After the sudden death of a loved one in a car crash or another accident, you may be feeling grief as well as stress. There are practical considerations that need to be addressed after a death, such as funeral and burial arrangements and determining how the victim’s family members will pay a mortgage or rent after the loss of the victim’s income. Many people do not have enough funds saved up to help them weather the death of a family member. They also may feel a sense of justice and fulfillment in holding accountable whoever was responsible for their loss. The Seattle wrongful death lawyers at Owen Vanderbrug provide compassionate, knowledgeable representation to families throughout the state of Washington. We offer detail-oriented and personalized attention, relying on over 30 years of combined experience. We understand the burdens that you are shouldering, and we want to help take this weight off your shoulders.Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim Following a Fatal Accident
Washington law considers a wrongful death to be a death that was caused by the negligence, or wrongful act of a person or entity. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that is similar to a personal injury claim, except that the person who would have served as the plaintiff has passed away. It is distinct from any criminal charges that may be pursued for the decedent's death. Criminal charges are filed by the government, whereas survivors of the decedent can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
While criminal charges may culminate in a conviction and a sentence that includes jail time, the purpose of a civil lawsuit is to recover monetary damages. You can pursue a wrongful death claim even if the government is pursuing a criminal conviction, or even if the government was unable to secure a conviction. The burden of proof in a criminal case is "beyond a reasonable doubt," a very tough standard. However, the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is "preponderance of the evidence," which simply means more likely than not. Thus, a wrongful death attorney in the Seattle area may be able to build a strong case for you even if the prosecution could not meet its burden.Procedures for Bringing a Claim
In Washington, only certain people can file a wrongful death claim: the spouse or state-registered domestic partner of the decedent, the children or stepchildren of the decedent, and the personal representative of the decedent's estate. When there is neither a spouse nor a child, parents or siblings of the decedent can file the wrongful death lawsuit. When the decedent is a minor child (someone under 18), and the parents regularly contribute to their support, the parents can file a wrongful death claim..
You only have three years from the decedent's death to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. When lawsuits are not filed in three years, they generally will be barred. However, evidence vanishes and memories fade, so it can be important to consult a Seattle wrongful death attorney immediately after the death of a loved one if you believe that it was somebody else's fault.Proving Liability
In order to establish liability in a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of an accident such as a car accident or a slip and fall, you will most likely need to prove negligence. This means proving that the defendant owed a duty of care, the defendant breached the duty of care, and this breach caused the accident. When, for example, someone drives drunk and drifts into oncoming traffic, killing a father of three children, his wife and children would likely be able to show negligence and recover damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
The damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death case include any pain and suffering experienced by the decedent as a result of their fatal injuries, funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and the family members’ loss of care and companionship. The nature of the family members’ relationships to the decedent can affect the damages that are available. A spouse may be able to recover damages for loss of care and companionship.Consult a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Seattle or Spokane
If you believe that you may need to pursue legal action after a loved one's death, you should consult the attorneys at Owen | Vanderbrug. We have offices in Seattle and Spokane, and we also represent the families of victims throughout the state of Washington, including Redmond, Bellevue, Kent, Longview, Vancouver, Port Orchard, Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, Olympia, and other cities in King, Clark, Cowlitz, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, and Thurston Counties. Call us at (800) 805-5028 or complete our online form to set up a free appointment.