Holiday-related incidents are a contributing factor to wrongful death cases. The festive season, though a time of joy and celebration, unfortunately, sees an uptick in incidents leading to wrongful deaths. Instances of domestic accidents, including falls while decorating homes or accidents in the kitchen, increase. Furthermore, holiday festivities often involve alcohol consumption, which can lead to impaired driving, resulting in tragic accidents.

Craig Swapp & Associates, with our extensive experience as Seattle/Tacoma wrongful death attorneys, are acutely aware of these patterns and are prepared to offer compassionate yet thorough legal assistance to those tragically affected during this period.

Wrongful Death Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sheds light on the primary causes of wrongful deaths, which include falls, motor vehicle accidents, and poisoning. This mirrors a troubling trend, particularly in certain categories.

  1. Motor Vehicle Accidents – Motor vehicle accidents are a predominant cause of wrongful deaths in the United States. Different factors like icy roads and reduced visibility significantly contribute to these accidents.
  2. Falls – Falls represent another major category in wrongful death statistics. During the year-end, with homes being decorated for the holidays, the risk of falls increases. Elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to serious injuries from falls, which can unfortunately lead to fatalities.
  3. Poisoning – Poisoning, too, is a significant cause, often linked to accidental overdoses or exposure to harmful substances, sometimes exacerbated during the holiday season.

Washington Wrongful Death Laws

Washington state’s wrongful death laws are designed to provide legal recourse for the families and dependents of individuals who have lost their lives due to the negligence or wrongful acts of another. These laws are complex, and understanding their nuances is crucial for anyone seeking justice in the wake of a tragedy.

  • Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim

The right to file a wrongful death claim is typically reserved for the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. This representative might be specified in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court.

The beneficiaries of the claim can include the deceased’s spouse, registered domestic partner, children, and stepchildren. If none of these relatives are alive, the parents or siblings of the deceased can file a claim, provided they were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death.

Washington’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

In Washington State, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is generally 3 years from the date of the individual’s death. This means that legal action must be initiated within this timeframe. Failure to file within this period typically results in the loss of the right to seek compensation through the courts.

Wrongful Death Damages to Recover

The damages in a wrongful death case often cover a range of losses. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Medical Expenses

Medical expenses that were accrued prior to the death. These expenses might range from emergency care costs to prolonged hospital stays or any medical treatments that were necessary due to the incident leading to death.

  • Funeral and Burial Costs

Funeral and burial costs are also considered under economic damages. These costs account for the expenses associated with funeral services, burial or cremation, and other related ceremonial expenses, acknowledging the financial burden these services can place on a family.

  • Loss of Future Income

This aspect considers the deceased’s earning potential had they lived – a crucial factor, especially for families who relied on this income for their livelihood. The calculation of lost future income takes into account various factors such as the deceased’s age, career trajectory, and potential earnings until anticipated retirement.

  • Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their death and the emotional distress and loss suffered by the surviving family members. This form of damage acknowledges the profound emotional impact and the loss of companionship, care, and affection that family members endure due to the wrongful death.

If the deceased is a minor, the wrongful death claim might include compensation for loss of parental guidance and education, factors that are particularly pertinent when it comes to the untimely death of a child.

Washington State’s Wrongful Death Claims Process

Navigating a wrongful death claim involves several critical steps, each requiring careful attention and legal knowledge. This process generally includes:

  • Establishing Proof of Negligence

The foundation of a wrongful death claim is proving that someone’s negligence or wrongful act led to the death. This involves gathering evidence such as eyewitness accounts, police reports, and expert testimonies to establish fault.

  • Filing the Claim

Once negligence is established, the next step is to file the claim. This legal document, prepared by your attorney, outlines the details of the case, the parties involved, and the compensation being sought.

  • Calculating Damages

Calculating the compensation due involves a detailed analysis of various factors. This includes immediate costs like medical bills and funeral expenses, as well as more complex calculations like loss of future earnings and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

  • Dealing With Insurance Companies

Often, wrongful death claims involve negotiations with insurance companies. These entities may attempt to minimize the payout. Experienced wrongful death lawyers are adept at handling these negotiations to ensure fair compensation.

  1. Litigation

If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, the case may proceed to trial. Here, evidence is presented before a judge or jury, who will then make a decision on the compensation.

  • Settlement and Compensation

The final stage is the settlement of the claim, where the agreed-upon or court-ordered compensation is awarded to the claimant.

Throughout this process, having a skilled Seattle/Tacoma wrongful death lawyer is invaluable. They provide the necessary legal guidance, manage complex negotiations, and represent your interests, allowing you to focus on healing during this difficult time.

To Have Legal Support During the Claims Process Is Crucial, Talk to Our Wrongful Death Lawyer

As the year ends, it is essential to consider legal support for wrongful death cases. Whether it is understanding your eligibility to file a claim or navigating the complexities of the legal process, our Seattle/Tacoma wrongful death lawyers at Craig Swapp & Associates are here to provide compassionate and comprehensive legal assistance. We offer a free consultation to help you start the process. So, contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp