The employer-employee relationship is a very important factor when it comes to considering a potential wrongful death claim or lawsuit in Washington state. Washington state law permits surviving family members to pursue a claim for damages against a person or party responsible for causing the death, with a few exceptions.
If a person is killed in an accident while on the job, the victim's surviving family members may wish to pursue a wrongful death claim for the damages they have suffered as a result of the loss. The circumstances of the accident and other potential contributing factors will help the victim's family determine if they are eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim against a third-party or if the claim must be pursued through the state workers' compensation system.
In Washington state, employees are prohibited from filing a lawsuit against their own employer for negligence. Essentially what this means is that if the surviving family members believe that the victim's employer was negligent in causing the employee's death, the appropriate recourse would likely be through the workers' compensation system.
Employer Liability For Third-Party Claims
It is important to consider all potential defendants who may be held legally responsible for a victim's death in the event that an at-fault party was on the job at the time of the fatal incident.
If the at-fault party was acting within the course of his or her employment when the accident occurred, this may allow for a separate claim against that person’s employer. This is sometimes known as the “Master-Servant Rule.”
For example, employee works for a delivery company and causes an auto accident and injures a third party. If that employee was in the course and scope of his employment, his employer may also be liable to the injured party. The injured party can then pursue a legal claim against both the employee and employer.
When Can Families File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In situations where the decedent was killed while in the course of his or her own employment, the most important factor to consider is whether or not a third party (such as a contractor, subcontractor, or other type of agent of the company) may be held at least partially responsible for the incident. If a third-party who is not the decedent's direct employer was guilty of negligence, then the representatives of the decedent's estate may bring a wrongful death claim.
These are very complex legal concepts that must be thoroughly investigated in order to be effective in the pursuit of a wrongful death claim. We recommend anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one due to negligence consult with a qualified wrongful death lawyer to learn more about their legal rights and options.
The legal staff at Davis Law Group offers free legal consultations to surviving family members who are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim. Call our office in Seattle at (206) 727-4000 today to request a free legal consultation.