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How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington

August 30, 2023Articles

Navigating the loss of a loved one is a deeply emotional and challenging experience. When that loss is the result of another party’s negligence or intentional act, the emotional toll can be compounded by the desire for justice. 

In Washington, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your loved one. This legal route offers a way to seek justice for your loved one and potentially secure financial compensation for the emotional and economic toll the loss has taken on surviving family members. However, wrongful death claims often involve a complex legal process.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Under Washington Law?

In Washington, a case qualifies as a wrongful death when an individual’s death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. This encompasses a range of circumstances, such as:

  • Negligence-based incidents like car accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Intentional acts, including crimes

Often, it’s helpful to think of a wrongful death claim as a personal injury case in which the injured party can no longer pursue their own claim. Instead, another party steps in to bring the case to court on their behalf.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington?

Unlike some states that allow any surviving family member to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Washington law specifies that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the appropriate party to file most wrongful death claims. The personal representative is usually named in the deceased person’s will. In the absence of a will or if the named representative cannot serve, the court has the authority to appoint someone to act in this capacity.

There are exceptions for wrongful death cases involving children. Parents or legal guardians can file a wrongful death claim for a minor child or an adult child under specific conditions: 

  • For minors, the parent or guardian must have regularly contributed to the child’s support. 
  • For adult children, the parent or guardian must have had significant involvement in the adult child’s life, as defined by financial, emotional, or psychological support.

What Do You Need to Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Claim?

To prove a wrongful death lawsuit in Redmond, you and your attorney will need to prove that the defendant’s negligence led to your loved one’s death. Proving negligence requires the successful demonstration of four key elements:

  • Duty of Care: First, you will need to prove that the defendant owed a certain duty of care to the deceased, which depends on the circumstances of the death. For example, a driver must follow the law and drive safely.
  • Breach of Duty: Once a duty of care is established, you must show that the defendant failed to meet or uphold that duty, thus breaching his or her responsibilities.
  • Causation: After establishing a breach of duty, you need to demonstrate that there is a direct link between the defendant’s breach and your loved one’s death.
  • Damages: Finally, you must provide evidence that the death has resulted in quantifiable damages, such as financial loss or emotional suffering, to the surviving family members.

Do You Need an Attorney to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

While the legal process may initially seem straightforward, hiring a wrongful death lawyer is highly advisable. A Redmond personal injury attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the law, gather critical evidence, and advocate for fair and just compensation. Contact a Redmond wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.