Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

By Dev

An attorney explaining the statute of limitations of a wrongful death case to the father and daughter.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death suit is a type of personal injury lawsuit filed by an individual when their loved one dies due to the negligence of another party. Although a lawsuit can never help the family fully recover from their traumatic loss, it can cover unexpected expenses while holding the negligent party responsible.

When considering a lawsuit, it is essential to understand the wrongful death statute of limitations and required legal steps.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?

According to Washington state law, certain people related to the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit. When bringing a suit, a person must hold a particular relationship with the recently deceased individual, for example:

  • The deceased person’s personal representative for their estate
  • A state-registered domestic partner or legal spouse of the deceased person
  • The deceased person’s child or stepchild

Suppose the person who is deceased had no state-registered domestic partner, spouse, children, or stepchildren. In that case, the deceased person’s parents or siblings can bring a lawsuit within the wrongful death statute of limitations.

The Statute of Limitations

What is a statute of limitations? The statute of limitations is a certain time period following an incident in which an individual can bring a lawsuit.

What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases? In Washington, a person has three years from the day of the death to file a lawsuit. Abiding by the wrongful death lawsuit statute of limitations is essential, as the court will likely refuse your case after the three-year limit.

What Compensation Can Be Obtained in a Wrongful Death Suit?

How much can you sue for in a wrongful death suit? Although there is no set monetary compensation for a wrongful death suit, there are various damages that individuals can fight for following a wrongful death incident, including:

  • Medical bills that resulted from a fatal injury
  • Loss of wages and income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial costs
  • Property damage
  • Loss of non-economic benefits, like care and companionship

These potential damages vary depending on the relationship between the deceased individual and the person bringing a claim. For example, spouses and children are more likely to receive damages for non-economic benefits such as loss of companionship or care than an estate representative.

Who Can Be Liable for Wrongful Death?

Aside from bringing a lawsuit within the wrongful death statute of limitations, it is important to understand who can be liable.

Examples of negligent individuals in a wrongful death case that may be held liable include:

  • Drunk drivers
  • Homeowners who were not supervising when an individual drowned in a swimming pool on their property
  • Homeowners who leave out pesticides that another party fatally ingests
  • Trucking companies who fail to hire qualified drivers and cause an accident
  • Owners of a dog who bites an individual and causes a fatal infection
  • Construction companies who provide unsafe working conditions
  • Toy manufacturers who produce dangerous toys that lead to a fatality
  • Nursing homes or assisted living facilities who mix up a patient’s medications, leading to death

When bringing a lawsuit within the wrongful death statute of limitations, it is essential to speak with a lawyer first to understand the specific details of your case.

Exceptions to Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Suit

Washington courts rarely approve cases outside of the statute of limitations for wrongful death. However, there are a few exceptions.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases often require long, in-depth investigations. As a result, it can often take a few years for a family to realize that the medical professional or facility is responsible for their loved one’s death.

Homicides and Murder

Murder investigations require a significant amount of time to solve. A wrongful death statute of limitation often starts once the murderer is arrested or identified.

Government Entity

What is the statute of limitations when a government entity is involved? The length of time depends on the situation; however, the wrongful death lawsuit statute of limitation extends to allow a greater processing time.

Learn Your Rights After Getting Road Rash from an Accident!

Whether you need assistance understanding the wrongful death statute of limitations or help understand your rights after a car accident, the team at Brain Injury Law in Seattle is here to help.

Our experienced attorneys understand that every case is unique and works hard to ensure that every client understands their rights. Call Brain Injury Law of Seattle at (425) 278-4383 to schedule a consultation.