What Should You Do if Your Loved One Was Involved in a Fatal Accident on I-5 in Washington
Losing a child, parent, or spouse in a fatal Interstate 5 car accident is beyond devastating. There are truly no words for how hard of a situation this is to have to go through.
When a loved one’s death was caused by the negligence of another driver, it was entirely preventable. Had the responsible party acted with more care, your loved one would still be here right now. You have the right by law in California to seek justice in the form of compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This is how you can hold the person responsible for your family member’s death accountable.
The way our legal system works, if a crime was not committed, the only way of holding the negligent driver liable for the death of your family member is by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
First Steps after Losing a Loved One in a Fatal Accident on I-5
To understand your rights and options after losing a loved one in a car accident on Interstate 5 in Washington, contact a Washington wrongful death lawyer from I-5 Attorneys to schedule your free case review.
In the mean time, there are several other steps you can take to ensure you have the strongest possible claim if you end up filing a wrongful death claim. They are as follows:
- Request a copy of the police report from whatever agency responded
- Request copies of your loved one’s medical records, as you will need them to prove their injuries were a result of the accident
- Gather all available evidence related to the car accident, including photos of the scene and all vehicles involved, witness statements, any potential video footage from local residences or businesses, event data recorder information, and anything else you think could be relevant.
- Start calculating all of the economic damages your family has experienced due to the loss, including funeral and burial expenses, probate expenses, medical costs, and the value of your loved one’s lost wages and earning abilities.
Wrongful Death Claims in Washington
Washington law states that “[w]hen 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.”
A question our attorneys often get is, “Who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim?” In Washington, any surviving family member with an absolute right as indicated under the above provision, such as spouses, state-registered domestic partners, children, and stepchildren, can file the wrongful death claim.
If none of these people are available to assert a wrongful death claim, then a sibling or parent who is a United States resident and relied on the deceased for financial support may bring a claim.
If the person liable for the wrongful death has also passed, then the aforementioned parties are entitled to file a wrongful death suit against the deceased’s estate.
Wrongful Death Laws Changed in 2019
In April 2019, Senate Bill 5163 was signed into law. This bill revised the state’s wrongful death laws concerning who is eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim and collect financial compensation.
Parents were previously unable to seek compensation for the death of any adult children. That is no longer the case.
Statute Of Limitations
Washington gives the families of I-5 accident wrongful death victims a restricted window of time to file a wrongful death suit and seek financial recovery. This timeframe, called the statute of limitations, is set at three years. In other words, you have exactly three years from the day of your loved one’s passing to file a claim.
If you feel that you have a valid wrongful death lawsuit on your hands, it is critical to speak with a reputable attorney as soon as possible. You and your family will benefit from an experienced lawyer investigating the circumstances of your family member’s death and collecting vital evidence before it is destroyed or lost. If you wait too long before calling an attorney, important evidence may be lost or degraded, and your statute of limitations may expire.
Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Actions
After losing a loved one in a fatal I-5 accident, there is another kind of legal claim that surviving family members can choose to pursue. This alternate claim is a survival action, and it is actually quite different from a claim of wrongful death.
A wrongful death claim arises from exactly that; a death. A survival action, however, is a legal claim that begins while your relative is still alive, and remains after their passing. For instance, if your family member was seriously injured in a traffic accident and lived for several weeks or even months, accumulating both economic and non-economic damages like expensive hospital bills before their death, then a survival action would be an appropriate response to receive compensation for those expenses.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
The laws that govern the proving of a wrongful death claim are largely similar to those that govern the proving of all other personal injury claims.
Almost all wrongful death claims require a lawyer to prove that the defendant’s unlawful conduct or negligence was the direct cause of the victim’s death. Generally speaking, this means the lawyer will have to present evidence that shows:
- The victim was owed a duty of care by the defendant
- That duty was violated when the defendant engaged in actions that could reasonably have been anticipated to cause harm to the victim
- The defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of the harm the victim sustained
- Damages were incurred as a result
A reputable Washington wrongful death lawyer will be able to advise you whether any additional legal standards are applicable to your wrongful death claim.
Most wrongful death cases are not entirely straightforward. The victim is deceased and therefore cannot give testimony regarding the events that caused their death.
These cases also involve complex analyses and facts. That is one of the reasons it is crucial to work with a lawyer who has ample resources and experience in investigating and litigating wrongful death cases in the state of Washington.
Potential Damages Available in an I-5 Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Washington personal injury laws make it possible for the surviving family members of wrongful death victims to collect compensatory damages for the injuries and losses experienced by the victim, as well as their personal collateral damages arising from the victim’s death.
For the most part, wrongful death damages come under one of two categories: special (or economic) damages, and general (or non-economic) damages.
Special damages are intended to cover any out-of-pocket expenses related to the deceased’s injuries and any care they might have received prior to their death. They also cover any losses related to the death endured by the victim’s surviving relatives. These often include:
- Medical expenses
- Ongoing or long-term care bills
- Lost income due to time away from work
- Lost wages due to the victim’s death
General damages deal with subjective, non-monetary harm that is more challenging to place a value on in terms of dollars and cents. The forms of general damages that surviving family members may be entitled to pursue are:
- Pain, suffering, and inconvenience
- Harm to personal relationships (loss of parent-child relationship, fellowship)
- Diminished quality of life.
Washington places a cap on general damages. This cap is set at 43% of the average yearly income within the state multiplied by what the deceased’s life expectancy would have been had they survived, which is set at a minimum of 15 years.
The state of Washington does not permit courts to award punitive damages.
How a Washington I-5 Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Wrongful death attorneys know that the stakes are high for their clients. The victim’s surviving relatives have suffered an enormous loss. Not only are they trying to cope with unfathomable emotional trauma, but they also have to confront the unavoidable challenges of sudden death, including financial problems.
The role of a Washington wrongful death lawyer goes beyond filing paper with the court and initiating a lawsuit. It includes supporting the survivors of the deceased through this upsetting time by taking on some of the burden.
Investigating Facts and Determining Fault
Once you sign with us, an attorney will begin investigating the events surrounding the fatal accident, and determine who was liable for their wrongful death.
Part of that investigation involves collecting evidence from multiple sources, including medical records, police accident reports, and eyewitness statements. It also includes seeking professional advice and interpretation of the evidence.
At I-5 Accidents, we routinely work with specialists in the fields of medical care and accident reconstruction in order to establish liability in wrongful death matters. It is just as important to discover who caused a wrongful death as it is to determine how it happened.
Proper Application of the Law
A Washington wrongful death lawyer must have a firm grasp of all legal principles that apply to their clients’ cases.
These extend well beyond merely proving liability and also involve the rules and statutes that dictate where, when, and how a claim must be filed to give their client the best shot at securing the maximum amount of financial compensation.
Litigating and Negotiating
It is a harsh truth that a wrongful death puts immense pressure on the deceased’s family at precisely the moment they are the least capable of dealing with it. An experienced Washington wrongful death lawyer can mitigate their encumbrance by functioning as a buffer between ruthless insurance adjustors and a grieving family.
This includes negotiating with the insurance company on behalf of their client to reach a fair settlement in their wrongful death claim. If an appropriate settlement cannot be reached, then they can take the case to court and advocate in front of a jury and judge with persuasion and force.
This skill is especially important because when opposing counsel and the insurance company know an attorney is fully prepared to go to trial, they are more willing to agree to a favorable settlement award during pre-trial negotiations.
Counseling and Communicating
Arguably the most important job a plaintiffs’ attorney in a wrongful death case has is to communicate with and counsel their clients with clarity and compassion.
Life feels overwhelming when a family member is killed in a tragic I-5 accident. Choosing an attorney with a talent for explaining what to expect as the lawsuit progresses and how the law applies to the case can alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety.
Talk to an I-5 Wrongful Death Attorney in Washington
If your family member was killed by a negligent driver on Interstate 5 in Washington, please consult with an experienced Washington wrongful death lawyer today. You can reach out to us via the contact form on our website or call us to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our legal team.