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What is a Claim for Wrongful Death?

Washington law defines a wrongful death as any death resulting from the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.   Each state in the United States has its own wrongful death statute. Washington’s wrongful death statute can be found in Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 4.20.010. This statute allows the wrongful death action to be brought by a personal representative who is appointed to act on behalf of the estate of the victim. More information about the personal representative and estate can be found in our “Estate and Personal Representative” page.

After someone dies due to another person’s negligence, the victim is called the “decedent” in our legal system. The people who are left behind, including loved ones and family, are the “beneficiaries” and are entitled to compensation for their loss. The beneficiaries typically will retain an attorney to first set up an estate and assign a personal representative. After that happens, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against the responsible parties.

The persons who can recover money after a wrongful death include the decedent’s spouse, children, domestic partners, and other family members. Washington law creates an order by which family members or partners can recover after a wrongful death. The first persons to recover are the surviving spouse, domestic partner and children (including stepchildren) of the deceased person. If the deceased leaves behind no children, spouse or domestic partner, the surviving parents and siblings of the deceased can recover if those people are dependent upon the deceased for support.

Washington law also allows the estate and personal representative to recover for any pre-death pain and suffering that a person suffers. This action is called the survival action and essentially means that the beneficiaries can recover for the emotional damages and pain and suffering that a person suffered before he or she passed away.

Wrongful deaths can occur in a variety of contexts. Any claim from a car accident to a construction accident can become a wrongful death if the victim passes away as a result of the injuries. We know how hard this is on your family. Contact us and we can help guide you through the process from start to finish.

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