Many people are surprised to learn that in the typical wrongful death case, the surviving family members may not collect damages for the grief, sorrow , and mental anguish they have suffered, and will continue to suffer, from the loss of their loved one. This fact may seem outrageous since the grief and sorrow experienced by survivors is perhaps the most painful and profound type of loss they will experience over the deceased’s death. But that is the law. I will avoid spending too much time explaining why, except to state that the reasoning goes back to when wrongful death laws were first passed by states many, many years ago. The simple answer is that Washington’s wrongful death statutes simply don’t allow it, and only the state legislature can change this.
The good news is that there is one exception to Washington’s prohibition against a beneficiary recovering damages for grief, sorrow and mental anguish. That exception is when the case involves the wrongful death of a minor child. In those cases, a surviving parent can recover damages for sorrow, grief, and mental anguish for the death of the child. This is allowed because there is a specific statute that permits this type of recovery. However, the claim only exists if the child dies when he or she is a minor (i.e., under the age of 18).