Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim in WA State?

wrongful death claim

A wrongful death claim may be brought when a person dies as a result of the negligence, fault or malice of another person or entity. Wrongful deaths occur in a variety of ways ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice to murder. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed with the goal of receiving compensation for such things as funeral/burial expenses, lost future wages and final medical bills of the deceased, loss of inheritance, and loss of love, society and companionship.

Who is eligible to sue for wrongful death in Washington State?

The laws stating who may sue for wrongful death vary from state to state. All states establish that the claim must be filed by a personal representative on behalf of the survivors who suffer damage from the decedent’s death. The personal representative is typically the executor of the deceased person’s estate. The survivors are called the “real parties in interest” but who qualifies under this category varies from state to state.

Washington State law defines “real parties in interest” as one of the following:

  • the spouse or state registered domestic partner of the deceased person
  • the child, children or stepchildren of the deceased person

If the deceased person did not leave behind a spouse, domestic partner or children/step-children then his or her parents or siblings may file a wrongful death claim.

Special rules apply when the death involves a child under the age of 18. Either parent may file a wrongful death claim as long as they were “regularly contributing” to the support of the child before the death. In the case of divorced or separated parents, if one parent files a wrongful death claim, he or she must serve the other parent with a copy of the complaint within twenty days of filing the case in a Washington State court. This gives the other parent a chance to join the lawsuit.

Who can be sued for wrongful death?

A variety of people and entities may be sued for wrongful death depending on the circumstances of the case.

Some examples include:

  • Physician whose negligence caused harm
  • Hospital whose policies caused harm
  • Drunk driver who caused a car accident
  • Product manufacturer who built a dangerous, defective product
  • Bartender who over-served a customer

Who is exempt from a wrongful death claim?

In some states, government agencies and employees cannot be sued for wrongful death. In others, a family member may not be sued for wrongful death.

Federal laws have given immunity from wrongful death claims to makers of generic drugs and certain medical device manufacturers. Railroad collisions have also been deemed off limits to wrongful death claims.

If you have lost a spouse or parent in a potential wrongful death, contact a wrongful death lawyer today. In Washington State, you have three years from the date of the death to file a claim.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-3330 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.