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 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.
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.
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