Losing a son or daughter is possibly the most difficult thing for a parent to face, especially when it could have been prevented. What’s worse, Washington parents have historically had limited legal options. Some provisions of the wrongful death statute have made pursuing damages a frustrating, and sometimes impossible, ordeal.
That will soon change. Washington State lawmakers have successfully pushed Senate Bill 5163, which would remove restrictive provisions from the wrongful death statute and expands who may pursue damages in a wrongful death claim. The bill initially cleared the Senate on a 30-17 vote and the House on a 61-37 vote. It was recently signed by Governor Jay Inslee and will go into effect on July 28, 2019.
How grieving parents may benefit from the revised bill
The value of damages in a wrongful death suit is determined by the support a deceased person could have provided had he or she survived. When the closest surviving relative, or estate, of the deceased person files a wrongful death claim, personal damages accrued by the death may be compensated.
This means that a beneficiary may receive compensation for support, care, and companionship provided by the deceased person.
According to the law, beneficiaries are classified in two tiers: primary and secondary. Primary beneficiaries include a deceased person’s spouse, domestic partner, and children, and are automatically eligible for recovery of damages.
Secondary beneficiaries, on the other hand, include a deceased person’s parents or siblings. Currently, they are only eligible for recovery of damages if they meet the following criteria:
- There are no primary beneficiaries
- They depended on the deceased person for support
- They lived in the United States at the time of death
In the revised bill, lawmakers have removed the provisions requiring secondary beneficiaries to be dependent on the deceased individuals and to reside in the US at the time of the person’s death.
While recoverable damages aren’t completely identified in the bill, damages (economic and noneconomic) are determined on a case-by-case basis by a jury. Noneconomic damages may only include pain and suffering, anguish, emotional and mental distress, and/or humiliation.
Helping families seek justice
The signing of this bill was long-awaited and pushed for by many grieving families throughout Washington. Some parents who anticipated the law had lost adult children due to workplace accidents, medical malpractice, and accidents involving infrastructure.
"It will help in some small measure the families who've lost a sibling or child to receive justice,” said Inslee at the signing.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, it’s critical that you take immediate action. The Washington State statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is three years, but the sooner you act, the better.
Let the legal team at Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC work for you during these difficult times. Our attorneys possess a wealth of knowledge and courtroom experience handling fatal injury cases. Contact us today to learn more.