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 a wrongful death. A wrongful death can cause grief and anger, fear and helplessness. If you are thinking about taking action for a wrongful death claim in Washington State, we at Advocates Law hope the below helps you in some way seek justice for your loss.
A wrongful death can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional wrongful deaths like 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 is performing 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 their wrongful death claims.
There are a few things that need to be confirmed before you can be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit in Washington State. 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, child, or stepchild. If the deceased is not married and does not have any children, then the next people who are able to make a wrongful death claim are parents and siblings of the deceased 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 eligible is some sort of proof of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be very difficult to obtain. For example, death caused by medical malpractice would have state in the deceased’s medical records that there was wrongdoing. 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 on the deceased before you can claim damages from their wrongful death. It will be tough, especially as a parent or sibling because if you were not financially dependent on the deceased at the time of the accident, you will unable to make a claim.
You have three (3) years from the time of the negligence to start a wrongful death claim. This means that if your loved one was injured a year ago and only recently died from the injury, you would have two (2) years left to file the 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 while you process your feelings of grief and anger.
If you believe you have a wrongful death case, you need an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases. Not only can The Advocates at Advocates Law help you, we can also be there for you when your grief takes hold. Though no amount of money can ever bring a loved one back, we hope that some form of compensation from the guilty party can bring even a small bit of peace.
Your phone call is always free, so call The Advocates today for a personal and understanding conversation.