Losing a loved one is never easy. When you’ve lost a loved one because of the deliberate act or negligence of a company or a person, you may have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. While money will never make up for the loss of a loved one, you may have the opportunity to recover financially from that loss.
To get started on your claim, call Twyford Law Office at (509) 327-0777. Our Spokane wrongful death lawyers offer free consultations.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Before a death can be considered “wrongful,” a certain legal standard must be met (4.20 RCW). First, it’s important to understand wrongful death is considered a civil – not criminal – matter. This means the party causing the death may not be held criminally liable but may be considered civilly liable. An example of this could be a car manufacturer who has failed to maintain proper quality control resulting in brake, tire, or mechanical failure which leads to the death of your loved one.
Proving Wrongful Death Responsibility
In some cases, wrongful death is easy to prove. For example, if someone brandishes a weapon and you lose a loved one because they were shot or stabbed, the person is clearly responsible for their death. Many wrongful death cases are more difficult to prove.
The level of proof required for wrongful death includes:
Death of a person: The first element of a wrongful death case is the death of a person
Cause of death: The death must be caused by deliberate negligence or deliberate intent to harm
Responsibility to the victim: The person responsible for the death must have owed a level of responsibility to the decedent
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The best way to understand what damages may be recovered in wrongful death lawsuits is to consider what damages can be recovered in a typical personal injury case. In the instance of wrongful death, family members may be entitled to recover medical costs, funeral and burial costs, and other expenses associated with the care of the decedent prior to their death.
In Washington, survivors may also be awarded damages for lifetime loss of wages, pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death, and loss of care and companionship. In the case where the decedent’s estate is bringing a suit on their behalf and the decedent had no spouse or children, there may be no ability to collect intangible benefits such as loss of companionship.
Time Limits for Filing
Washington places restrictions on when a personal injury lawsuit may be filed. These limitations apply to wrongful death suits too. By statute, the survivors or the estate must file suit within three years from the date of death. Filing after this time may prevent the estate or survivors from collecting any compensation.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Suit
Wrongful death suits may be filed by the estate of the decedent. In this instance, the personal representative (executor) of the estate would bring the suit. Registered domestic partners and spouses may also bring a suit since they are likely to have suffered a financial loss as well as their personal loss. Other potential beneficiaries, including children or stepchildren of a decedent, may be able to file on the decedent’s behalf. In the event a child loses their life because of negligence, one or both parents may be a party to the suit even if the parents were never married. Both parents would have to be notified of the suit (RCW 4.24.010).
Depending on the circumstances surrounding death, an individual or a company may be held liable. One-on-one crimes that result in death would generally mean a single person is responsible. However, there are other cases that could get far more complicated. For example, a car accident that results in death could mean the car manufacturer, the driver of the other car, or even the city or state is responsible for the death of a loved one.
Reach Out to Twyford Law Office
Each case is different. Our Spokane personal injury attorneys understand the laws pertaining to wrongful death and can help determine if you may be able to recover compensation.
We understand money will not replace your loved one. However, we firmly believe that whoever harmed your loved one should be held responsible. This means you need to work with a skilled wrongful death attorney who is capable of aggressive negotiation and will represent your best interests. This is a difficult time for you and your family – we will do everything in our power to determine who is responsible and hold them financially liable.
Call Twyford Law Office at (509) 327-0777 or fill out our online contact form and let us evaluate your case.