- May 26, 2021
- Jed Strong
- Personal Injury
If someone you love lost their life because of the negligence or recklessness of another individual or organization, you are likely devastated, frustrated, and angry, as well you should be. You may believe you have a legal case, but without experience and understanding of the law, you may also wonder, how do you prove a wrongful death claim?
Loss of life, under any circumstance, is tragic. But when the incident was clearly preventable, a wrongful death lawsuit may make sense.
The wrongful death attorneys at Strong Law in Tacoma can review the circumstances surrounding the death of your family member and determine whether it qualifies as wrongful death. If it does, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today at 206-741-1051 for your free consultation.
Wrongful Death Laws in Washington
The Primary Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases
Across the country, each state has specific laws relating to wrongful death. Washington is no exception. Successful wrongful death suits, which result in the award of monetary damages, are civil suits and are filed by direct survivors (family members) of the individual who has died. According to RCW 4.20.010 Wrongful death—Right of action, these suits can be filed at the same time as criminal suits, which would be initiated by the state and could result in probation or even prison time.
Recognizing the Burden of Proof
Wrongful death lawsuits, like others, rely on proof. That said, many of us understand the burden of proof only as it pertains to criminal cases. In these instances, the prosecuting attorneys are charged with proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
On the other hand, in civil cases, like wrongful death lawsuits, the attorney must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, it needs to seem likely that the issue being claimed is true. The bar is lower and easier to achieve.
When you work with the attorneys at Strong Law, we will completely investigate all claims, meet with witnesses, identify experts, and develop a legal strategy. We will leverage our years of experience to fulfill the requirements as stated by law.
Who Can Benefit from a Wrongful Death Claim?
Each state legislates who can file a wrongful death claim. In Washington, the individuals who can sue for wrongful death are determined by RCW 4.20.020. The law specifies that the beneficiaries can be:
- A spouse/state-registered domestic partner
- A child/children (including step-children)
Generally, the filing is completed by an individual designated as the personal representative. This person was most likely identified in the will of the deceased as the executor. He or she will act on behalf of the beneficiaries throughout the lawsuit.
Understanding Wrongful Death
Learn What You Need to Prove Wrongful Death
It is important to recognize that four very specific points must be proven in a wrongful death case. These include:
- Negligence: Always first on the list, negligence is key in wrongful death claims. Your attorneys must prove that the death of your loved one was the result of the carelessness, recklessness, or negligent acts of another person or organization.
- Breach of Duty: Also, they must prove that the defendant (the person they hold responsible for the family member’s death) “owed a duty” to the deceased. There had to have been some type of “relationship.” This concept can be confusing. Consider these three examples.
- Physicians owe their patients accurate, quality medical care.
- Manufacturers owe consumers safe products, ones that do not cause harm when used.
- Drivers, on the roads, are responsible for following traffic rules. They owe the other vehicles, as well as pedestrians, the opportunity for safe travel.
- Causation: It is not enough for an event to have occurred. The death of your family member must be attributable to the act that killed him or her.
- Damages: Because wrongful death claims are civil in nature, the award is almost always financial. That said, your attorney must prove that quantifiable damages do exist. These can include, for example, ambulance transfer, hospital bills, other medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of income.
Your wrongful death attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies to reach an agreement. The goal is always to settle out of court. However, it is not always possible to reach an acceptable compromise. When this is the case, your attorney will represent you in court, where they will prove the four issues explained above. This may require the testimony of expert witnesses. Leveraging their knowledge and experience makes your case stronger.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, wrongful death lawsuits are commonplace, both in Washington and around the country. Accidents happen, and, sadly, sometimes they cause injuries and even death.
As you may expect, some events result in wrongful death more often than others. Some of the most common include, but are not limited to:
- Medical malpractice
- Injuries during birth
- Accidents at work
- Vehicular accidents
- Criminal actions
- Premises accidents
- Occupational exposure.
Once again, this list is not all-inclusive. If you have lost someone to an event, whether or not on this list, confer with wrongful death attorneys. They can help determine whether you have a case.
Understanding Wrongful Death Compensation
A common question raised by those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another is “how much can I sue for?” Because the compensation is based on a combination of monetary damages and pain and suffering, the answer for each case is unique.
Your wrongful death attorney will work with you to calculate the damages. These will be a combination of all affiliated medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and loss of wages. Additionally, you can be compensated for the pain and suffering associated with your loss.
Legal Assistance in Wrongful Death Cases
Timing is critical in wrongful death cases. Especially after accidents, communication from outside parties seems almost immediate. It is better if your attorneys handle all these conversations; they are looking out for your best interests.
If your loved one has lost their life due to the reckless or negligent actions of a person, group of people, or organization, you should contact a reputable wrongful death attorney immediately.
These types of cases can become complicated, and the knowledge and assistance from an experienced professional can truly be the difference when it comes to being compensated for the loss of your loved one.
Our Team at Strong Law Firm in Tacoma Can Help You
The wrongful death attorneys at Strong Law have a reputation for successfully managing wrongful death suits. They understand the state laws in Washington and are experienced both with insurance company negotiation and litigation. They believe, without a doubt, that negligent parties must be held accountable for their actions.
When you work with Strong Law, you can rest assured that you are in good hands. They will actively listen to your situation and provide a detailed roadmap on how to proceed. Perhaps more importantly, they will manage the entire process, from interviewing individuals and identifying expert witnesses (when necessary) to negotiating with the insurance companies and representing you in court. You can focus on mourning your loss and caring for your family – both critically important to your future well-being.
Contact Strong Law today at 206-741-1051 for your free consultation and to learn how they can help you through this incredibly difficult time. They have all the answers to the question “how do you prove wrongful death?”