Each year, more than 500 people die on the road in Washington, leaving behind grieving family members.
Fortunately, if someone else is to blame for the death, then family members might be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the motorist responsible.
These civil lawsuits differ from criminal cases in key ways.
The Personal Representative Brings the Lawsuit, Not the State
In a criminal prosecution, the state files charges. However, wrongful death lawsuits are usually brought by the estate’s personal representative on behalf of certain family members:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Children or stepchildren
- If no spouse or children survive, then a deceased person’s parents or siblings can receive compensation they were dependent on the deceased
The personal representative for the estate may also file a survival action, which recovers compensation the deceased would have been entitled to. The personal representative should be identified in the deceased person’s will or, if there is no will, can be appointed by the probate court.
In the event a child under 18 has died, then the parents can typically file a wrongful death lawsuit for their child’s death. RCW 4.24.010 explains the situations where one or both parents can file this lawsuit.
According to Washington law, a wrongful death case can be filed even though the defendant is being tried in criminal court. However, there might be advantages to waiting until the criminal prosecution has finished, so you should discuss your options with
You Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Money
In a criminal case, a defendant can go to jail if convicted. By contrast, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought only for money. If you prevail, you might receive compensation in the form of money damages for the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages your loved one would have earned had they lived
- Medical bills to treat your loved one’s final illness
- Any pain and suffering your loved one endured before death
- The loss of companionship and other benefits surviving family members have suffered
The amount of compensation available will depend on the circumstances, so reach out to a Yakima wrongful death car accident lawyer today.
You Must Prove Someone is Responsible for the Death
A wrongful death in Washington is one caused by the default, wrongful act, or neglect of another person. Generally, in a car accident case, you will need to show that someone did not operate their vehicle with sufficient care under the circumstances. For example, a motorist might be responsible for the wrongful death if they struck your loved one while:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted while texting or talking on the phone
- Driving carelessly by not checking their blind spot or rearview mirror
- Driving recklessly by speeding, tailgating, or running a red light
In these and other situations, you might be able to hold a motorist responsible for your loved one’s death. In a civil lawsuit, you must show that the defendant is liable by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that they caused the death.
Contact a Washington Car Accident Lawyer
If a loved one has died in a car accident, you need caring legal guidance during this turbulent time. At Kapuza Lighty, we have represented grieving family members who lost loved ones in a car accident. Please contact one of our Yakima wrongful death attorneys today.
Avoid delay. Washington law gives you only three years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If you wait too long, a judge can dismiss your case.