Facts about wrongful death lawsuits

Jun 2, 2021 | Wrongful Death

If someone caused an accident that killed your loved one, you may want to explore your rights and find out if you can hold that person liable. 

Washington state law 4.20.010 explains wrongful death rights of action that may result in economic and noneconomic damages in amounts determined by a judge or jury. 

When is there a case?

You may have a wrongful death case if the wrongful act or the neglect of another person directly led to the death of the family member. For example, someone driving and looking at a phone who fatally strikes a pedestrian may be liable. 

In some cases, a wrongful act such as this may result in a misdemeanor or felony charge as well, but a wrongful death case is possible regardless of criminal charges. 

Who can bring an action?

The law states that the personal representative is the one who can bring a wrongful death action. This is the person who settles the estate of the deceased. If the family member had a will that named the personal representative, then that is the person who would need to bring the action. If there is no will, then the probate court names a personal representative.  

Who are the beneficiaries of an action?

The law lists beneficiaries of a wrongful death action as the spouse or state-registered domestic partner of the deceased as well as his or her children and stepchildren. If the deceased did not have a spouse, partner, children or stepchildren, then the parents or siblings may be beneficiaries. 

The award depends on many factors, including your loved one’s suffering, your expenses and your emotional and financial losses. The court will weigh these as well as the behavior that caused the accident when coming up with the amount.