The grim reality is that every 12 minutes there is a vehicular related death on U.S. roads. Despite our best efforts to increase awareness and safety, too many families receive the news that a loved one is suddenly and tragically killed. Understandably, family members are left confused and grieving. There are times when it is both just and necessary to pursue financial compensation by filing a wrongful death claim when another individual, company, or government agency is responsible for the death of your loved one.
It’s important for Everett families to have sufficient information prior to preparing to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. A qualified wrongful death attorney can equip families with the knowledge and assistance they need to pursue compensation.
- Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
The personal representative of the estate of the deceased person may file a legal claim for wrongful death. The purpose of this type of legal claim is for the estate to recover compensation on behalf of the deceased person’s beneficiaries. Typically, these beneficiaries will consist of the deceased person’s spouse, children, or stepchildren. If the deceased person does not have any of these relatives than parents and siblings can be the beneficiaries of the action. Wrongful death claims are treated as a type of personal injury claim. Normally during personal injury claims, the plaintiff files a claim against the defendant. However, in the case of wrongful death, the plaintiff is unable to file a claim since they are deceased. In this situation, another party may bring the case to court on behalf of the departed, and that is why the claim flows through the estate of the deceased. A qualified wrongful death attorney will be able to help you open an estate with the court, and assist with appointing a personal representative.
- Who Can A Wrongful Death Claim Be Filed Against
Depending on the cause and manner in which the death occurred, there are a number of parties that can be held responsible for the cause of death. A few of these sources may include:
- An individual, driver, or employer.
- The general contractor or subcontractors on a job site.
- Persons who distributed, served, or sold alcohol to an intoxicated driver.
- Owner of the property where alcohol was served.
- Designer or builder of a dangerous roadway.
- Government agency that failed to warn about hazardous road conditions.
- Distributor, manufacturer, or installer of dangerous or faulty vehicle part.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will look at all potential responsible parties to determine the basis for a legal theory and all sources of compensation.
- Time Limits for Filing a Claim
Washington law states that a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the date of misconduct that caused the death. Various laws exist in Washington that could potentially shorten or lengthen this time. Time is of the essence if the death of your loved one is qualified by one of these limitations. Contact a trained and specialized wrongful death attorney in Everett to learn more about moving forward with a potential claim.
- How the Wrongful Death Claim Process Works
There are several specific steps involved in preparing and filing a wrongful death claim. Here is an outline of the process:
- Collect Evidence and Information
Substantial evidence is necessary to demonstrate fault on the part of the defendant, and that the deceased was not at fault. Evidence can be collected from a number of sources, including police reports, witness testimony, accounts from medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, and photographs.
- Opening an Estate and Appointing a Personal Representative
As described above, an estate for the deceased must be opened in Superior Court. A personal representative will be appointed to administer the estate. The claim for wrongful death is brought by the personal representative, for the benefit of the estate’s beneficiaries. An experienced attorney will be able to help you and your family through this confusing process.
- Listing Damages
To evaluate the claim for wrongful death, insurance adjusters must have sufficient, relevant information to evaluate the claim and determine an amount for full and fair compensation. Your attorney will put together a comprehensive report that will outline the value of the claim. The damages listed for compensation will include such items as the loss of affection suffered by the beneficiaries, the pecuniary loss to the estate, the medical bills incurred, and the pain and suffering the deceased relative experienced prior to death.
- Settlement Negotiations
Plaintiffs, or personal representatives in the context of a wrongful death claim, sometimes must meet with insurance adjusters to negotiate the value of the claim in order to reach an agreement. Furthermore, insurance adjusters and their lawyers are highly trained in the art and science of injury negotiations. Without years of experience and training, an untrained plaintiff or personal representative will likely have a difficult time negotiating with the adjuster and may very well end up recovering far less for the estate than full and fair compensation. An Everett attorney can help families and personal representatives negotiate their wrongful death claim to ensure that they are duly compensated.
- Litigation and Trial
If your attorney and the insurance adjuster cannot agree on settlement terms, litigating the claim in court may be the best option. An experienced and trained attorney will aggressively represent the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries in court, all the way through a jury trial if necessary.
- Collect Evidence and Information
- How Long Does The Claim Process Take?
There are multiple steps and phases involved in preparing, filing, negotiating and litigating a wrongful death claim. At the start, an attorney must begin by conducting a thorough and in-depth investigation of the event in order to gather evidence and information. If this information can be gathered from reports by police, witnesses, and treating health care providers, the process can go faster. Other times, an attorney is required to contact experts and investigators to have enough evidence to warrant a wrongful death claim.
Listing and calculating the cost of damages is another step requiring a significant investment of time. Economic damages are easier to calculate since they have measurable costs. Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are often disputed by adjusters. If a lawsuit takes place, the process of resolving a claim can be lengthened by many months. This is why it is important to begin work on a wrongful death claim shortly after the passing of the victim.
- Damages That Can Be Recovered
There are economic and non-economic damages that can be recovered following a wrongful death claim. Economic damages include medical and funeral expenses and lost future earnings. Non-economic damages are for unquantifiable injuries. Some of these injuries include:
- Pain and suffering of the victim prior to his or her passing.
- Loss of love, society, and companionship to the deceased person’s family members (consortium).
- Why a Wrongful Death Attorney Is Needed
Families can recruit the training, education, connections, and confidence of an experienced Everett wrongful death attorney following the death of a loved one. From collecting evidence and filing the claim, to negotiating the terms and litigating the claim in court, these experienced and respected individuals can aggressively defend your claim to ensure your family receives full and fair compensation for your painful loss.
At Russell and Hill, PLLC, our attorneys are educated, experienced, and respected individuals prepared to help you pursue compensation through a wrongful death claim. Contact us today by giving us a call to connect with one of our Everett attorneys.