When a person is injured as a result of another person’s negligence or wrongdoing, they may be entitled to compensation for the damages they suffer. If their injuries are fatal, they still have a legal right to damages, which may be claimed on their behalf by another person. This post will cover who the law allows to file a wrongful death claim in Washington State.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Washington State a wrongful death action must be sustained by the deceased’s personal representative against the person who caused their death. The personal representatives maintain the action on behalf of the beneficiaries of the deceased.
Who is a Personal Representative?
A personal representative is a person appointed to settle a deceased person’s estate. A personal representative may be appointed in a will, or if the deceased died without a will, a personal representative may be appointed by a court. It is the duty of a personal representative to settle the estate of the deceased, and that includes the division of the deceased’s assets. The personal representative also has a duty to collect all debts owed to the deceased and pay all debts owed by the deceased. The personal representative is also authorized to sue on behalf of the deceased to recover any property, debts, or compensation due to the deceased. This means that if a person was entitled to a personal injury claim if they had survived, the personal representative has the authority to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
Duties of a Personal Representative
The role of a personal representative is a very important role to carry out the wishes of the deceased and protect the deceased’s interests on behalf of the beneficiaries.
- The personal representative has an obligation to act with the utmost good faith and diligence in carrying out their duty.
- They must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the deceased.
- A personal representative must use the skill, judgment and diligence of an ordinarily cautious and prudent person in the management of their own affairs.
- They must refrain from self-dealing with the deceased’s property, and uphold their duty of loyalty to the beneficiaries.
The duties of the personal representative require a person of good moral character who has the time to devote to exercising their duties to the deceased’s estate.
Who Benefits from a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Washington State, any wrongful death claim is for the benefit of the following persons related to the deceased:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The state-registered domestic partner of the deceased
- The child(ren), including stepchildren, of the deceased
If the deceased had no spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or child(ren), the parents or siblings of the deceased will be the beneficiaries of the wrongful death claim. Any damages recovered are fairly divided between the beneficiaries of the deceased. They are also known as the real parties of interest because although the lawsuit is between the personal representative and the defendant, anything recovered is for the benefit of the deceased’s beneficiaries.
Talk to a Washington Attorney about a Wrongful Death Claim
The unexpected loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. In addition to grief, dealing with the legal and financial consequences of your loss can be very stressful. NW Injury Law Center can help you through this difficult time. Our dedicated wrongful death attorneys will passionately fight to get you justice.
We offer free consultations, and take cases on a contingency fee basis. To get more information about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, contact the experienced wrongful death team at NW Injury Law Center. Call us today at 360-695-1624 to schedule your free consultation.