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Attorney W. Tracy Codd: Washington’s Wrongful Death Statute – an overview

From Advertiser Attorney W. Tracy Codd:


Washington’s Wrongful Death Statute – An Overview

Each year, thousands of Americans die in auto and motorcycle accidents on our roadways. Losing a family member or loved one as the result of an auto accident or motorcycle accident that could have been prevented is a tragedy. Sadly, this happens far more often than you might think. According to the most recent statistics available from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 33,000 people die in auto accidents each year on our roadways.

If you have lost a family member or loved one and you believe that another person, or entity, was responsible for the death, then you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim in the State of Washington.

A wrongful death claim in the State of Washington is the equivalent of a personal injury lawsuit in the sense that it holds a person or entity responsible for causing the death of your loved one. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, you may have the basis for a wrongful death claim. There are, however, important differences between a personal injury accident claim and a wrongful death claim. A special statute was created for wrongful death claims, in part because of the complexity of this area of law.

The State of Washington Legislature created our wrongful death statutes in the early 1900s, and they have been modified several times since.

To begin, a wrongful death claim can be filed only by certain people. A claim may be filed by the estate of the decedent for items such as the cost of burial and income the decedent would have earned had the accident not happened. Certain relatives may also be entitled to file a claim for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are based on what the decedent would have provided to the claimant had he or she lived.

Non-economic damages, often called “pain and suffering” are attempts to quantify the emotional impact the decedent’s death had on the claimant. There is also a special type of compensation allowable to a claimant when the decedent was a child.

In Washington, we use a two prong system when determining who has the right to file a wrongful death claim. Certain individuals are automatically entitled to file a claim based on their relationship to the claimant. This first prong includes the spouse and children. The second prong includes parents and siblings. Second prong claimants can file a claim only if they were financially dependent on the decedent at the time of death. The exception to this is if the death was that of a child, in which case the financial dependency test is not required.

Determining the value of a wrongful death claim can be extremely difficult from a legal point of view. It can also be emotionally painful for the survivors. Actuaries and Economists can assist the parties in valuing the economic loss of life. Testimonials and other illustrative tools, including video, audio and print can assist a claimant in valuing the more subjective aspects of a general damages claim.

Time limits apply when filing a wrongful death lawsuit as well.

If you think that you or someone you know may be entitled to file as a claimant in a Washington State wrongful death claim, please contact the W. Tracy Codd of W. Tracy Codd, Inc.

W. Tracy Codd has been representing persons involved in serious auto accidents since 1987. 


Call for a free consultation:

Phone: 206-248-6152

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.TracyCodd.com

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