Losing a family member is one of the hardest experiences in life. When that loss is caused by the actions of another, it can become overwhelmingly difficult. The senseless death of a loved one can have so many long term consequences for a family. In the moment of tragedy, it is hard to imagine all of the expenses that will occur. It can be large medical bills, burial costs, loss of income, loss of support for children or dependents, counseling for surviving family members, and many other unexpected losses that are sometimes difficult for the surviving family to articulate. An attorney can help you through this and hire specialists to adequately assess the needs of a family moving forward.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated for many reasons. The death might be caused by medical malpractice, occupational hazards, automobile accidents, criminal behavior and many other reasons. The statute that governs wrongful death cause of action is: RCW 4.20.010
Wrongful Death—Right of Action
When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another his or her personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death; and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount, in law, to a felony.
In situations where the death was caused by the criminal actions of another, the plaintiff will sometimes wait for the completion of a criminal trial or sentencing (if a plea is entered) before seeking recovery. However, this is not necessary and sometimes not advisable. The standard of proof in a civil case for wrongful death is not as high of a burden as the standard of proof in a criminal trial. Therefore, someone can be found liable in a civil case for wrongful death but found not guilty in the criminal case for the same matter. The OJ Simpson case is a perfect example.
If the death of your loved one was due to the negligence or intentional criminal actions of another, it is important that you consult with an attorney early in the process. Civil actions, such as wrongful death, have a statute of limitations that govern how long you can wait to file your case. Those time limitations are not tolled due to a lengthy criminal action. In any wrongful death case, it is important you seek counsel and discuss not only your options for recovery but also what special needs your family may need far into the future. If you have questions about the loss of your loved one and how a wrongful death case will be pursued, please contact our office for a free consultation.