When a loved one is killed in an accident, that person is no longer around to hold the responsible party/parties accountable. However, a wrongful death claim allows certain family members to file a lawsuit on their behalf, to get compensation for their loss and to make sure those responsible are held liable for their actions.
Who has Standing to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Whether you are eligible--or have "standing"--to file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of your loved one depends on the state in which you live. Generally, wrongful death lawsuits are not brought by a surviving family member directly; rather, these lawsuits are brought on behalf of surviving relatives by the personal representative of your loved one's estate.
Washington wrongful death actions are governed by Chapter 4.20 RCW. Specifically, RCW 4.20.010 only allows the personal representative of the deceased's estate to bring a wrongful death action. This requires an estate to be established, and a personal representative to be appointed. Only then may the action be filed. Under RCW 4.20.020, the following individuals may be eligible beneficiaries to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Registered domestic partner
- Child, including stepchildren
If the deceased individual was not married and did not have children, the parents or siblings of the decedent may bring a wrongful death action if they relied on the decedent for support.
Oregon's wrongful death framework is similarly set up. In Oregon, ORS 30.020 dictates who may bring a legal action for wrongful death. Just like Washington, only the estate of the deceased, via the personal representative, is permitted to bring an action.
Oregon law permits more possible beneficiaries than Washington. These individuals include:
- Children, including stepchildren
- Parents, including stepparents
- Any individual who may have inherited from the decedent by intestacy (where an individual dies without a will)
With the addition of individuals who may have recovered under intestacy, it can be difficult to determine whether you are eligible to recover compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one. A wrongful death attorney can determine whether you have standing to benefit from the filing of a wrongful death claim.
Lost a Loved One? We're Here to Help
If you have suffered the loss of someone you love in a car accident or fatal accident on the job, then you know that there is no amount of money that can bring your loved one back; there is no price that can make up for the loss of a spouse's love, or of a parent's guidance. If you are in a similar situation, however, you may also be facing financial difficulties from the loss of support your loved one provided.
If your loved one was killed in Washington or Oregon, the attorneys at Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS are standing by to help. Our team of wrongful death attorneys is dedicated to helping the family members seek justice for the undeserved death of their loved one. To learn more about a wrongful death claim, or to speak with an attorney about your unique circumstances, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (360) 695-4244 today.