Wrongful Death FAQ
Q. What is a wrongful death?
A. Whenever someone dies as the result of negligence, a defective product or a deliberate act, a wrongful death has occurred.
Q. What is the difference between a wrongful death and a murder?
A. Wrongful death is a civil claim in which a person, loved one or family member seeks to recover a judgment as compensation for the passing of a loved one. Murder is a criminal judgment which seeks to compensate loved ones by punishing the perpetrator through time in prison. In some cases, while proof beyond a reasonable doubt cannot be proven, civil liability can still be secured.
Q. Who can sue for wrongful death?
A. In the state of Washington, the spouse and surviving dependent children may file a wrongful death claim. If the person who died is a dependent child, the parents may file a child death claim. Also, the personal representative of a deceased person’s estate may sue for damages. Under the Special Personal Injury Survival Statue, adult dependents can sue for damages as well (for example a parent who is dependent upon a child for care or support). A child can bring a claim for the loss of a parent even if the adult child is not dependent on the parent for support.
Q. What kind of damages can I expect to collect?
A. In the state of Washington, this can vary considerably. In general, you can expect to collect medical costs incurred before the wrongful death took place, the cost of the funeral and burial, loss of income and benefits you would have received during the balance of the person’s expected lifetime, pain and suffering as the survivors, mental anguish, loss of companionship compensation, loss of protection and loss of inheritance if this would have occurred at a later date. Punitive damages can only be collected if malicious intent can be proven.
It is best to contact a lawyer that specializes in handling wrongful death cases to discuss your situation. It is only through a careful evaluation of your situation that an accurate answer can be given.
Q. How do you calculate future damages?
A. We use life expectancy tables to calculate how many more years the deceased would have contributed financially. Then we use typical earnings to calculate how much this would add up to at the time of retirement. The retirement contribution is then calculated based on current tables. After the two are added together, we have an idea of what the future damages would be.
Q. If I settle out of court, is the amount of the settlement public record?
A. Because there is no legal requirement to make the amount of a settlement public, you may request that the terms of the settlement agreement include keeping the amount of the recovery confidential. On the other hand, sometimes the party you are suing wants to keep the settlement out of the public record and asks you to make a contractual pledge of nondisclosure. The reasons they wish to do this should be considered carefully before agreeing to this stipulation. A wrongful death attorney has the knowledge to help you weigh the consequences of these arrangements.
Q. Where do I file my wrongful death case?
A. Generally, you will file a civil action seeking damages for a wrongful death in the county in which the injury that caused death occurred.
Q. My family member died at work. Can I sue the employer for wrongful death?
A. Typically, your only recourse will be under the worker’s compensation laws of Washington. But if it can be proven that someone other than the employer was at fault for the death, such as a subcontractor, co-worker, or product manufacturer, you may have other options and a right to bring a third party claim against the negligent person or entity. Only a wrongful death attorney can evaluate your situation and advise you as to your legal rights.
Q. I believe that I have a claim against a government entity. How do I go about filing a wrongful death claim against a governmental organization?
A. There are special rules surrounding claims against political entities and governmental bodies. Whether your case is against a city, school district, water district or other government entity, you need to contact a wrongful death attorney so that the proper procedures are pursued.
Q. How soon must I file a wrongful death lawsuit before I lose the right to do so?
A. In Washington, you generally have 3 years in which to file your claim but there are exceptions. Please consult a lawyer immediately to determine precisely by when the statute of limitations shall run.
Q. How much does it cost to speak with you about my situation?
A. We never charge for an initial consultation and for a review of the facts surrounding your case. Email Rob at Rob@Kornfeldlaw.com or call 1 (800) 282-4878 to schedule a case evaluation over the telephone, by e-mail or in person at a convenient location for you, either at our main office, a satellite meeting location, in your home or at the hospital.
Author: Rob Kornfeld