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Seattle Wrongful Death Lawyer

If someone you love suffered an injury and died because of the misconduct or negligence of another, you may be wondering about your legal options. One of those options is hiring a Seattle wrongful death lawyer to help you file a claim for wrongful death on behalf of your deceased loved one as a means of gaining both financial compensation and justice.

The only thing more traumatic than the loss of a loved one is losing that loved one due to the negligence or reckless behavior of someone else. Losing someone you’re close to in this way can leave you mired not only in grief but also with expenses related to the loved one’s sudden death, such as medical bills and funeral expenses. All while you may also have a sudden loss of income in the household if the deceased was an income earner in the home.

Seattle Wrongful Death Attorney

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How Can a Seattle Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?

Wrongful death claims are a complex legal matter in Seattle. It’s extremely challenging for a grieving family member to navigate the legal process alone. When the stakes are this important, you need a lawyer with many years of experience and a strong record of success in wrongful death claims. The Fang Law Firm has over a decade of experience giving each client the personalized legal services they deserve for their unique case. Our team of attorneys understands the process of grief and recovery in wrongful death cases and we advocate passionately for the financial compensation and justice our clients and their deceased loved ones deserve. We are ready to assist you with the personalized and diligent service you need as you move through this process on the path to recovery.

What is Wrongful Death?

In Washington, any unexpected death that occurs as the direct result of the negligence, recklessness, or misconduct of another person or entity is considered a wrongful death that’s actionable by surviving loved ones such as spouses, parents, children, or other beneficiaries. Washington courts consider wrongful death claims under the following causes of action:

  • Deaths that result from wrongful acts such as acts of violence or drunk driving. A wrongful death lawsuit is separate from criminal charges and loved ones can file them regardless of whether or not there were criminal charges or a conviction.
  • Deaths that result from default, or occur only as the result of another act.
  • Deaths resulting from negligent behavior such as failing to warn others of a known hazard or failing to follow safety standards and regulations, or failing to act in a manner that reasonable people in the same circumstances would have acted.

When these circumstances result in a loved one’s wrongful death it may be difficult to know what steps to take next or where to turn in order to achieve some form of justice for your family member. The Fang Law Firm understands this sort of anguish and can help you get closure to begin moving forward after the unthinkable occurs.

Recovering Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case

Though no amount of financial compensation can return a deceased family member to their loved ones, you can achieve a form of justice through a successful wrongful death claim. What’s more, you can recover compensation for the economic and emotional damages the tragedy caused your family. There are two types of damages in wrongful death cases:

  • Economic damages, which are tangible expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs
  • General damages, which are the intangible emotional losses suffered like grief, anguish, anxiety, and depression over the loss of companionship and emotional support from the loved one

In some states, loved ones left behind may be able to recover compensation for punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are a monetary sum awarded to victims or their families in the case of particularly egregious or malicious behavior that results in an injury or wrongful death. Punitive damages aren’t meant to compensate loved ones for their loss but instead function as both a punishment and a deterrent from further reckless or dangerous behavior on the part of the plaintiff.

Economic damages awards include compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses incurred before the loved one’s death because of the injury
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income and lost future earnings
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium, or loss of a close, loving or physical relationship
  • Loss of parental guidance in cases of the death of a person with young children

A skilled wrongful death lawyer in Seattle may engage an economist who specializes in estimating amounts of lost earnings and financial support based on the remaining life expectancy of the deceased had they not died as the result of their injury.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Washington, only specific family members may file a wrongful death claim. These include the following:

  • Spouses
  • Children, including adopted children and stepchildren
  • The parents of an unmarried child who died
  • Life partners
  • Financial dependents such as common law or putative spouses
  • In some circumstances, siblings and grandparents may also file wrongful death claims, such as if they depended on the deceased for financial support

Any of the above may file a wrongful death lawsuit as a personal representative of the estate of the deceased individual. Often, but not always, the relative filing the lawsuit is the executor of the deceased person’s will. The person who files should be someone trustworthy and without a criminal history or conflicting interests. They should also be someone capable of devoting time and attention to the case with the help of an attorney. The person who files makes important decisions such as whether to settle or go to trial.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington?

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Washington follows the same rule as personal injury claims. In most cases, family members have 3 years from the date of the individual’s death in which to file a claim. However, if an accident occurs as the result of someone’s wrongdoing and the victim lives for some time and then later dies as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, the statute of limitations is three years from the time of the accident, not of the death.

It’s important to file a wrongful death claim as soon as possible after a tragic death occurs. Prompt action maximizes the chance of a successful outcome since the evidence and eyewitness testimony needed to prove a claim hasn’t been compromised by the passage of time.

A Washington court will likely throw out a lawsuit if it’s even one day past the statute of limitations for filing. An exception to the normal statute of limitations relates to children who are under the age of 18 when the wrongful death of a parent occurs. In these cases, the child has up to three years after they turn 18 to file a claim.

Types of Wrongful Death Claims

Most wrongful death claims are based on the negligence of an individual, or entity such as a business, that led to a death. In other cases, it may be based on an individual’s failure to meet an expected standard of care or community safety standards, or to practice due diligence to avoid injury.

Some examples of the types of wrongful death claims filed in Washington include:

  • Driver negligence
  • Accidents for which the city is liable, such as malfunctioning traffic lights or road or bridge damage
  • Criminal conduct such as assault or homicide (regardless of separate criminal charges)
  • Car vs. pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Work-related accidents
  • Defective product
  • Premises liability such as a dangerous condition in a store, hotel, or other business leading to a death

These are some of the most common examples of wrongful death claims. In these claims, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed care of duty toward the safety of the deceased loved one and failed in that care of duty causing the victim’s death and the subsequent financial and emotional damages to the loved ones left behind.

Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death occurs in the above types of accidents when one party’s actions directly led to the victim’s death. For example, a car accident alone may not qualify for a wrongful death action, but one in which the responsible driver was drunk, distracted by a cell phone, disregarding traffic signals or road rules, or driving recklessly in a manner they knew could cause harm to others are all actionable under Washington’s wrongful death laws.

Motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents in which the responsible party’s reckless action, such as driving through an intersection or crosswalk, caused the death could result in a wrongful death claim.

Work-related accidents can be cause for a wrongful death claim in circumstances where an employer was aware of a danger, hazard, or faulty equipment at a job site and failed to correct the problem.

These are examples of causes of death the courts consider wrongful because they would not have occurred had the at-fault person not acted with disregard for the safety of others to whom they owed a reasonable duty of care.

What to Expect in a Wrongful Death Case

Wrongful death cases typically require extensive investigation including examining police reports and medical records, interviewing witnesses, and consulting economic experts. These types of preparations for a successful wrongful death case require an experienced and knowledgeable Seattle wrongful death attorney.

After filing, a discovery period takes place during which the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant exchange relevant information, records, and reports. In some cases, attorneys consult with accident reconstruction experts.

At any time during the discovery phase and trial, the defendants may offer a settlement. In that case, it’s up to the plaintiff to decide whether to accept the settlement or to go on to trial. Accepting a settlement means the family members of the deceased won’t have to endure the stress of a trial, however, if the settlement is inadequate, the case may go on to trial depending on what the plaintiff decides after consulting with their attorney.

What You Should Do After A Wrongful Death Occurs

If you suspect your loved one died as a direct result of another person or entity’s wrongdoing, misconduct, or negligence it’s important to take certain steps. Despite the shock and grief of the traumatic death of a loved one, by keeping as cool a head as possible you can protect your family’s future and maximize your chance for compensation and justice. After the accident do the following whenever possible:

  • Gather evidence at the scene as soon as possible after the accident. This includes taking photographs of anything relevant to the accident and gathering contact information of witnesses.
  • In some cases, you may wish to record their statements with their permission while the memory is fresh in their minds
  • Make a list of all people, companies, or products involved in the death
  • Keep all bills and receipts relevant to the accident and death including medical expenses and funeral costs
  • Notify your insurance company and obtain insurance policy information
  • Call a Seattle wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible for a consultation

Contact a Seattle Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Before you make any statements or speak in detail to an insurance provider about the wrongful death of your loved one, it’s important to contact a wrongful death lawyer about the details of your case. The compassionate Seattle wrongful death attorneys at The Fang Law Firm of Seattle will use smart, aggressive legal tactics to represent you and your family when a loved one dies due to the actions or inaction of another. Call us today so we can begin to discuss your case and work diligently on a plan of action to maximize your compensation and achieve justice for your loved one. We work on a contingency fee basis so we don’t require payment until we recover your compensation.

Your family deserves answers, justice, and closure. The Fang Law Firm of Seattle is ready to fight at your side to achieve all of these things to you can move forward toward recovery.

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