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How to Pursue a Wrongful Death Case in Washington State

Updated on: 7/8/2020

No one is ever prepared for the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one.  Adding to this extreme emotional distress is when the death is caused by the negligence of another person, corporation or governmental entity.

In Washington State, the term negligence is simply defined as the failure to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances. 

A truck driver who causes another motorist’s death by running a stop sign, or failing to stop in time is guilty of negligence.  Simple carelessness is all that is required.

Family Members Should Act Quickly

Since wrongful death cases are serious, and may involve a large amount of damages, the insurance companies take them seriously.  So seriously, that they will often hire attorneys and experts to appear at the scene immediately.

Since the insurance companies act quickly to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare a defense, the surviving family members can be easily outgunned. 

If the survivors fail to act quickly, it can be a huge advantage to the insurance company who may stand to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by defeating the claim or minimizing its value.

In most cases, the family should consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer.  You should pick a lawyer who regularly handles wrongful death claims. 

You should hire a lawyer who on average will handle at least 6 to 12 wrongful death cases every year.  The lawyer you pick can play a huge part in the success of the case.

Legal Requirements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

 The wrongful death lawyer will need to petition the court to appoint a “Personal Representative (PR).”  The PR is the person responsible for protecting the interests of the Estate.  Only a PR can successfully prosecute a civil wrongful death action in Washington State.

The PR can be anyone that is competent and trusting to act in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of the Estate.  Often times, the PR is a surviving family member, like a spouse or an adult child.  Sometimes a professional may act as the PR, like an attorney.

The needs of the case, and the facts involved, will play a part on who is the best person to act as the PR.  Your wrongful death lawyer will also have suggestions on who should act as the PR.  That person will also make decisions in the wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death case is one of  the more complicated and time-consuming types of personal injury actions that can be pursued.  You’ll also want to choose an experienced personal injury attorney in Washington state who is financially successful since these types of case may take more resources to successfully win, especially if the case goes to trial.

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