Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful Death report and gavel in a court. Who can file wrongful death lawsuit concept

Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult things a person can experience. If the death was caused by the negligence of another, you may be wondering who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. But while friends and family members can be emotionally impacted by their loved one’s passing, it is generally only the next of kin who can recover economic and non-economic damages under Washington law. Although no amount of money can bring your loved one back, taking legal action can hold the wrongdoer accountable for their negligence or recklessness.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of legal action that holds a negligent or reckless party accountable for the death of another. It is a civil claim that seeks to recover compensation for the losses incurred by the deceased’s survivors. Notably, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be brought by certain people, based on their relationship with the victim.

Pursuant to the Washington statute, an accident case can qualify for wrongful death if “the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person.” Wrongful death lawsuits may be filed in connection with car accidents, trip and falls, pedestrian knockdowns, truck wrecks, assaults, or other accidents that a victim would have been able to bring a personal injury action for if they had lived.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If the victim had many family members, you may be wondering who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Washington State, the personal representative of the victim’s estate is the person who must file the wrongful death claim. In cases where there is a will, this personal representative for the purposes of a wrongful death action can be the person who was designated the executor in the document. In the event there was no will, the court can appoint an individual to serve in the position.

Even though the personal representative is the person filing the wrongful death lawsuit, they are not necessarily the party who will be awarded the damages recovered — the damages are distributed to the decedent’s survivors. Following the conclusion of the lawsuit, the personal representative will be the individual responsible for distributing the money to the beneficiaries, paying the final costs associated with the estate, and carrying out other legal obligations.

Who Can Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Only specific parties can receive damages in a wrongful death action in Washington. While any person can be the personal representative of a decedent’s estate, it is typically the immediate family members who are the beneficiaries of such a lawsuit. These are the individuals who are considered to have legal standing and a financial interest in the outcome of the case. The beneficiaries who may recover damages can depend upon the victim’s specific situation and family circumstances.

The Washington statute specifies that the following individuals may recover damages in a wrongful death action:

  • The decedent’s spouse
  • A state registered domestic partner
  • The decedent’s child or children
  • The decedent’s stepchildren

In certain cases, other family members may recover financial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, if the decedent did not leave behind a spouse, state registered domestic partner, children or stepchildren, their parents or siblings will be the beneficiaries of the wrongful death action. Only in cases where there are no other beneficiaries would these parties be permitted to recover compensation in the lawsuit.

What Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The compensation awarded in a wrongful death action will depend upon the specific facts of the case and the beneficiary’s relationship to the victim. Both economic and non-economic damages may be available. The individual or entity whose negligence caused the victim’s death is the party responsible for the damages. Importantly, in Washington, a grieving family member may not only be entitled to recover compensation for the losses the victim would have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit, but also for their own losses and emotional anguish.

A victim’s beneficiaries may claim a variety of losses in the lawsuit, including loss of financial support, the loss of household services — and the loss of the victim’s love, care, affection, and companionship. Other recoverable damages can include compensation for the decedent’s last medical bills and their funeral expenses. If the victim was a minor, their parents and guardian may be entitled to recover damages for the loss of the child’s services and financial support, the child’s medical expenses, and loss of the child’s companionship.

Contact an Experienced Washington Wrongful Death Attorney

If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These types of claims are complex and it’s critical to have a skillful wrongful death attorney on your side who can advise you regarding your rights and legal recourse. With locations in Burien and Bellevue, Herron Law Office, PLLC is committed to recovering the maximum compensation available for the loss of your loved one. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation to discuss your case by calling (425) 600-2580.

Categories: Wrongful Death