What damages am I eligible to recover for wrongful death claims in Washington State?

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Surviving family members of victims of wrongful death in Washington State are eligible to recover economic and noneconomic damages through claims filed against the negligent party. While there are no caps on recoverable compensation, the courts base all damages awarded on actual pecuniary losses.

Who can file for wrongful death compensation in Washington State?

Washington State law divides who is eligible to recover compensation into two tiers. Spouses and children compose the first tier of beneficiaries. The court assumes their dependence on the victim, for both emotional and economic support.

The parents, siblings, and other family members compose the second tier, who must prove their economic dependence on the victim before filing a claim. Because of this — and because more specific damages are available — some parents choose to instead file for compensation under the “child injury or death” statute.

What are economic damages?

Courts directly base economic damages off past and future monetary losses from the death of your loved one.

Past losses include medical bills before the victim’s death, funeral losses, and any wages the deceased would have made between the injury and death. For example, if the accident led to the victim’s death, but only after the victim was in the hospital for three weeks, the family would be able to receive compensation for those medical bills and lost wages.

Future losses include any earnings or benefits the victim would have brought to the family in the future, had the accident never occurred. Calculating future economic damages requires the court to look at a number of factors, including the victim’s:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Health
  • Education
  • Earning capacity
  • Past contributions to the family

What about noneconomic damages?

In addition to the actual monetary losses suffered by family members after a tragic death, Washington State law allows victims’ families to collect damages for losses that are noneconomic in nature. These losses are compensable based on what the victim would have most likely provided based on past contributions and reasonable expectations of future increases in contributions.

Spouses or domestic partners are eligible to receive compensation for a wide range of noneconomic damages, including:

  • Emotional support
  • Love and affection
  • Care
  • Personal companionship
  • Companionship
  • Services and other assistance


Children, stepchildren, parents, and siblings are eligible for fewer types of noneconomic damages, although the total amount of compensation is sometimes similar. These family members can receive money to pay for losses including:

  • Love and affection
  • Care
  • Companionship
  • Guidance

How do courts determine wrongful death compensation in Washington State?

Washington State’s wrongful death statute bases compensation in wrongful death cases on the actual pecuniary loss suffered by the victim and his or her surviving family members. Since the law calculates compensation based on pecuniary loss, the total does not take into account the pain and suffering of the family.

This means that the legal team representing the victim’s family must calculate the clients’ monetary losses in order to determine how much compensation they deserve. The team must then present evidence to back up these losses, in order to prove damages and receive compensation. This evidence often includes:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral costs
  • Proof of lost income and future earning capacity
  • Proof of lost benefits, such as insurance or pension paperwork

How can Max Meyers Law PLLC help?

Max Meyers Law PLLC helps the families of Washington State fatal accident victims get the compensation they deserve after the death of their loved one. We offer our clients emotional support and legal guidance through the entire process, from collecting proof of damages, negotiating a settlement and filing a lawsuit if necessary. Contact us today at  425-399-7000 to learn more about how we can help you.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.