owners, and equipment manufacturers, among others, could have liability for causing a death;
- In product defect cases, attorneys look to the manufacturers, distributors, transportation companies, warehousers, and retailers who handled the product to determine if any of them has liability; and
- In medical malpractice matters, any medical service provider, such as doctors, nurses, surgical techs, and pharmacists, among many others, could have liability for a lapse in care that led to wrongful death.
Applying the Law
A Seattle wrongful death attorney needs to have a firm command of the legal principles applicable to her clients’ cases. Those include not just the steps involved in proving liability, but also the statutes and rules that dictate how, when, and where to file a claim to give a client the best chance of recovering the maximum compensation. Some matters, such as medical malpractice, have special procedures an attorney needs to know how to follow.
Negotiating and Litigating
It is a cruel reality that a wrongful death creates life pressures at precisely the moment the victim’s family and loved ones suffer the most. A skilled Seattle wrongful death attorney can lighten that burden by acting as a buffer between a family in mourning and the insurance companies, investigators, and others who have a job to do relating to the death. This includes negotiating directly with insurers to achieve an appropriate settlement of a wrongful death claim.
If an attorney cannot achieve an appropriate settlement through negotiation, then she also needs the ability to take her clients’ cases to court and to advocate with force and persuasion in front of a judge and jury. This is a critical skill. When insurance companies and opposing attorneys know a lawyer is ready, willing, and able to take a case to trial, and win, they will be more likely to try to reach a favorable settlement.
Communicating and Counseling
Perhaps most importantly, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in a wrongful death action communicates with and counsels her clients with compassion and clarity. Life can feel confusing when a loved one dies in a tragic incident. Selecting a lawyer with a skill for explaining how the law works and what to expect from a lawsuit can ease that confusion.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Wrongful Death Lawyers
At Boohoff Law, we understand the difficulties our clients confront after the death of a loved one. Our compassionate, committed team is here to help them recover emotionally and financially. To learn more about how a Seattle wrongful death attorney can help you in this difficult time, contact us today to schedule a free consultation or call us at (877) 999-9999.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.