A person may have died a wrongful death if they were killed as a result of the negligence, carelessness or intentional act of another person or entity.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that seeks to hold accountable the person or entity responsible for the death of a loved one. A suit is brought by the executor or representative of a deceased person’s estate.
When a person is killed as a result of another person, the defendant may be charged in both civil and criminal courts. A criminal case is brought by the government for the purpose of punishing the person through jail time or other measures while a civil case seeks justice through a monetary settlement.
Typically, a wrongful death lawsuit is seeking “pecuniary” or financial injury compensation for the loss of support, services, potential inheritance, pain and suffering of the deceased, and medical and funeral expenses of the lost relative. The amount of pecuniary loss is determined by a judge or jury based on the age, character and condition of the decedent, his/her earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence, as well as the circumstances of the beneficiaries of the estate.
While not every state allows parents to bring wrongful death lawsuits for fetuses, Washington State does allow it if a medical expert can prove that the fetus was “viable.” Viability means that the fetus was healthy before the negligent action and would have been born healthy if it weren’t for the unfortunate incident.
Yes, a parent, child or adult dependent may file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a child or elderly person. Plaintiff’s should know that because the amount of the settlement of each wrongful death case is determined by the value of the victim’s life to surviving dependents, the deceased person’s lost earning potential is an important factor. Because children and an elderly person past retirement age typically would not be earning income, it often means a much smaller settlement.
Yes, other factors such as the services provided to the family would be used to calculate a reasonable settlement for a person who did not earn an income. A stay-at-home parent, for example, makes contributions to the family such as childcare that are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.
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