Vancouver, WA Wrongful Death Lawyer
Negligence and infringement of rights are two causes of wrongful death. Wrongful death cases are most commonly accidents and do not signify harmful intent. The claims process is painful for all claimants involved, because the court requires people who intimately knew the deceased to file.
Who Writes the Claim?
Family members write the claim in all wrongful death cases. RCW 4.20.020 dictates that the deceased’s spouse/partner, children, and stepchildren are first to assume the filer role. In the case that the deceased had no spouse or children, their brothers, sisters, and parents could also file. Any of these individuals can file, but they must do this before a certain period. Washington state has limitations that require claimants to file within three years. This prevents all evidence and witnesses from getting too old.
Causes of Wrongful Death
There are numerous potential causes of wrongful death, but almost all fall into these categories:
Vehicle accidents – Vehicular accidents involve all types of motor vehicles. Many wrongful death cases involve fatalities caused by driving under the influence, distracted driving, or reckless driving. This class of wrongful death also involves pedestrian-related situations. This commonly involves collision at intersections.
Workplace accidents – Workplace accidents occur in the workplace, or during a work shift. Negligence is often a cause of workplace fatality. Two examples of negligent behavior are allowing employees to use faulty equipment and allowing the environment to become unsafe because of a lack of maintenance. Washington has a death compensation plan that provides protection to employees and employers in wrongful death cases. However, a family can sue the employer if they practiced negligence.
Negligent supervision – Negligent supervision refers to death caused by a lack of direct supervision. In many cases of negligent supervision, the deceased’s family entrusts their loved one to a nursing home, or day-care, but that individual passes away under negligent care. One example of negligent care, in either circumstance, is forgetting to feed the individual.
Medical malpractice – Medical malpractice implies that a medical practitioner or other health care professional acted negligently or breached their duty in some way. The court cites a professional with dereliction when this occurs. Medical malpractice is resultant of many negligent acts, for instance workplace sanitation. If an individual contracts an illness and passes away as a result, this is also a case of wrongful death. This is a common cause of wrongful death, impacting over 200,000 individuals each year.
Premises liability – Premise liability involves accidents that happen on property that another individual owns. Common premise liability cases involve accidents in which improper property maintenance, like excess clutter and exposed wires/cabling, causes accidents (i.e. slips and falls). This also applies the use of private facilities, like pools. Failing to warn or provide adequate information on the potential danger of a facility or location also qualifies for premises liability. One stipulation in premises liability cases is that the injured individual must not have trespassed on the property – this is a qualifying factor.
Defective drugs – Consumption of defective drugs is a straightforward cause of wrongful death. Manufacturers produce defective drugs that either possess side effects that cause death, or that they did not fully test. This is common in experimental drugs. Although defective drugs impact thousands of individuals yearly, not all result in wrongful death cases.
Defective products – Defective products include any object that does not uphold to its advertised safety standards. For instance, defective drop-side cribs can cause falls if the drop-mechanism does not work properly. Medical devices are a subset of defective products. Manufacturers typically do not test defective medical devices properly but sell them to the public regardless. These cause complications and infection that can lead to death.
Foodborne illness – Foodborne illness is caused by improperly cooked or handled food. Sanitary issues and improper storage practices are two significant causes of foodborne illnesses. Although food poisoning is not always fatal, it can still cause wrongful death if the contracted illness is severe, or the individuals has a compromised immune system.
Wrongful Death Law
Proving a wrongful requires finding proof that the defendant did not adhere to proper safety standards. Negligence law determines wrongful death cases. In Washington state, negligence is the failure to provide adequate care that is meant specifically to reduce harm to others. For example, a nurse failing to wash her hands before examining a patient is a breach of duty. This act, though not malicious, is negligent because it could spread infection. In order to pursue a wrongful death case, you need to prove that an act of negligence directly caused death. It is wise to consult a wrongful death attorney to gather evidence and prepare your claim.
What Do I Prove?
Negligence law requires the claimant to provide a logical cause-and-effect explanation of how the defendant contributed to individual fatality.
The first step is proving that the defendant was responsible for preventing potential accidents. This is referred to as owing the deceased a duty. This implies that the defendant had a duty, such as educating the individual on property safety hazards, but failed to complete it.
Proving that the defendant breached this duty to provide safe services, products, or premises is the next step. This requires evidence that the defendant acted in a manner that was negligent or reckless. Examples of evidence could include pictures of the location or documents that provide incomplete safety information. The court requires an adequate amount of quality proof to satisfy their burden of proof. This proof is what begins to sway the ruling the favor of the claimant.
Next, the claimant must prove that the defendant’s breach in duty created the dangerous situation that hurt their loved one. This step requires the counsel of an attorney that will help the claimant demonstrate that negligence caused their loved one’s death. Some cases are straightforward and only require proof that issues like water damage or faulty wiring caused the individual to sustain injury. One form of proof for less direct cases falls under medical bills/examinations that took place before the passing. For instance, a defective car seat might have caused neck damage to a toddler. Both medical records and an examination of the faulty device itself could be several forms of proof that the defective product was the cause of death.
The last step is proving that the defendant’s breach in duty, and its consequences, caused the claimant damage. This portion of proof refers to the claimant rather than the deceased. The claimant must prove that they incurred financial losses directly caused by the defendant. These losses often occur in the form of lost wages or medical bills.
Damage You Can Claim
There are several types of damage that the claimant can file for in wrongful death cases:
- Medical costs of the deceased. This form of damage includes emergency visits and hospital fees that preceded that the passing of the claimant’s loved one.
- Medical costs of the claimant. Fees associated with services, like family therapy, qualify for compensation as ongoing medical costs.
- Loss of income. The claimant, commonly a child or spouse, can claim a financial burden caused by the loss of their provider. Unexpected loss leaves a family financially vulnerable.
- Pain and suffering. The death of a loved one is a difficult experience to process – this aspect refers to the claimant’s emotional distress directly caused by the defendant. Pain and suffering falls under general and special damages in the claims process.
- Funeral expenses. Funeral expenses are on the table for reimbursement if requested. Funeral expenses include burial service, funeral planning, and casket purchase.
A lawyer assists in every aspect of the wrongful death claims process. Professional lawyers will help the claimant file their claim, organize and obtain proof, interview witnesses, and even provide aid in the settlement process. Wrongful death cases may be difficult to navigate but understanding the rights and help you have at your disposal will lead to a successful claims process.