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A death in the family can be devastating. It can be even more heart-wrenching if the death was someone else’s fault. When a family member’s death is caused by another’s avoidance, neglect, or illegal act, it’s known as wrongful death. Wrongful death can cause grief, anger, fear, and helplessness. If you are thinking about taking action for a wrongful death claim in Washington State, The Advocates Law hope the following can help you seek justice in some way for your loss.
Wrongful death can either be intentional or unintentional. Intentional wrongful deaths, such as murder, can lead to criminal proceedings with probable jail or prison for the person who caused harm to the deceased. Motor vehicle accidents where a driver is drunk and causes the death of anyone in their path will likely be charged with intent of wrongdoing. In this scenario, the drunk driver will face criminal charges, as well as a civil claim against their auto insurance.
A civil wrongful death claim is one where the death was unintentional. A sober driver who gets into a motor vehicle accident and causes the death of another would have had no intent in doing so. Likewise, if a physician performs a medical procedure and accidentally causes harm and death to their patient they will not be criminally charged, but can have civil claims taken against them or their insurance.
Civil wrongful death claims can only be opened on unintentional deaths. This also goes for whether or not the entity that caused the death is a single person, multiple people, or a business or corporation. For example, when a drug is marketed by a large pharmaceutical company that causes death in some patients, that pharmaceutical company will be held responsible and will have to settle any and all wrongful death claims.
How do I know I am eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit?
There are a few things which need to be confirmed before you can be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit in state of Washington. The first is that you must be a relative of the deceased. The first people to be able to claim monetary compensation from a wrongful death are the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner, children, or stepchildren. If the deceased is not married and does not have any children, then the next people eligible to make a wrongful death claim are parents and siblings of the deceased, but only if they can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death.
The second thing you will need to be deemed eligible is proof of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be very difficult to obtain. For example, death caused by medical malpractice would have to state in the deceased’s medical records that there was wrongdoing of some kind. However, if you know that a motor vehicle accident caused your loved one’s death, it would be easy to obtain a detailed police report that lists negligence on the part of the other driver.
If you are not a spouse, domestic partner, or child/stepchild of the deceased, you will need to prove that you were dependent upon the deceased before you can claim damages from their wrongful death. This can often prove to be difficult, especially for a parent or sibling, if you were not financially dependent on the deceased at the time of the accident. It is possible you will be unable to make a claim.
How long should I wait before making a claim?
You have 3 years from the time of the negligence to begin a wrongful death claim. This means that if your loved one was injured a year ago and only recently died from the injury, there are only 2 years remaining to file a claim. In addition, wrongful death lawsuits are lengthy, so if you know that your loved one’s death was caused by wrongdoing, it’s important to find an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to start the process.
Once the wrongful death lawsuit has begun, a personal representative will be appointed. This can either be the spouse or domestic partner, or even a third party if the relatives so wish. Your attorney will talk to witnesses and experts and deal with any legal problems so you may process your feelings of grief and anger in peace.
If you believe you have a wrongful death case, you need an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases. The attorneys at The Advocates Law are here to help you. We understand that no amount of money can ever bring a loved one back. Yet we hope some form of compensation from the guilty party can help bring you a small bit of peace.
Your phone call is always free, so call The Advocates today for a personal and understanding conversation.
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