In Washington State, a case qualifies under the “wrongful death” statute when “the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” Wrongful death may occur as a result of many situations including medical malpractice, when a person dies under the care of another, car accidents or criminal acts.
If a person is killed because of the wrongful conduct of a person or persons, the decedent’s heirs and other beneficiaries may file a civil lawsuit – specifically a wrongful death action – against those responsible for the decedent’s death. A wrongful death lawsuit must be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence”, which is easier to demonstrate than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard necessary for conviction in a criminal case.
Who may file a wrongful death lawsuit in WA State?
Wrongful death lawsuits seek to compensate family members or the estate for the wrongful death of their family member.
Washington State law allows the following parties to file a wrongful death claim:
- The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate
- The spouse or state registered domestic partner of the deceased person
- The child, children, or step-children of the deceased person
Note: If the deceased person had no spouse, state registered domestic partner, children, or step-children; the deceased person’s parents, sisters, or brothers may file a wrongful death claim.
Top 7 causes of wrongful death
- Car Accidents.
Car accidents involving distracted, impaired or aggressive drivers, road construction and pedestrian accidents are some of the leading causes of death in the United States and are the most common causes of wrongful death lawsuits.
- Truck Accidents.
Commercial and other truck accidents cause fatalities and wrongful death lawsuits. In many cases, commercial truck drivers are independent contractors where wrongful death settlements come from the truck driver’s insurance policy.
- Bicycle Accidents.
Bike riders are very vulnerable to personal injuries – including wrongful death – by drivers who do not see them.
- Medical Malpractice.
Medical professionals owe a “reasonable duty of care” to their patients. When this duty is breached, their patients sometimes suffer wrongful death and the medical professional may be liable for malpractice. Common types of medical malpractice that lead to wrongful death include prescription drug errors, misdiagnosis, emergency room errors, surgery-related injury, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. In some cases the hospital may be held liable for a wrongful death, depending on the status of employment of the medical professional and other factors.
- Products Liability.
Product designers, manufacturers, distributors and sellers owe a duty to minimize the risk of harm from their products to the public. When a death occurs as a result of a faulty manufacturing process, a misrepresented product or failure to warn of possible injuries or death it can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Work Related Accidents.
The estate of a person who dies in the workplace from company negligence may be able to sue for wrongful death. Workplace negligence may include a serious illness that leads to death from exposure to an unsafe work environment, fires or explosions, faulty equipment, or improper training and machine related incidents.
- Criminal Acts.
When a person commits a criminal act that leads to the death of another individual, a wrongful death lawsuit may be an option. A murder or even an assault that leads the victim to commit suicide are examples of such wrongful death cases.
If you believe that your loved one was killed in a wrongful death, contact a personal injury lawyer today.
If you or a loved one is dealing with an accident or injury, you have enough on your plate. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the justice and compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!