Wrongful death is the most devastating of all personal injury cases. To be suffering the loss of a loved one as a result of an accident or other negligence is an extremely difficult circumstance. There are no words to describe the heartbreak that follows the loss of a loved one, especially if it comes to light that the death could have been avoided.
As the surviving relative, you often feel like you should take action to provide accountability for such a grievance, and you’re sure that your loved one would champion an effort to establish justice were your circumstances reversed. However, the question remains – what do you do?
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
At Russell & Hill, PLLC, we have our clients’ best interests in mind. We work to keep you informed, handle your case with care, be respectful and understanding of the emotional aspects of your situation, and relieve you of as much work as possible throughout the process. In a wrongful death situation, it’s highly recommended and extremely beneficial to have professional, understanding legal representation. As the cause of death and other variables of the accident are considered, you will find it invaluable to have a skilled attorney by your side to represent your loved one during the legal proceedings that follow the filing of a wrongful death personal injury claim.
A wrongful death claim is placed against a party that is liable for an individual’s death. Immediate family or relatives of the deceased individual’s estate bring the claim as a civil action against the individual or party responsible for the accident.
What Happens When You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
If the accident wasn’t the individual’s fault, but rather was a result of another party’s negligence, then, by law, the at-fault party is liable to compensate the family of the deceased with monetary compensation. These damages are meant to equitably compensate the person’s family for the life that was lost and any expenses that were incurred as a result.
When filing for a wrongful death personal injury claim, we’re asking the at-fault party to compensate the deceased individual’s family for the ‘pecuniary’ (or financial injury) that resulted from that person’s death. These pecuniary damages may include medical expenses, pain and suffering compensation, lost future earnings, loss of life’s enjoyment, punitive damages, and funeral and burial expenses. There are also non-economic damages that may be awarded as well.
Your wrongful death attorney can help you formulate a substantiated and persuasive claim and hold the at-fault party accountable for the compensation that you’re due. Together, you and your attorney can pursue justice for the life that was lost.
Who Can Claim Damages as a Beneficiary?
In the state of Washington, there is a general wrongful death statute that governs the actions that the deceased individual’s surviving family or relatives may take. Essentially, the surviving relatives (also called, “statutory beneficiaries”) are petitioning for recompense for their loved one’s death, in the same way that the individual would have done had they survived the incident.
First Tier Beneficiaries
Washington also has a ‘two tiered’ system for beneficiaries hoping to be compensated following a wrongful death. Included in the first tier is the deceased individual’s immediate family members — their spouse, registered domestic partner, and/or children. The spouse must be legally married to the individual at the time of their death, and a domestic partner must also be legally recognized as such.
Even if both first-tier and second-tier beneficiaries exist, the first-tier beneficiaries are the only party that benefit from the deceased individual’s estate.
Second Tier Beneficiaries
If there are no first-tier beneficiaries, the rights to compensation move to the second tier, which include surviving parents or siblings. However, in order for the parents and siblings to be qualified to receive compensation as a result of their family member’s death, they must have been financially dependent upon the deceased individual at the point of their accident.
This means that if the individual was single, childless, and supporting no family members financially at the time of their death, then any surviving relative will be unable to recover compensation in the case of the individual’s wrongful death.
We want to help you receive the compensation that you’re due for the death of your loved one. Our qualified attorneys have a lot of experience in wrongful death cases and are more than capable of helping you through your situation. For more information about how a personal injury attorney can assist you with filing and settling a wrongful death claim, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our initial, no-obligation consultations are absolutely free, and you can schedule one today.