Wrongful Death Actions
In Washington, two types of wrongful death actions can be brought if they are not time barred by the statute of limitations. The beneficiaries in a wrongful death action are two-tiered and specified by statute.
In the general wrongful death action, the personal representative of the deceased can bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer or group of wrongdoers on behalf of a group of clearly specified beneficiaries. The personal representative can seek damages for each beneficiary who did individually suffer as a result of the death of the deceased. Spouses, partners and children go first in this two-tiered system. Parents and siblings are second as a group and only if there are no spouse, partner, or children beneficiaries.
In the wrongful death of a child action, either a parent or legal guardian can under the statute bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a child if they have had substantial and meaningful involvement in the child’s life. The involvement must have occurred at or reasonably near the time of the incident causing the death or time of the child’s death. Some of the recoverable damages include medical and hospital bills, loss of support including emotional support, loss of love and companionship and other aspects of the pain and suffering caused by the child’s death is included and compensable under Washington statute.
The general survival statutes permit the personal representative of the deceased to bring any action against the wrongdoer that the deceased could have brought before the death of the deceased and is for the benefit of the deceased’s estate. Here, Washington also has a two-tiered beneficiary system as in wrongful death actions. And, the scope of damages is broad in survival actions to include the loss of earnings, expenses associated with health care, and final expense costs. Other damages are available that would have been available to the deceased.
Special survival actions focus on the personal injuries that caused the death of the deceased and again the two-tiered system of beneficiaries apply to who may benefit and receive distributions from a successful lawsuit with similar recoverable damages.