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Fatal car accidents and wrongful death claims

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Wrongful Death |

A wrongful death lawsuit is different from a typical personal injury case in some key ways, including the eligible parties to file a claim, the compensations sought and the critical timeline.

Who can sue?

In Washington, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate or specific surviving family members can initiate a wrongful death claim. Of course, these include the deceased surviving spouse or registered domestic partner.

In addition, depending on the circumstances, so too can the surviving children, stepchildren and any financially dependent parents or siblings. And, should none of these relatives proceed with a wrongful death action, any person entitled to inherit under Washington’s intestate succession laws can pursue a claim.

What can be pursued?

Wrongful death claims aim for both economic and non-economic damages that stem from the loss of the loved one.

Economic damages are those damages that are quantifiable monetary losses. These include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, the lost income and benefits that resulted from the loved one’s death and the loss of their contribution to the household.

Non-economic damages are intangible, but they are equally significant. These include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, care, guidance and support. Plaintiffs can also seek compensation for the diminished enjoyment and quality of life for surviving family members.

In exceptional cases, there is a special class of damages meant purely as punishment, called punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded for particularly egregious conduct because they serve as a deterrent for future misconduct.

What is the time limit?

Washington imposes a three-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim, which is calculated from the date of death. However, circumstances may warrant exceptions or extensions.

Wrongful death claims are based on tragedy, but they can be very necessary in order to help families cope with a terrible loss.