The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences in life. Dealing with the legal aspects of a death that was caused by the negligence of another party needs to be handled in a timely way by experienced and compassionate attorneys. Losing a loved one–whether from a wrongful injury incident involving a vehicle collision, construction site incident, medical malpractice, defective product, or any negligent act–can make surviving family members feel angry, helpless, and overwhelmed. GLP Personal Injury Attorneys has knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys who can help.
If you have been involved in a wrongful death incident, please call or email our attorneys for a free consultation.
Understanding wrongful death claims
Although wrongful death cases may share some of the the same circumstances as cases in other areas of personal injury practice (such as automobile collisions or defective products), they are quite distinct from other kinds of cases for a number of reasons. The rules regarding what harms are compensable are different and more stringent than in a typical injury case. Wrongful death claims require a thorough analysis and understanding as to who can bring a claim and on whose behalf claims can be made.
The experienced staff at GLP Attorneys understands the legal complexities involved in bringing a wrongful death claim, from the first steps of filing probate and appointing a personal representative to the later stages of calculating damages for future loss of earnings and loss of consortium and companionship. We will preserve your right to seek damages against the responsible individuals or companies that caused the loss of your loved one.
Our experience, dedication, and compassion for our clients is well-known in Washington, as is our record of successfully handling wrongful death claims for many people throughout the state. Contact us if you need a compassionate team to help you navigate this difficult time.
Only a "Personal Representative" can bring an action on behalf of the decedent’s estate and statutory beneficiaries.
Therefore, a probate action must be filed to appoint a "Personal Representative" before any action can be taken.
RCW 4.20.020 dictates that only people with a very particular relationship to the deceased may bring an action for wrongful death claims. There are two tiers of beneficiaries:
"First-tier" beneficiaries may always bring a claim.
"Second-tier" beneficiaries may only bring a wrongful death claim if:
- There are no first-tier beneficiaries;
- They are dependent on the deceased for support; and
- They are US residents at the time of the deceased’s death.
If you are not a first-tier or second-tier beneficiary, then you cannot be a statutory beneficiary for purposes of a wrongful death claim. Accordingly, you therefore cannot recover damages for a wrongful death.
There are currently 4 categories of first-tier beneficiaries in Washington:
- Registered Domestic Partners;*
- Children; or
These persons may bring a wrongful death action for damages on behalf of the deceased.
*Same-sex marriage: On June 7, 2012, the bill legalizing same sex marriage came into effect. Accordingly, state-registered domestic partners will automatically become spouses, unless they choose to opt out.
There are currently two categories of second-tier beneficiaries in Washington:
- Parents of the decedent, or
- Siblings of the decedent.
Special rules apply where the deceased is a child. These rules become more complex when the child was not a minor at the time of death, meaning they were an "adult child".
Though the loss of a 17-year old child can be just as devastating as the loss of an 18-year-old child to a parent, the law limits the parents’ claims if the child is 18 years or older.
Under what circumstances can a parent bring a wrongful death action on behalf of their deceased adult child?
A parent of an adult child who has died may only have standing to pursue a wrongful death action if:
- There are no first-tier beneficiaries;
- They are dependent on the child for support; and
- They were US residents at the time of death.*
What happens if the parents of a deceased adult child cannot establish dependency?
Unfortunately, a parent who has lost a child who is 18 years or older due to the negligence of another party but who is not dependent on their child for economic support is prevented from recovering general damages for the loss of an adult child.
The only claim the parents have in this case is what is known as an "Estate claim". An Estate claim is for the "net economic loss" to the estate of the decedent. Net economic losses that can be made in an Estate claim must fall into one of the following categories:
- Out-of-pocket expenses for the funeral service;
- Medical bills incurred prior to death caused by negligent act; and
- “Net accumulations” to the estate. “Net accumulations” refers to the recovery of the net value to the estate, which is calculated by taking the projected gross earnings of the adult child over their lifetime and offsetting this total against the total estimated cost of consumption of the adult child over their lifetime.
* The same above analysis applies to a sibling of the decedent, if the sibling was dependent on the deceased sibling.
GLP Personal Injury Attorneys has resolved a medical negligence and wrongful death claim against Sono Bello and Dr. Marco Sobrino for the death of a 28-year-old woman, Aura Javellana, for well over $1.8 million. Ms. Javellana died May 27, 2009 as a result of acute lidocaine toxicity from a tumescent liposuction surgery performed the day before. GLP Attorneys proved that Ms. Javellana’s sister and mother were both dependent upon her for support.
With the continued rise in popularity of plastic surgery, the number of office-based surgical procedures and the number of facilities doing these procedures has increased dramatically. A cosmetic surgery facility that does not use general anesthesia falls under the category of “office-based surgery centers”. Most states, including Washington, are woefully lacking in regulations to monitor the safety of these facilities. These facilities are simply not subject to the same state and federal licensing rules as hospitals and other health care facilities. There is no licensing requirement, no inspections, and these facilities are not even required to report deaths. While states are scrambling to get these regulations in place, the public remains largely unprotected and unaware of the potential dangers within these facilities.
If you have been involved in a wrongful death incident, please call or email our attorneys for a free consultation