Coping With the Unthinkable Loss of a Loved One?
The loss of a loved one is probably the most painful and difficult of all human experiences. And if the family member’s death is due to someone’s negligence or careless conduct, the loss is even more tragic and senseless. Although the loss of life can never be replaced, we can help you receive compensation for the financial and emotional losses your family has suffered.
Washington’s wrongful death laws allow compensation to the wife, husband and children (legal beneficiaries) for the monetary losses and loss of consortium (companionship, love, affection) that result from the death of a family member. The claim for these damages is made by the personal representative (person appointed by the probate court) who handles the deceased’s affairs and estate. A probate, or administration of the deceased’s estate, is required in all wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful Death Damages
Compensation to the person’s estate and beneficiaries can include the following damages:
- Pain, suffering, anxiety and emotional distress suffered by the deceased (also called general damages);
- Health care and funeral expenses;
- Loss of earnings/income;
- Loss of consortium (companionship, love, affection) to the surviving spouse; and
- Loss of consortium for the children of the deceased.
Other damages may also be recoverable, and other family members may be entitled to recover under our wrongful death and survival laws. This is a complex area of law that requires special skill and a thorough review of your case and its unique facts to determine all legal claims and appropriate damages.
What You Need to Know
- Do not sign any paperwork before your attorney can review it;
- Do not allow insurance companies or corporate agents to visit with you or the home of the lost family member;
- Refuse to give statements to insurance companies or agents of the person or company who caused your family member’s death; and
- Review your loved one’s records to determine if there are any existing insurance policies and a will.
How We Can Help You
- We provide assistance in determining whether a claim exists for you to pursue on behalf of your loved one.
- 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.
- When requested, we can assist in the probate and appointment of a personal representative for your loved one’s estate.
- Wrongful death cases can be complex, and we assess the merits in all cases. When appropriate, we file a lawsuit and seek compensation for your loved one’s death.
Kenneth Selander, Jr. of Selander O’Brien PLLC has represented injury and wrongful death victims in Washington for more than two decades. When a motorcyclist was killed in an accident caused by faulty road repair, leaving behind a wife and young daughter, we obtained a $2.4 million settlement from the State for his family. We recognize that no amount of money will bring back your loved one, but compensation can help pay for the education of surviving children, secure your family home, or simply help you pay the bills while you make decisions about your future. Please contact us for a confidential and free evaluation of your case.
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. If the deceased does not have a will, 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.
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.