In the state of Washington, there are two different types of wrongful death claims, and a major loophole in the system that needs to be fixed. As a Bellevue injury attorney, I have worked on wrongful death cases throughout 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 certain conditions, can allow 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 type of claim can be brought by the beneficiaries of the person who died. Generally, this can include the decedent’s children, spouse, and under some conditions, the parents. These claims are meant to cover damages for people that were financially dependent on the person who was killed. Parents with children under 18-years-old can bring about 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. The details of every wrongful death case are very important to whether or not you can bring about a general claim. Speaking with an experienced Seattle wrongful death attorney in person is the best way to determine what course of action you should take.
Survivor wrongful death claims: Survivor claims can be brought about when the decedent does not have a spouse or any dependents. This allows the wrongful death victim to have their day in court and seek damages for the pain and suffering for their injuries that the accident caused prior to their death. The way this works is that someone can be appointed as the personal representative for the decedent’s estate, and recover damages that would’ve been claimed had the decedent survived. The focus in survivor claims is on the wrongful death victim, rather than his or her dependents.
The Washington state wrongful death laws leave a big loophole in the sense that parents cannot bring about a general claim for their child once they hit 18-years-old. In most people’s mind, there is just as strong of a connection between parents and their 17-year-old kid as with a kid that is no longer considered a minor, however the courts see it differently. A survivor claim can still be brought for young adults who do not have any dependents, but there is a lack of justice for the family of the decedent in this case, and the person who caused the death gets away with less repercussions.
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 consult a lawyer who has handled wrongful death claims before and can advise you in making the best possible decision. For more information on Washington wrongful death, you can get my book “In Case of Death” for free by clicking on the preceding link.