The Wrongful Death Of A Child - Part One

Nothing is perhaps more tragic or sad than the wrongful death of a child.  As a parent myself, I cannot imagine anything much more painful than the thought of losing one of my own children.  I can only guess how painful this loss must be for a parent.  The pain of the loss may be magnified even more because of the manner in which the child died, like for instance due to another person's negligence.

There are special laws in place that address this type of claim.  On the one hand, the thought of a parent asking for compensation for the loss of a child may seem offensive or even repulsive to some.  Clearly, no amount of money will ever bring back the child or make up for such a terrible loss.  On the other hand, the law recognizes such a claim and gives a parent a specific right of redress against the responsible party.  The recovery of compensation may also play a part in holding the responsible party accountable for such a terrible harm, and may also act as a deterrent to future similar acts.  The claim may also assist parents in the grieving process and help bring closure, although the memory of that event will almost certainly never go away.

No doubt that a parent who loses a child will always grieve for that child until the day that parent dies. For those parents who are experiencing such a tragic loss, I want this chapter to make them aware of the specific laws, procedures and issues that may arise in a wrongful death case brought for the death of their child.  In Washington, a wrongful death claim is governed by certain laws called statutes.  Unlike a personal injury claim, the wrongful death claim may only be authorized by the legislature.  A wrongful death claim is based on statutory law as opposed to common law which is created by our courts in specific fact situations.  The laws governing such a claim may differ from state to state.  Usually, but not always, the law of the state where the death occurred will be the law that controls.

Washington's Wrongful Death Law

The state of Washington permits a parent to recover damages for the loss of a minor child, as long as the parent has regularly contributed to the support of the child.   The requirement that a parent must regularly contribute to the support of the child was a recent change to the law.  This change was made to prevent a parent (often a father) who never or rarely supported the child during the child's lifetime from thereafter profiting financially from the child's death.  The question of whether the parent regularly contributed to the support of the child is a question of fact.  This means that it is up to the judge or jury  to determine whether the parent regularly supported the child according to the facts of the case.

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Christopher M. Davis is a Seattle attorney focusing personal injury cases.  He is also known as a child accident lawyer and has written the the book 'Little Kids, Big Accidents' as a resource for parents of injured children.  Learn more about Chris Davis and the Davis Law Group by visiting http://www.DavisLawGroupSeattle.com