It is hard to comprehend the grief and depression you feel when you lose a loved one due to the careless actions of another person.
Still, besides the emotional anguish, you do experience other losses when the decedent is no longer in your life.
While nothing can bring back him or her, you may have a claim to recover damages from the responsible party.
These cases are complicated because there are two separate statutes under Washington State law, providing two very distinct types of claims. Our lawyers at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC can assist in pursuing your right to compensation when the unthinkable happens.
Yakima, WA Wrongful Death Attorneys Put Your Family Needs First
Our wrongful death lawyers at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC represent clients in connection with the two categories of claims that arise when your loved one dies due to negligence. Both are akin to a personal injury lawsuit, only the victim died instead of only being injured. Therefore, the claimant must prove the existence of a legal duty, breach of that duty, and a link between the breach and the victim’s death.
The two causes of action are:
1. Wrongful Death Claims: Washington State’s wrongful death statute allows certain family members of the decedent to file a lawsuit when the death was caused by someone else’s negligent actions. If successful, family members can obtain compensation for the void left behind, including:
- Damages based upon the deceased’s income and other household contributions;
- Losses related to emotional support, companionship, guidance, and education; and,
- Similar damages.
Note that only certain relatives of the victim can recover in a wrongful death case. A surviving spouse and children are the first tier of individuals entitled to compensation; if there are none, parents and siblings can only recover if they were dependent for support upon the decedent.
2. Survival Actions: The state statute on survival actions provides a cause of action for the deceased victim’s losses. Even though he or she died, there is still a right of recovery for such economic damages as:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical costs to treat the victim before death;
- Loss of future earnings, as designated by law; and,
- Property damage.
For both wrongful death and survival actions, a personal representative must stand in the shoes of the decedent. This could be the individual appointed as executor in a will, or someone appointed by a probate court if there is no will.
As grieving family members, you aren’t expected to know which lawsuit to file or whether you are even qualified to file it. In this time of need, you need trustworthy legal guidance that only an experienced Yakima attorney can provide. Reach out to a lawyer who can go through the facts of the case to determine the best way forward that protects your rights.
Common Wrongful Death Scenarios
Our attorneys represent families who lose a loved one as a result of:
- A car accident or motorcycle accident. The collision can cause immediate death or sufficiently serious injuries that your loved one dies from soon after.
- Truck collisions. Large commercial trucks can cause fatal injuries because of their weight.
- Medical malpractice. A doctor or other medical professional can carelessly injure your loved one in surgery or by failing to properly diagnose a condition.
- Defective products. Many products can fail to work as a consumer expects them to, leading to death. For example, defective tires on a car can cause a motorist to veer into oncoming traffic.
- Slip and fall accidents, and other incidents due to dangerous conditions on property. Property owners must make their property safe. When they fail to, they are negligent.
- Intentional acts and criminal offenses. Anyone who intentionally strikes your loved one, leading to death, is responsible for a wrongful death.
- Many other circumstances.
The key in these cases is to show that the defendant’s actions were sufficiently wrongful to hold them legally responsible.
For example, a driver who breezes through a red light and T-bones your loved one’s car, causing death, is clearly responsible, as is a driver who backs out of their driveway without looking in the rearview mirror or over their shoulder. These drivers have been negligent at best, and reckless at worse.
The fact that your loved one died, however, is not proof by itself that someone else is to blame. After all, your loved one could have caused the accident him or herself. Proper investigation of these claims is vital to determine who is at fault. As part of this investigation, your Yakima wrongful death attorney might need to interview witnesses and visit the scene of the accident.
Time Limits for Filing a Suit
Washington does not give family members an unlimited amount of time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, Washington allows only 3 years from the date of death to file. This is Washington’s “statute of limitations” law.
Three years might seem like a long time, but it really is not. In many cases, you need to fully investigate the incident to determine who is at fault for the death. You might also need time to negotiate with the defendant or his insurer.
If you wait too long, you can expect the defendant to ask the judge to dismiss the case. And in most cases, the judge will do just that—depriving you of your day in court. To protect your rights, you should reach out to an experienced wrongful death attorney immediately.
Dedicated, Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyers in Yakima, WA
Our attorneys at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC know that your life is forever changed after losing a family member, but we do want to assist you in bringing resolution to a wrongful death situation. Please contact us to schedule a case assessment at our Yakima, WA office.