In Washington State, there are two different types of wrongful death claims, and a major loophole in the process that needs to be fixed. As a Kirkland injury lawyer, I have worked on wrongful death cases all through my career, and believe that there needs to be a change in the system to achieve the justice our legal system strives to attain. The two types of claims are known as a “general” claim and a “survivor” claim. Unfortunately, these two types of claims are not all encompassing, and under specific conditions, makes it possible for someone who caused a wrongful death to get away without any repercussions. Here is a broad overview of the two claims:
General wrongful death claims: This sort of claim can be brought by the beneficiaries of the individual who passed away. Typically, this may include the decedent’s children, spouse, and under some conditions, the parents. These claims are meant to compensate damages for people that were financially dependent on the person who was killed. Parents with children under 18-years-old can file a general claim, however, once that child turns 18 years old, they can no longer do so unless they are financial dependent on that child. Emotional dependence is not enough to warrant this type of claim. This is meant to protect the people that were related to the decedent and relied on them financially. The details of each and every wrongful death case are very important to whether or not you can bring about a general claim. Talking to a highly skilled Redmond wrongful death lawyer in person is the best method to figure out what course of action you should take.
Survivor wrongful death claims: If the decedent does not have a spouse, children, or financially dependent parents, then they can have their day in court through a survivor claim. The court can appoint a personal representative to their estate, and damages can be collected for the pain and suffering experienced by the victim as a result of the accident prior to death. The focus of a survivor claim is on the victim, and does not take into account any loss suffered by family members.
The tragedy of this system is that parents of a wrongful death victim that is 18 or older cannot pursue a general wrongful death claim. Just because a child turns 18 and is no longer a minor does not mean that the strong bond between them and their parents goes away. With the law the way it is, however, the only type of claim that could be filed is a survivor claim. The person responsible for the death thus gets away with fewer repercussions for their actions, and the family of the victim feels as though justice was not truly served.
If you believe that a loved one’s death was the result of the negligence of someone else, then you should contact an experienced Washington wrongful death attorney once you are emotionally prepared to consider taking legal action. Every case will have circumstances that make it unique, so it is important to go consult a lawyer who has handled wrongful death claims before and can advise you in making the best possible decision.