Dealing with the Inconceivable: The Wrongful Death of Your Child
The death of one’s child is the most heart-wrenching and painful loss imaginable. And if the loss was preventable, it is worse yet. The statistics are numbing: accidental injuries are the leading cause of mortality among children ages 0-19 in the United States and Washington State. Most deaths are caused by motor vehicle accidents, drowning, poisonings, and falls, and teenage boys ages 15 to 19 are most at risk.
The reasons for a child’s wrongful death are varied. Simple negligence and careless driving, poorly designed roadways, improperly labeled products, and defective products can all have deadly results. Although a child is irreplaceable, legal action may restore some dignity to the child by holding the responsible parties accountable, allowing payment of bills incurred due to the child’s death, or correcting a dangerous product or course of conduct that endangers the welfare of other children.
Elements of Claim for Wrongful Death of a Minor Child by a Parent
These cases are governed by Washington State law RCW 4.24.010, and parents may maintain a lawsuit if:
- They have established parentage; and
- They regularly contributed to the support of the minor child, or
- They were dependent on the child for support.
If you are divorced or separated, you and the child’s mother or father may pursue their own separate damages due to your child’s death. Damages potentially recoverable under this law include medical and funeral expenses, economic and financial losses, and compensation for the loss of love, companionship and destruction of the parent-child relationship e.g., grief, mental anguish, and parental suffering due to the child’s death.
How We Can Help You
The foregoing overview is broad and general in this complex and rapidly evolving area of law. Your case will require close scrutiny to determine which claims can be made and by whom, and we will work tirelessly to help families through the wrongful death lawsuit process.
- We provide assistance in determining whether a claim exists for you to pursue on behalf of your child.
- We advise you of the risks and expenses associated with a lawsuit.
- We investigate and discover all responsible persons or business entities to include in your lawsuit.
- Wrongful death cases can be complex, and we assess the merits in all cases. When appropriate, we seek compensation for your child’s death.
To answer any of your questions or to schedule a free consultation, please contact us. We promise care and compassion in all dealings with you and your family.
How do I pay for an attorney?
Our firm handles wrongful death cases on what is called a contingency fee basis: earning our attorney’s fee is contingent upon obtaining a settlement or verdict. The fees charged are a percentage of the settlement or verdict that is obtained. In most wrongful death cases our fee is 33% of the recovery, but in medical malpractice or other complex cases our fee is usually 40%.
This fee agreement is different from a traditional hourly fee charged by attorneys who keep track of their time and charge you at their hourly rate. With an hourly fee attorney you must also pay for the attorney’s time as the case proceeds. We are paid at the conclusion of the case and do not charge you along the way. We also advance the costs of pursuing the case (paying for experts, depositions or other case related expenses for which you are responsible) and are repaid when we collect from the negligent party. The costs we advance are separate from the attorney’s fees we charge. To see a copy of our fee agreement or to answer any of your questions, please contact us.
Can I recover for the death of an adult child?
In general, parents may only be able to pursue a wrongful death case on behalf of their child who is 18 years of age or older if:
- The adult child did not leave a spouse, registered domestic partner, children or step-children;
- The parents were dependent on the child for support; and
- The parents were U.S. residents at the time of the death.
Your damages are even more limited if you were not dependent upon your adult child for support. These are gross generalizations in a complex area of the law. Your ability to recover anything will be dependent upon the specific facts of your case and a thorough legal analysis.
How do I make a claim on behalf of a deceased person?
A lawsuit in a wrongful death case is brought by the personal representative on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. A personal representative is approved by a judge in a probate proceeding. Probate is the process by which the assets and liabilities of the deceased person’s estate are administered and distributed. Even if the decedent does not have any tangible assets or money, a probate is still started so that a personal representative is appointed by the court. A personal representative, and only a personal representative, is legally authorized to start a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased and possesses broad powers to control the decedent’s affairs.
Usually the personal representative is someone the deceased person has named in their will to administer their estate. Since most children don’t have wills, they are said to die “intestate” (without a will). In this case, someone (usually a family member) must petition the court for the appointment of a personal representative (usually a family member/parent) who then has the legal authority to file a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person. We assist you in this process and are familiar with probate law and its interplay with wrongful death lawsuits.