Usually defined, wrongful death may occur if any wrongful or negligent act by another person or a corporation directly (or sometimes indirectly) leads to another person’s death.
Wrongful death claims are commonly filed by the victim’s surviving family members or relatives. No one can relieve the pain and suffering this type of tragedy inflicts on you and your family. However, these lawsuits can help cover the costs of the victim’s medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, pain & suffering, and much more.
The following are some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims in the State of Washington:
- Auto accidents – Every year, approximately 40,000 Americans die in car accidents. This fact makes auto accidents the most common cause of wrongful death. Drivers cause many of these accidents by not following traffic signs or laws, excessive speeding, people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or fatigue. Most all wrongful death claims may be filed against the driver who caused the accident but also will include their insurance company.
- Medical Malpractice – This is the 2nd leading cause of wrongful death lawsuits. These deaths occur due to negligent errors by a medical professional (a doctor or a nurse) or hospital and supportive staff members. In these situations, medical professionals commonly fail to follow acceptable standards of care. Common types of medical malpractice may include:
- Errors in Surgery.
- Birth injuries.
- Anesthesia and medication errors.
- Injuries due to misuse or faulty medical equipment.
- Misdiagnosis by a physician.
- Nursing home neglect or abuse.
- Work-related injuries – Many employers simply do not provide adequate or necessary safety measures on a work site. This often occurs, and a wrongful death claim can be filed against them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets safety standards to protect workers and must follow them to the letter. Unfortunately, many times, they are not. If employers do not provide safe work environments, they can (and should) be held liable for wrongful death. It’s no surprise that these workplace deaths usually occur in the construction industry, but in reality, many jobs have the possibility of significant injury or death.
These cases are always legally complex and involve medical documents, investigation of the case itself, witnesses, and much more. If you feel a loved one has died due to another’s negligence, consulting with a professional, empathetic Lacey personal injury lawyer will get you all the answers and legal options you deserve.
What Does My Lawyer Need To Prove in My Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are commonly filed on behalf of the survivors of the deceased. If your loved one died due to a third party’s wrongful actions, several specific factors must be proven for your lawsuit to succeed.
These elements will include:
- Duty – You first must prove that the person had a responsibility toward your loved one. However, this “duty” can often be difficult and complex to prove legally. For example, let’s say your loved one was killed in a car accident, then you must prove that the person driving had a duty to drive carefully and not recklessly.
- Breach of duty – You also must prove that the person who caused your loved one’s death breached a “duty” that resulted in your loved one’s death. Let’s say they were speeding or failed to obey some traffic law while driving, and this “breach of duty” caused your loved one’s accident.
- Causation – Simply proving that a duty to your loved one existed and that the duty was breached, you must also be able to prove that the breach of duty caused your loved one’s accident and their concurrent death.
- Damages – These various damages” commonly are the easiest part of a wrongful death claim to prove, as the direct damage you incurred is the death of your loved one. Your lawyer will also compile other financial damages, such as hospital expenses, loss of companionship, emotional pain, suffering, etc.
This may seem simple, but it certainly is not. However, your professional and experienced Lacey wrongful death law team will know exactly what is needed to obtain the best legal outcome possible.
Who Can Commonly Instigate a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Washington State, the wrongful death laws usually allow the following survivors to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the civil courts:
- The deceased’s spouse or domestic partner.
- The deceased’s children, as adults or also minors.
- Grandchildren of any child of the decedent.
If the deceased has no living relatives, a wrongful death lawsuit could be filed by a person claiming to be entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession, such as the deceased person’s stepparents or even unrelated caregivers.
In addition to the above-identified individuals, the following people may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In these cases, however, they usually would have to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased:
- A decedent’s “putative spouse.”
- Children of the decedent’s putative spouse.
- Stepchildren of the deceased.
- Stepparents, legal guardians, or caregivers of the deceased.
This is not a complete list, and consulting with your lawyer will discuss all the legal options open to you.
Is There a “Time Limit” For Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington?
Yes, there is. All courts have time limits or “statute of limitations” for filing lawsuits. The statute of limitations limits the time you must file a claim and usually begins the day your accident occurs. In Washington State, you have three years from the time of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death claim.
This may seem like a lengthy period, but wrongful death claims are incredibly complex, and gathering all the evidence, documents, witness testimony, etc., to file a lawsuit can take a significant amount of time.
Understandably, your wrongful death claim may be at the bottom of your list of priorities after your loved one’s death. Therefore, you must contact a Lacey wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. If you miss the “statute of limitations” window, your claim will be barred from filing or simply dismissed by the court.
I Do Feel I Have To File a Wrongful Death Claim; How Should I Proceed?
If you and your family are amid the loss of a loved one, there are myriad details to deal with, along with crushing emotions and stress. You mustn’t try to go through this process alone!
Consult with an experienced, professional, and empathetic Lacey wrongful death law team and get all your questions answered. Your law team will also aggressively do what it takes to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve and are entitled to. Consult with them as soon as possible and help ease the financial burdens this calamitous and appalling situation has inflicted on you and your family.