Losing a loved one in a pedestrian accident is devastating to family members. In addition to the emotional loss, families may struggle financially due to funeral costs, medical expenses, and loss of the decedent’s income. Families may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased loved one to recover damages for some of these costs. We have compiled a list of seven things families should know before filing their wrongful death claims:
1. You Can File a Wrongful Death Claim After Accidental Deaths.
Many people hear the word “wrongful” and assume that someone must have intentionally done something wrong to cause the death of his or her loved one for them to file a wrongful death claim. However, this is not the case. Many wrongful death claims arise from car accidents, medical malpractice and other accidents caused by negligence. If your loved one died in an accident, you might file a wrongful death claim if they died as a result of another party’s negligence or bad intentions. For example, families can file a wrongful death claim if a driver intentionally and maliciously hits and kills a pedestrian. Families can also file a wrongful death claim if the driver was texting and driving when they accidentally struck a pedestrian crossing the street.
2. Only Certain Parties May File a Wrongful Death Claim.
According to RCW Sec. 4.20.010, survivors of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim for damages. However, not all family members qualify as “survivors” under the law. The following parties may file a claim for wrongful death damages:
- Personal representative of the decedent’s estate
- Spouse or registered domestic partner of the decedent
- Children or stepchildren of the decedent
The parties listed above are first tier beneficiaries. However, if the decedent did not have any of the above relationships, the decedent’s parents or siblings may file a claim. If the decedent is a child, their parents may file a wrongful death claim jointly or separately, depending on their relationships with the child.
3. You Have Three Years to File a Claim.
You have three years from the day of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim. If you fail to file your claim in accordance with the statute of limitations, you may not recover damages. It can be difficult to keep track of legal deadlines while you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Our attorneys can take some of the pressure off you and make sure you file your claim on time.
4. There May Be Multiple Liable Parties.
To recover damages for a wrongful death claim, we must establish that someone else was liable for your loved one’s death. Establishing liability requires proving that someone’s intentional or negligent actions caused the accident and resulting death.
We may find that more than one party is responsible for your accident. For example, if a truck struck and killed a pedestrian, the pedestrian’s family may file a claim against the negligent truck driver for speeding and failing to pay attention. They may also file a claim against a trucking company under the theory of respondeat superior which holds employers liable for the negligence of their employees. If the truck had a faulty part that malfunctioned at the time of the accident, the manufacturer of the defective part may also be liable. Our attorneys may file a claim against all liable parties to help you recover damages.
In some cases, the deceased may also be partially responsible for their death. For example, if a car kills a pedestrian while the pedestrian was crossing the street without a walk signal, they may be partially liable for their death. In such cases, you may recover a lower amount of damages. So, if the pedestrian was 20 percent liable and you recover $100,000 in damages, you may only receive $80,000.
5. Wrongful Death Settlements Should Account for the Family's Emotional Losses.
If our wrongful death claim is successful, your family can recover damages to provide financial support after the loss of your loved one. When settling your wrongful death claim, our attorneys can make sure your settlement includes more than just economic damages (e.g., medical expenses). Your settlement can also include damages for your family’s emotional losses. The settlement may provide damages for loss of consortium for spouses who miss the love and companionship of the decedent. Children who lose a parent may also recover damages for loss of guidance.
6. Wrongful Death Settlements Should Account for Future Lost Earnings.
In addition to emotional damages, families may also struggle financially after the loss of a loved one. Before their death, the decedent may have had a job that partially or fully supported the family. After they pass away, the family may experience financial difficulties as a result of the loss of income. A wrongful death settlement can account for this future loss of income. To calculate future lost earnings, we will look at the decedent’s past earnings, age, health, and other factors to determine how much the decedent would have earned if they had not died in the pedestrian accident.
7. An Attorney Can Help You With Your Claim.
Whether it is dealing with insurance companies or filing a lawsuit in court, an attorney can make things easier for grieving families. The lawyers at Max Meyers Law PLLC can collect evidence, contact witnesses, file paperwork and remain in contact with insurers and attorneys. By letting an attorney handle your claim, you can focus on your emotional recovery, while we worry about your financial recovery. If you lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, let our attorneys help you. Call today.