It’s no secret that losing a loved one is one of the most stressful life events most people experience. However, compounding the stress and grief of listing a loved one is when they die due to an accident that was not their fault. When a loved one dies suddenly as a result of an avoidable accident, they may leave behind family members who are emotionally and financially dependent on them. If you have lost a loved one to an accident that was not their fault, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death suit can help compensate family members and dependents for the loss of their loved one. Read on to learn more about the process, who is eligible to file a wrongful death suit, and what the process is like.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If your loved one dies as a result of the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Washington.
A wrongful death suit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit, but in the case of the wrongful death, the victim is not able to file their own personal injury suit, so loved ones and dependents can do it for them.
Wrongful death suits are civil actions and may be filed even if the offender is charged in criminal court.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The deceased person’s next-of-kin or closest family members are typically those who can file a wrongful death suit. In the state of Washington, those who are eligible include:
- Surviving spouse
Prior to 2019, parents were limited in the claims they could file. A new law signed in 2019 allows the parents and siblings of deceased adults to file wrongful death claims.
The person who files the lawsuit doesn’t necessarily get the settlement or all of the settlement. According to Washington laws, the suit must name a designated person who is the representative of the estate of the deceased person.
This representative protects the rights of all of the beneficiaries who are entitled to damages, as there may be more than one, such as multiple children, a spouse, parents, or siblings. Once a settlement is received, this representative will disburse it to the various parties who are entitled to it.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
The damages that are awarded are paid to the estate of the person who has died (or their parents, if the deceased person is a minor). These damages can include:
- Medical expenses for medical care received before their death
- Funeral expenses
- Burial expenses
- Lost wages and future income that the deceased person would have earned over time if their death had not occurred
- Pain and suffering
- Costs associated with damaged property
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of intangible benefits the person provided, such as childcare, household chores, and guidance
The damages that are available are dependent upon who is filing the wrongful death suit. Spouses and children may receive compensation for loss of companionship and care. Parents and siblings, however, may not be able to receive lost wages, unless they were financially dependent on the deceased person.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time within which you must file a wrongful death suit. For most wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is three years. This means you must file the suit within three years or else you are ineligible to file a lawsuit.
In some cases, the statute of limitations may differ and could be longer or shorter. An attorney will be able to determine if you are within the statute of limitations for your particular case.
What Is the Process?
To file a wrongful death suit, three things must be determined:
- Whether a wrongful death occurred
- Whether you are eligible to file a wrongful death suit/receive damages
- Whether you are within the statute of limitations
An experienced attorney will be able to guide you on all of these requirements. To determine if you have a case, they will review medical records, speak with witnesses, and potentially have medical experts review your loved one’s records to determine if wrongdoing has occurred.
If your case is strong, you will need to appoint a representative. This person can be a family member or could be a neutral third party, which may be necessary if there are many people who are eligible for damages and those people do not get along or agree.
Once the case is filed, the discovery process will begin. This is where the plaintiffs and defendants share information, evidence, and records that they are using to build their case. This process also may include depositions and written responses to questions.
At any time during this process, the plaintiff and defendant could agree on a settlement, effectively ending the case. If the parties can agree on a settlement amount, the case is closed and no trial is needed.
If they can’t agree, however, the case may go to trial where a jury will determine the outcome and the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiffs.
Consult with a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you think that your loved one died as a result of someone’s negligence or actions, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit if you are eligible. The best way to determine your eligibility and recoverable damages is to speak to a wrongful death attorney. They will help you determine if you have a case and handle the process for you.
Contact the lawyers at Sweet Law today to learn more about wrongful death suits. Our attorneys specialize in wrongful death cases and personal injuries and can provide a free case evaluation.