How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington
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How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Washington

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Posted on May 22, 2024

The loss of a beloved family member always feels wrong, but when the death was entirely preventable and occurred due to someone else’s careless, reckless, or wrongful actions, a Washington wrongful death lawsuit helps close family members achieve a sense of justice and accountability. A successful wrongful death claim also compensates those left behind for the loss of a family provider. In the wake of a sudden preventable death, it’s difficult to keep a clear head and not be swallowed by grief and anguish, but taking purposeful action in a Washington wrongful death case helps put surviving family members on a better, forward-facing path.

What Is a Wrongful Death in Washington?

If a death could have been prevented if someone else had taken reasonable care, it’s considered a wrongful death in Washington. According to Washington’s state legislature RCW 4.20.010:

“When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person, his or her personal representative may maintain an action against the person causing the death for the economic and noneconomic damages sustained by the beneficiaries listed in RCW 4.20.020 as a result of the decedent’s death, in such amounts as determined by a trier of fact to be just under all the circumstances of the case.”

Some states allow a spouse or other close family member to file a wrongful death lawsuit directly, but Washington requires a decedent’s personal representative to file on behalf of family members. This may be the named executor of the decedent’s estate or a family member appointed by the court who then distributes the compensation according to the deceased individual’s will, estate plan, or Washington’s intestacy laws.

Steps to Take After a Family Member’s Wrongful Death

When the circumstances of a loved one’s death are such that the decedent could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived, the family members may file a lawsuit for wrongful death in Washington. By taking action immediately after the death, a close family member such as a spouse, parent, or adult child helps ensure a more streamlined claim process. After the death, keep a clear head and do the following:

  • Take photos of the scene of the accident or incident as soon as possible to preserve evidence
  • Ask for a copy of your loved one’s latest medical report for documentation of their medical condition before the incident
  • Obtain copies of medical records, the medical examiner’s report, or the autopsy report after the death
  • Save copies of all related expenses, such as funeral and burial costs
  • Obtain your loved one’s employment income and benefits data
  • Call a Washington wrongful death lawyer before speaking to insurance representatives

Your attorney will represent your family’s best interests throughout the process of filing your wrongful death claim.

Negotiating for a Wrongful Death Settlement in Washington

Your Kent, Washington wrongful death lawyer will examine the evidence, perform an investigation, and compile evidence of the at-fault party’s liability for your loved one’s death. Then they will send a compelling demand letter to the appropriate insurance company, such as a negligent driver’s auto insurer or a negligent doctor’s malpractice insurance.

Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance adjuster assigned to the case to achieve the highest possible settlement for damages such as funeral expenses, the lost income left to the loved one had they fulfilled their future earning potential, lost health insurance and retirement benefits, and loss of household services.

The case only becomes a lawsuit if the insurance company fails to offer an ample settlement. If this occurs in your case, your attorney must file a lawsuit within three years of the death within the state’s statute of limitations for Washington wrongful death lawsuits.