When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act of another, Washington law allows the personal representative of the victim to maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death also known as wrongful death. The damages in such a claim are measured by “the actual pecuniary loss suffered by the surviving beneficiaries from the death of their relative.” Ginochio v. Hesston Corp., 46 Wash.App. 843, 846, 733 P.2d 551 (1987). This may include loss of services, love, affection, care, companionship, and consortium. Id.
Washington law defines which beneficiaries are permitted to recover damages from a wrongful death. The spouse and children of the deceased can recover without establishing dependence on the deceased. However, other beneficiaries, like siblings, and parents, can only recover if there is no spouse or children, and if they were dependent on the deceased for support.
Another section of Washington law, known as the survival statute, allows the executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate to recover for the decedent’s damages, including any pain and suffering between the time of the injury and the time of death. Damages recovered for such a claim “do not go through the estate, but are distributed directly to the statutory beneficiaries.” Parrish v. Jones, 44 Wash.App. 449, 454-55, 722 P.2d 878 (1986). Like Washington’s wrongful death statute, however, claims brought under the survival statute are also expressly limited to the two tiers of beneficiaries discussed above. Benoy v. Simons, 66 Wash.App. 56, 61, 831 P.2d 167 (1992). If there is no recognizable beneficiary, then there are no recoverable damages for the deceased’s pain and suffering (if any), under Washington’s special survival statute.
RCW 4.20.010: Wrongful death—Right of action.
When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another his or her personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death; and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount, in law, to a felony.
RCW 4.20.020: Wrongful death—Beneficiaries of action.
Every such action shall be for the benefit of the wife, husband, state registered domestic partner, child or children, including stepchildren, of the person whose death shall have been so caused. If there be no wife, husband, state registered domestic partner, or such child or children, such action may be maintained for the benefit of the parents, sisters, or brothers, who may be dependent upon the deceased person for support, and who are resident within the United States at the time of his or her death.
In every such action the jury may give such damages as, under all circumstances of the case, may to them seem just.
RCW 4.20.046: Survival of actions.
(1) All causes of action by a person or persons against another person or persons shall survive to the personal representatives of the former and against the personal representatives of the latter, whether such actions arise on contract or otherwise, and whether or not such actions would have survived at the common law or prior to the date of enactment of this section: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the personal representative shall only be entitled to recover damages for pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, or humiliation personal to and suffered by a deceased on behalf of those beneficiaries enumerated in RCW 4.20.020, and such damages are recoverable regardless of whether or not the death was occasioned by the injury that is the basis for the action. The liability of property of spouses or domestic partners held by them as community property to execution in satisfaction of a claim enforceable against such property so held shall not be affected by the death of either or both spouses or either or both domestic partners; and a cause of action shall remain an asset as though both claiming spouses or both claiming domestic partners continued to live despite the death of either or both claiming spouses or both claiming domestic partners.
(2) Where death or an injury to person or property, resulting from a wrongful act, neglect or default, occurs simultaneously with or after the death of a person who would have been liable therefor if his or her death had not occurred simultaneously with such death or injury or had not intervened between the wrongful act, neglect or default and the resulting death or injury, an action to recover damages for such death or injury may be maintained against the personal representative of such person.
RCW 4.20.060: Action for personal injury survives to surviving spouse, state registered domestic partner, child, stepchildren, or heirs.
No action for a personal injury to any person occasioning death shall abate, nor shall such right of action determine, by reason of such death, if such person has a surviving spouse, state registered domestic partner, or child living, including stepchildren, or leaving no surviving spouse, state registered domestic partner, or such children, if there is dependent upon the deceased for support and resident within the United States at the time of decedent’s death, parents, sisters, or brothers; but such action may be prosecuted, or commenced and prosecuted, by the executor or administrator of the deceased, in favor of such surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, or in favor of the surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner and such children, or if no surviving spouse or state registered domestic partner, in favor of such child or children, or if no surviving spouse, state registered domestic partner, or such child or children, then in favor of the decedent’s parents, sisters, or brothers who may be dependent upon such person for support, and resident in the United States at the time of decedent’s death.
Wrongful Death Attorney in Spokane
The wrongful death attorneys of Parke Gordon Law Firm have helped clients recover substantial money settlements from the negligent persons who caused the wrongful death. Let us handle the stress of your wrongful death case and get you the compensation deserved. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim, contact the law office of Parke Gordon in Spokane today for a free consultation at (509) 482-7274.
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