What Qualifies As A Wrongful Death?

Losing someone that you love is incredibly challenging, but these cases are even more tragic when the death occurs due to the negligent actions of another individual or entity. It is important to understand when a death could qualify as “wrongful” when it comes to filing civil lawsuits against a negligent party. Not all deaths will necessarily qualify for these types of lawsuits.

Types of Deaths That Lead to Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims arise in a wide variety of ways in Washington. Some of the most common types of incidents that lead to wrongful death claims include traditional car accidents, commercial vehicle accidents, workplace incidents, defective product incidents, and premises liability accidents.

Additionally, intentional actions can also lead to wrongful death claims. For example, some intentional actions that lead to death, including assaults, stabbings, and shootings, could all lead to an individual facing a wrongful death claim made by the family members or the estate of the deceased. Even if a person is facing criminal charges brought by prosecutors, they can still face a wrongful death lawsuit. Additionally, wrongful death claims can also be filed in the absence of criminal charges. The two do not have to go together.

The Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

When examining whether or not a death qualifies as a wrongful death, a Seattle wrongful death lawyer will need to examine whether or not the following four elements can be established before the court:

  1. Duty. The first step is showing that the defendant, the person alleged to have caused the death, owed a duty of care to the deceased. This duty of care will look different depending on what type of incident has occurred. For example, all drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. This is their duty of care to others. If the incident revolves around a vehicle accident, this is the duty of care that will be examined. If we are discussing a medical malpractice case, we will have to look at the duty of care that exists between a patient and a medical professional, often referred to as the doctor-patient relationship.
  2. Breach. After establishing that there was indeed a duty of care owed by the defendant to the deceased, it will need to be shown that the duty was somehow breached. Returning to the vehicle accident scenario, it will need to be shown that the defendant’s actions violated the duty of care that they owed the deceased, which could include distracted driving, impaired driving, failing to follow traffic laws, speeding, etc.
  3. Causation. After establishing that the defendant breached their duty of care to the deceived, the next step is showing that this breach is what actually caused the injuries and death.
  4. Damages. Finally, it needs to be shown that there was some sort of monetary loss as a result of the breach of duty and the fatality. This can include medical bills, the deceased’s pain and suffering before death, family members’ pain and suffering, funeral and burial expenses, and more.

It is imperative for any person wishing to pursue a wrongful death claim to contact an attorney soon as possible. There are specific deadlines in place for filing these claims, and establishing these four elements of negligence can be challenging. A Seattle wrongful death attorney will use their resources and investigate what happened, gather the evidence needed to prove liability, and fully prepare the case for trial.