Recovering Compensation When A Loved One Is Killed

A wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the decedent was killed as a result of the negligence (or other liability) on the part of the defendants,' and that the surviving dependents or beneficiaries are entitled to monetary damages as a result of the defendants' conduct.

Individual states have passed "wrongful death statutes" over the years, and some form of wrongful death claim action exists in all state jurisdictions today. While they all follow some general principles, each state jurisdiction is unique, since each state has drafted its own form of "wrongful death statute."

In Washington, a wrongful death claim against the negligent party is generally initiated by or on behalf of the spouse, children or family of the decedent. However, in some unique situations, someone other than the decedent's immediate family may be entitled to recover damages if they relied upon the deceased for support.

What Damages Can I Recover?

Medical expenses - All costs incurred for health care should be repaid to you including ambulance bills, hospital bills and charges for surgical, medical or chiropractic care.

Funeral expenses - You are entitled to a sum of money that will enable you to pay for your loved one's internment

Lost future earning capacity - The deceased person's estate is entitled to a sum of money to compensate for the lost capacity to earn income in the future.

General damages for pain and suffering - The claimant may be entitled to be compensated in dollars for pain and suffering. An experienced attorney can help to assess the dollar amount of the loss based on their experience in other similar wrongful death cases as well as their understanding of the local justice system.

An action for wrongful death must be brought within three years of the decedent's death. RCW 4.20.010

Wrongful Death — Right Of Action

When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another his personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death; and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount, in law, to a felony. RCW 1.20.010

Wrongful Death — Beneficiaries Of Action

Every such action shall be for the benefit of the wife, husband, child or children, including stepchildren, of the person whose death shall have been so caused. If there be no wife or husband or such child or children, such action may be maintained for the benefit of the parents, sisters or brothers, who may be dependent upon the deceased person for support, and who are resident within the United States at the time of his death.

In every such action the jury may give such damages as, under all circumstances of the case, may to them seem just. RCW 1.20.010

Do Both Spouses Have A Separate Claim For The Wrongful Death Of Their Child? What About In The Case Of Divorce?

A right of action authorizing recovery for the wrongful death of a child creates a substantive right of recovery running to both parents, even if the parents are married, not married, not living together, or separated. According to RCW 1.24.010, a mother or father, who has regularly contributed to the support of his or her minor child, and the mother or both, of a child on whom either, or both, are dependent for support may maintain or join as a party an action as plaintiff for the injury or death of the child. If the parents of the child are not married, are separated, or not married to each other, damages may be awarded to each plaintiff separately, as the jury finds just and equitable. In order to bring a wrongful death action for a divorced or unmarried parent, certain notice requirements are to be maintained by the attorney, including serving a copy of the complaint upon the other parent. The other parent must join as a party to the suit within twenty days or the right to recover damages under this section is barred.

Is The Contributory Fault Of One Spouse Imputed To The Other In A Wrongful Death Action?

What happens if one parent is contributorily negligent for the death of a child, such as when the parent is the driver of the car and the child is killed in an automobile accident? Is this contributory negligence imputed to the spouse who was not driving? According to RCW 1.22.010 the contributory fault of one spouse shall not be imputed to the other spouse or the minor child of the spouse to diminish recovery in an action by the other spouse or the minor child of the spouse, or his or her legal representative, to recover damages caused by fault resulting in death or in injury to the person or property, whether separate or community, of the spouse.

Please contact one of the attorneys from Reinig, Barber & Henry to discuss your case. You can be confident that you are selecting attorneys that will respond to your concerns and maximize your settlement potential. From our office in Kennewick , we are prepared to serve the needs of clients nationwide.