Being involved in a wrongful death case is challenging to go through. If you recently lost someone you love, and you have reason to believe that someone else’s negligence caused it, you may be wondering what your rights are as a surviving family member.
In Washington State, the law provides specific protections for the surviving family members of wrongful death victims. This includes the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and collect damages from the responsible party. Here is a closer look at your rights:
The Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim
First, the law requires the personal representative or executor of the estate to file a claim, which could be the victim’s spouse, child, parent, or in some cases, sibling. If the victim does not have a personal representative, the court will appoint one.
If the victim does not have a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, a parent or legal guardian may file the claim. Having a personal representative is necessary because they are responsible for managing the lawsuit and ensuring that the victim’s family receives any damages that are awarded.
Keep in mind that for a wrongful death claim in Washington State, the statute of limitations is only three years from the date of death. In the case of medical malpractice, the statute of repose is eight years. This means that if the family does not file a claim within this time frame, they will likely be unable to do so.
The Right to Recover Damages
If the claim is successful, the court may award various types of damages to the surviving family members, including:
- Past and future economic damages, such as benefits and lost wages;
- Past and future noneconomic damages for your pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress; and
- Punitive damages in some cases.
It is important to note that damages are generally split equally among the surviving spouses and children. If there are no surviving spouses or children, the damages will be divided among the victim’s parents or siblings.
The Right to File a Civil Claim
Finally, the law provides that the victim’s family can file a wrongful death claim regardless of whether the person responsible for the death is criminally prosecuted. Even if the person responsible for the death is acquitted of a crime, the family can still file a civil wrongful death claim.
Knowing about your rights as a surviving family member of a wrongful death victim can help you decide what to do next. This is a difficult and emotional time, but having this knowledge can give you some peace of mind.
If you have any questions, it is crucial to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. Schedule a consultation with Polaris Injury Law today to get started.