In Washington, the complex wrongful death law is quite different compared to 47 other states in the country. Under the current state law, parents have no legal recourse for a negligent, preventable death of a non-married adult child. The law also does not allow parents who live outside the U.S. to file a wrongful death suit.
Washington State is one of only three states that still have this outdated law on the books. House Bill 2262 and Senate Bill 6015 are currently making their way through the state legislature. If passed, they would remove some requirements to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Exactly is Considered “Wrongful Death?”
A wrongful death suit is a civil action (non-criminal) lawsuit. It’s filed against another party that they believe negligently caused the death of a loved one. It’s usually filed when a criminal suit has failed in the court system, or was not pursued by the District Attorney. Wrongful death suits are held to a lower standard of proof than a criminal trial.
Here are examples of individuals or entities where a wrongful death action may be filed against:
- Product manufacturers that sell a defective, dangerous device
- A drunk driver who caused a fatal accident
- A physician who provided negligently care and caused death
Washington Requirements to File Wrongful Death
In Washington, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a personal representative on the behalf of the survivors who suffered damage from the death. The survivors are referred to by the legal term “real parties in interest.” Washington State currently defines these real parties of interest as:
- Child, children, or stepchildren of the deceased person
- A spouse or state registered domestic partner of the deceased
If the deceased was under 18, both parents are required to “regularly contribute” to the support of that child. There is also a three-year statute of limitations to file the claim.
Why Update the Washington Wrongful Death Law?
As previously mentioned, the parents of an adult child are not allowed to sue for wrongful death. However, it may be filed if the parents are financially dependent upon the adult child. The current form of the wrongful death law in Washington does not punish those who were negligently responsible for the death of an adult child. It also discriminates against people whose entire families may reside in another country. Those family members are not allowed to file a lawsuit unless they are residents of the U.S.
Many respected legal and community organizations, such as the Washington State Association for Justice, and even state senators are pushing for change. They claim that the law is xenophobic against people who don’t live in the U.S. and it does not create incentives for accountability after a negligent death.
Tacoma & Seattle Wrongful Death Attorneys
If a loved one has been killed due to negligence of another party, schedule a free consultation with us. At Herrmann Law Group, our dedicated injury attorneys will help guide you through the often-complex legal process of filing a wrongful death suit. Schedule a free consultation to learn about your rights as the loved one of a victim who was negligently killed by a third party.