The sudden loss of a loved one can be a devastating and traumatic event, especially when that loss is the result of someone else’s reckless or negligent actions. Money will never be able to fill the hole in your heart, but it can at least provide a sense of financial stability when the rest of your world seems unstable at best.
When negligent actions result in traumatic consequences, the law provides an avenue for surviving family members to seek compensation for their loss. This is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. The experienced Bellevue personal injury attorneys with Tamaki Law are dedicated individuals focused on helping family members recover fair compensation and holding negligent parties responsible for their actions. We take the time to listen to your story while providing legal advice and a shoulder to lean on.
For more information on how an experienced Bellevue wrongful death attorney may be able to help you, contact the office of Tamaki Law today. We give family members the opportunity to have a free initial legal consultation. Just call us at (425) 679-6421 to get started.
Legally Defining Wrongful Death
The state of Washington legally defines wrongful death as the loss of an individual caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default on the part of another person. Essentially, this means that if a person or entity’s negligence caused an accident that resulted in a death, the surviving family members may be able to hold them legally responsible for compensation. The means of holding the negligent party accountable is typically through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death suits are similar to personal injury lawsuits in many ways. When a person is hurt in a reckless or negligent accident, they have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover money for their losses, which are things like medical expenses or pain and suffering. A wrongful death lawsuit works in much the same way. However, instead of the person filing the lawsuit on their own behalf, that burden falls to the victim’s surviving family members. Compensation that would have gone to the individual in a personal injury lawsuit is instead distributed to the deceased’s estate.
Events that Can Trigger a Wrongful Death Suit
Any number of serious accidents may trigger a wrongful death lawsuit, as long as there is a measure of negligence involved in causing the accident. Car accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice cases are among some of the most common accident types that can result in a wrongful death claim. Other examples of incidents that may spark a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Washington include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle crashes
- Motorcycle crashes
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice cases
- Defective drug and medical device cases
- Defective consumer product cases
- Premises liability accidents
- Intentional killing of a person
If you lost a family member in an accident but are unsure whether you are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf, talk to an experienced Bellevue wrongful death accident attorney. At Tamaki Law, our seasoned attorneys can review your circumstances and help you understand your legal rights and avenues for justice.
Compensation for a Wrongful Death Case
Money can’t fill the hole that is left behind by the death of a loved one, but it can help ensure that those left behind are taken care of and not financially crippled by the loss, especially if the loved one was a financially contributing member of the family. A wrongful death lawsuit is one of the legal avenues open to family members for pursuing money that can cover a range of expenses and costs related to the death of a family member. It is also a means to achieving justice for the victim by holding the negligent party responsible for their actions.
Determining the value of a wrongful death claim can be complicated. The circumstances of the death can play a major role in calculating how much compensation may be owed to a family. If the victim lingered in the hospital before passing, a family may be able to recover money for those resulting in hospital bills. If they passed immediately, a family may be able to recover money to cover funeral and burial expenses. While no two cases are alike, typically, a family filing a wrongful death suit will be able to seek compensation related to the following:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Burial expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of income
- Emotional distress
- Loss of care
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
Families should keep in mind that Washington is one of only a handful of states that do not allow family members to seek punitive damages. They are only allowed to seek compensatory damages, as outlined above. Punitive damages are awarded in some states as a form of punishment against the at-fault party for negligent or reckless behavior.
If you have questions about what type of compensation may be available to you and your family following the death of a loved one, contact the law firm of Tamaki Law. We can review your situation, answer your questions, and give you an idea of what your wrongful death claim may be worth.
Who Is Allowed to File a Wrongful Death Case in Bellevue?
Washington has strict guidelines that govern which family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the loss of a family member. At the top of this hierarchy are the deceased victim’s surviving spouse and children. They are the first in line to file a lawsuit if they choose to do so. A spouse is a legally wed wife or husband or a state-registered domestic partner in the state of Washington. Children allowed to pursue a claim include either biological children or stepchildren of the deceased individual.
If the victim did not have a spouse or children at the time of their death, then either their parents or their siblings are legally allowed to pursue a wrongful death claim on their behalf. A wrongful death lawsuit may also be filed by the personal representative or executor of the victim’s estate. However, a personal representative will not typically be allowed to claim compensation for noneconomic damages such as a loss of companionship, as a family member would.
Washington law also allows parents of minors to file wrongful death claims on behalf of children killed by negligence, as long as the child was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident. In order for a parent to be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they must have regularly contributed to the support of the child before the child’s death. Married partners may file the lawsuit jointly, while a separated or divorced parent can choose to file a lawsuit on their own. However, the other parent must be notified that a suit has been filed within 20 days of the filing. This gives the other parent the ability to join the lawsuit if they are interested.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
An unfortunate reality is that there is no time limit on grief. There is, however, a very strict time limit on filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Even though family members may still be in pain and grieving the loss of a loved one, they may also have to move quickly if they want to see justice done. Washington gives families three years from the date of the individual’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although difficult, the sooner a family consults with an attorney and gets the ball rolling, the better. After the three-year statute of limitations has expired, there is little recourse left for recovering compensation. Cases filed after the time limit will generally be thrown out by the courts.
It is also in a family’s best interest to get an attorney on their side immediately. For a wrongful death case to hold up in court, there needs to be evidence showing negligence on the part of the at-fault party. An attorney has the power to investigate an accident and collect and preserve evidence before it is lost, tampered with, or destroyed.
At Tamaki Law, we understand that reliving the pain of loss with an attorney is not something that people look forward to. It can be painful and can leave family members feeling vulnerable. That’s why our team of experienced Bellevue attorneys treats families with the utmost respect, dignity, and compassion. We know it is difficult but give us the chance to sit down and talk with you about how we may be able to help you and your family get the compensation that you deserve.
Contact an Experienced Bellevue Wrongful Death Attorney
Before you talk to anyone else, talk to an experienced Bellevue wrongful death accident attorney. As a surviving family member, you have legal rights and may be able to recover compensation for yourself and others. A compassionate and sensitive attorney with Tamaki Law can walk you through the process of filing a wrongful death claim and be a shoulder to lean on during this difficult time.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident and don’t know where to turn for help, consider talking to an attorney with Tamaki Law today. We can review your situation and provide you with sound advice about your legal options for recovering compensation. You don’t have to take the next step alone. Contact our office at (425) 679-6421, and let’s set up a free consultation today.