Tacoma Wrongful Death Attorneys

Championing Your Cause in Wrongful Death Cases
If your loved one has tragically died due to the negligence or misconduct of another, the pursuit of justice is not only your right but your responsibility. Navigating the complex waters of a wrongful death claim requires expertise and compassion, and the experienced wrongful death lawyers at Freeman Law Firm, Inc. are here to guide you every step of the way. Whether you’re in Tacoma or anywhere else in Washington, we stand ready to represent you with unwavering dedication. Don’t wait another day. Call us now at (253) 383-4500 or reach out online to secure the justice your loved one deserves.
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Losing a loved one is never easy, and it’s even harder when the death could have been avoided. If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim in Washington, you have likely heard that the legal process can be difficult to navigate, especially during an emotional time. It’s our hope that this page will help you better understand wrongful death claims and the role of experienced wrongful death lawyers.

On This Page

Overview Of Wrongful Death Law In Washington

Wrongful Death Beneficiaries In Washington State

Wrongful Death Claims Involving A Child

Survival Of Actions In Washington State

One-Year Window For Continuation Of Action

Survival Actions Concerning Personal Injury

Limitations On Claims For Noneconomic Damages In Personal Injury And Wrongful Death Cases

The Role Of A Wrongful Death Lawyer In Washington State

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Securing Justice for Wrongful Death Claims

Overview Of Wrongful Death Law In Tacoma

What Constitutes Wrongful Death In Washington?

The first thing to grasp is the definition of wrongful death under Washington law. According to RCW 4.20.010, an individual’s death is wrongful when it has been caused by the negligence, default, or wrongful actions of another. This is a broad categorization and can encompass a range of scenarios, from car accidents to medical malpractice. One of the primary questions our wrongful death lawyers can help answer is whether you have grounds upon which to file a viable wrongful death lawsuit.

Economic And Noneconomic Damages

Economic damages include anything that has a clear financial loss tied to it, such as lost income the deceased would have earned, medical bills related to the death, and the costs of a funeral and burial.

Noneconomic damages, although harder to quantify, are no less significant. These can cover the emotional pain and suffering endured by the family members, loss of consortium or companionship, and even the loss of guidance and care that the deceased would have provided.

Roles And Responsibilities: The Personal Representative

RCW 4.20.010 specifies that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the one who has the legal standing to file a wrongful death action. This role typically falls to a close family member or trusted friend and is sometimes determined in the deceased’s will. You and your loved one’s personal representative can work with a trusted personal injury lawyer on our team to navigate your wrongful death case successfully.

Identifying Beneficiaries

Generally, beneficiaries are immediate family members, such as a spouse, domestic partner, children, or in some cases, parents. It is these beneficiaries who will be the recipients of any damages awarded, as the wrongful death victim is no longer in a position to be compensated and compensating their estate broadly could lead to unfair distributions of damages. By compensating those loved ones left behind, a formal acknowledgement is made of their losses and the personal injury suffered by the deceased.

A Wrongful Death Claim Can Still Be Filed If The Responsible Party Was Not Convicted Of A Crime

It’s critical to note that a wrongful death claim can proceed even if the act causing death isn’t considered a felony. This is significant because it means that the civil case can be entirely separate from any criminal proceedings. In other words, even if criminal charges are not filed, or if the person responsible is found not guilty in a criminal trial, a wrongful death civil case can still go ahead.

A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Is Not The Same As A Survival Action?

No, a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action are different. While a wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the beneficiaries’ losses, a survival action is filed by the estate to recover damages that the victim could have pursued if they had survived their injuries. Our wrongful death lawyers can explain this distinction in greater detail once you meet with our team.

Understanding RCW 4.20.010 is the first step in navigating a wrongful death claim effectively. While the statute provides the baseline rules, each case is unique, and professional legal advice from a skilled wrongful death attorney is crucial for interpreting how these rules apply to your situation.

Wrongful Death Beneficiaries In Washington State

Delving Into RCW 4.20.020: Identifying Beneficiaries

Washington State law, specifically Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 4.20.020, provides a framework for who is eligible to be a beneficiary in a wrongful death action. According to this statute, the following are deemed beneficiaries of compensation related to a wrongful death victim’s passing:

  • Spouse or State-Registered Domestic Partner: The law primarily considers the deceased’s spouse or state-registered domestic partner as the main beneficiary.
  • Children and Stepchildren: If the deceased had children or stepchildren, they too are considered primary beneficiaries under the law.
  • Parents and Siblings: If the deceased person had no spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or children, then the parents or siblings can bring a wrongful death action for their benefit.

Calculation Of Damages: No Fixed Formula

RCW 4.20.020 stipulates that the trier of fact (commonly a jury) has discretion to award damages as they see fit for a successful wrongful death claim under the particular circumstances of the case. This means that the awarded damages can vary greatly depending on factors like the deceased’s income, the emotional toll on the family, and any loss of companionship or parental guidance. It is survival actions that address the personal injury victim’s suffering. Our wrongful death lawyers can elaborate on this distinction during your risk-free consultation.

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • “Freeman Law Firm, Inc. was a lifesaver for us! After a tree crashed through our roof 6 months ago, we were stuck with $14,000 of expenses our insurance company was refusing to cover. We tried negotiating ourselves and even filed a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner with no luck! Less than a week after talking with Spencer and only 24 hours after he first contacted our insurance representative, we had a check in the mail!! He was so quick in helping us and really understood what was needed to resolve our situation. Sometimes, you just need an advocate on your side- and Freeman Law Firm, Inc. is the best choice!”

    Amanda C - Yelp
    "Spencer Freeman and Kim Shomer at Freeman Law Firm, Inc. are fantastic attorneys to work with. They are extremely knowledgeable and good at what they do. They have heart and passion for people and it shows. I have seen first hand that they have your best interest in mind. I highly recommend them."

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  • “I was injured and had a complex case, the staff worked hard and fought on my behalf to obtain very reasonable compensation. They all had so much care and compassion for my case and me. They communicated with me and always sought my opinion and preferences throughout the process. While I hope I will never need their services again, I wouldn't hesitate one second to seek their assistance if I ever do.”

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  • “Kim and Spencer are incredible. They care about the health and recovery of their clients. They are amazing lawyers, but they also work hard on getting you connected to the care you need to make a full and speedy recovery. It’s comforting to know your attorney cares about you and your health.”

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  • “I've known Spencer for nearly a decade. Last year I was in two car accidents and I knew I needed to call Spencer. Spencer is a specialist in his field of practice. He knows how to handle everything. Especially, a very needy client, as myself. Spencer and his staff have taken great care of me. Emotionally and physically, finding specialists to facilitate in my care. Thank you all.”

    Mike V - Yelp
    “I can't say enough about Spencer and Kim. I've had the privilege of working with them and they are incredible people. They truly care about their clients and want to make sure that they are well taken care of. Not only do they expertly deal with the law and insurance issues, but they are incredibly compassionate and want to make sure we get the care we need. That is a rare combination in this industry. I could not recommend this couple or firm more highly."

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  • “Grateful for the support that Freeman Law provided while I went through the healing process from my car accident last March. They kept me informed and were incredibly friendly the entire way! Thanks again :)”

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    “This law firm has such compassion for the people they take in and help care for. Very kind and extremely knowledgeable attorneys!"

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  • “Very professional, and efficient. You can tell they care about you, you’re not just another case to them. I definitely recommend them.”

    K. Israel - Google
    “Very professional, Kim and Spencer are great people and amazing Lawyers they absolutely work with you and for you. I can't say enough about them!!"

    I. Lincoln - Google
  • “Freeman Law Firm, Inc. was a lifesaver for us! After a tree crashed through our roof 6 months ago, we were stuck with $14,000 of expenses our insurance company was refusing to cover. We tried negotiating ourselves and even filed a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner with no luck! Less than a week after talking with Spencer and only 24 hours after he first contacted our insurance representative, we had a check in the mail!! He was so quick in helping us and really understood what was needed to resolve our situation. Sometimes, you just need an advocate on your side- and Freeman Law Firm, Inc. is the best choice!”

    Amanda C - Lakewood, WA - Yelp.com
  • “Freeman Law Firm, Inc. was a lifesaver for us! After a tree crashed through our roof 6 months ago, we were stuck with $14,000 of expenses our insurance company was refusing to cover. We tried negotiating ourselves and even filed a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner with no luck! Less than a week after talking with Spencer and only 24 hours after he first contacted our insurance representative, we had a check in the mail!! He was so quick in helping us and really understood what was needed to resolve our situation. Sometimes, you just need an advocate on your side- and Freeman Law Firm, Inc. is the best choice!”

    Amanda C - Lakewood, WA - Yelp.com
  • “Freeman Law Firm, Inc. was a lifesaver for us! After a tree crashed through our roof 6 months ago, we were stuck with $14,000 of expenses our insurance company was refusing to cover. We tried negotiating ourselves and even filed a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner with no luck! Less than a week after talking with Spencer and only 24 hours after he first contacted our insurance representative, we had a check in the mail!! He was so quick in helping us and really understood what was needed to resolve our situation. Sometimes, you just need an advocate on your side- and Freeman Law Firm, Inc. is the best choice!”

    Amanda C - Lakewood, WA - Yelp.com

Wrongful Death Claims Involving A Child

Losing a child is a devastating experience, and the legal complexities that can arise when seeking justice make it even more challenging. In Washington State, specific laws are designed to guide parents and legal guardians through this difficult process. One of these is RCW 4.24.010, which is devoted to civil actions for the injury or death of a child. Understanding this law can be a first step in a long and emotional journey towards finding some form of closure.

Who Is Eligible To File Under RCW 4.24.010?

A Dive into Parental and Guardian Requirements
The law clearly outlines who can initiate a wrongful death claim. Parents or legal guardians of minor children can file if they have regularly contributed to their child’s financial support. In situations where the deceased child is an adult, the parent or legal guardian needs to demonstrate ‘significant involvement’ in the child’s life.

The term ‘significant involvement’ is defined quite expansively. It encompasses emotional support, like spending quality time together; psychological support, like providing counsel during difficult times; and financial support, such as paying for education or health care.

Scope Of Damages: What Can You Claim?

Economic and Non-Economic Damages
While many people might think only in terms of immediate financial loss like medical bills, the law goes much further. Apart from recovering damages for the child’s healthcare expenses and other financial contributions like the child’s future earning potential, the law also considers emotional aspects.

Damages for loss of love, companionship, and emotional support can also be claimed. Even more, the law allows parents to claim for injury to or destruction of the parent-child relationship. This can cover a broad spectrum, from the impact of the child’s absence on family dynamics to the emotional toll on each parent.

A jury or a judge will ultimately decide what amount is just and reasonable under all the circumstances of the case.

Criteria For Adult Children

Complexities When The Child Is No Longer a Minor
While it might seem straightforward to file a claim for a minor child, things get a bit more complicated when the child has reached adulthood. In such cases, parents can still file a claim, but there are restrictions. Specifically, parents can only file if the adult child did not have a spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or children at the time of death.

Individual Parental Claims: How Does It Work?

Understanding the Flexibility of RCW 4.24.010
In many jurisdictions, parents must jointly file wrongful death claims. However, Washington’s law is more flexible. It allows each parent to file a separate claim, irrespective of their marital status. Even divorced or separated parents can each seek compensation for their own unique loss, making Washington’s law more adaptable to modern family structures. However, the statute is strict about ensuring that if one parent initiates a claim, the other parent needs to be notified and given the opportunity to join the lawsuit.

Working with a Wrongful Death Lawyer In Tacoma

Legal guidance can be invaluable in helping you navigate the intricacies of RCW 4.24.010. So, if you are considering bringing a wrongful death claim in Washington for the loss of a child, consult a seasoned Washington personal injury law firm familiar with wrongful death cases. They can help you understand your rights, what to expect at each stage, and how to prepare for a lawsuit. It’s essential that you consult professionals who can guide you through the legal pathways to compensation and, ultimately, some form of closure.

Survival Of Actions In Washington State

Unveiling The Mystery Of “Survival Of Actions”

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of contemplating a wrongful death claim in Washington State, you’ll encounter a labyrinth of legal terms and statutes related to personal injury victims, their surviving loved ones, and filing both wrongful death claims and survival action lawsuits. One such crucial statute is Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 4.20.046, commonly referred to as the “Survival of Actions” statute. This complex piece of legislation determines how personal injury cases can “survive” the death of involved parties – including a wrongful death victim – offering a framework for their personal representatives to continue the legal fight with the assistance of a skilled wrongful death attorney. Let’s break down this critical law step-by-step to help you better understand how it might impact your family’s wrongful death claim.

The Historical Context: Understanding Legal Survival

Before diving into the specifics of RCW 4.20.046, it’s important to note that the concept of the “survival of actions” is rooted in the common law tradition. In the past, legal actions often died when the individual who had filed them did. However, modern statutes like RCW 4.20.046 allow these actions – including motor vehicle injury claims, medical malpractice claims, etc. – to continue, serving as an important evolution of the justice system.

Current Washington Law On Survival Actions

Continuation of All Causes of Action
All causes of action—be it contractual or any other form—shall continue through the personal representatives of both the deceased and the alleged wrongdoer. This signifies that any legal claims the deceased had can still be pursued, which is crucial for families seeking justice or compensation.
The Scope of Recoverable Damages
RCW 4.20.046 delineates the types of damages the deceased’s personal representative can claim. The statute allows for the recovery of losses resulting from so-called economic injuries, like medical expenses and lost earnings, which would directly benefit the decedent’s estate. Furthermore, a noneconomic damages claim for losses such as emotional distress and pain and suffering can be recovered on behalf of the beneficiaries, even if the wrongful death victim’s passing was not a direct result of the incident.
Maintaining Community Property Liability
The third section emphasizes the importance of community property in Washington State law. It clarifies that if either spouse or domestic partner dies, their communal property is still liable. This ensures that the resources available for satisfying a claim are not diminished due to the death of a party.

When Death and Liability Coincide

Washington law addresses rather unique situations where the death or injury occurs either simultaneously or after the death of the person who would have been liable for the damages. Namely, a claim can be brought against that deceased individual’s personal representative, thus ensuring that justice can be pursued even under these complex circumstances. This is a complex scenario that should not be pursued without the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney who handles cases like this.

One-Year Window For Continuation Of Action

RCW 4.20.050 addresses how legal actions can continue even if the involved party faces death, marriage, or other disabilities. The following information will help you understand its implications for wrongful death cases.

What Does RCW 4.20.050 Say?

In straightforward terms, this statute outlines that a lawsuit does not automatically come to a halt if the individual involved passes away, gets married, or encounters other life-changing disabilities. The law provides a one-year window for the court to allow the action to continue via a motion, allowing the case to be taken over by the deceased or disabled person’s legal representatives or successors in interest.

Importance For Wrongful Death Claims

When it comes to wrongful death claims, this statute is crucial because it ensures that justice can still be pursued even if the person who initially began the lawsuit is no longer able to continue due to death or other reasons. The law allows for the seamless transition of legal responsibilities and ensures that the case can proceed without major disruptions.

When Does The One-Year Window Start?

The statute provides a one-year period during which the court may allow the action to be continued by or against the deceased or disabled party’s representatives. It’s important to understand that this one-year window begins from the time of death or disability. This timeline offers a reasonable period for family members or legal representatives to step in and continue the legal action.

How Does Substitution Work?

If the person who initiated the lawsuit is no longer able to continue, the court may permit a legal representative or a successor in interest to take over. Substitution, in this context, means replacing the original party with someone who has the legal authority to act on their behalf. The court will typically decide who the best fit is to take over the lawsuit, ensuring that the case proceeds in a just manner.

Survival Actions Concerning Personal Injury

Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 4.20.060 addresses the survival of personal injury actions when the injured party dies.

What Is RCW 4.20.060?

RCW 4.20.060 is a statute that’s part of Washington State’s civil procedure laws, specifically addressing the issue of wrongful death. This law ensures that a personal injury claim does not expire simply because the injured party has passed away.

Who Can File A Claim?

According to RCW 4.20.060, the following individuals may be able to file a wrongful death claim:

  1. The surviving spouse or domestic partner of the deceased (provided that the domestic partner is registered with the state)
  2. Children, including stepchildren
  3. If none of these parties applies to the deceased’s family situation, then the decedent’s siblings or parents can file the claim.

The law specifies that the claim must be brought forth by the personal representative of the estate, essentially acting on behalf of the survivors.

Types Of Damages Recoverable

Not only can economic losses like medical bills and lost wages be recovered, but under RCW 4.20.060, you can also seek compensation for non-economic damages. This includes the deceased person’s pain and suffering, humiliation, emotional distress, and/or anxiety. The amount of these damages is determined by a judge or jury, based on the unique situation presented to the court.

The Role Of A Personal Representative

In a wrongful death claim under RCW 4.20.060, the personal representative plays a critical role. This individual is responsible for initiating the claim and managing the legal proceedings on behalf of the survivors. If you’re a surviving family member considering a wrongful death claim, it’s vital to consult with an attorney experienced in these matters to guide you through the appointment of a suitable personal representative and the complexities of the legal process.

Limitations On Claims For Noneconomic Damages In Personal Injury And Wrongful Death Cases

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RCW 4.56.250 outlines the limitations on claims for noneconomic damages. Let’s break down this important statute and discuss its relevance to wrongful death claims.

What Does RCW 4.56.250 Say?

Washington Revised Code 4.56.250 (RCW 4.56.250) sets certain restrictions on the amount of noneconomic damages a claimant can recover in cases of personal injury or death. The statute divides damages into two categories:

Economic Damages
These are financial losses that are easy to quantify. They include medical bills, loss of earnings, burial costs, and other objective expenses.
Noneconomic Damages
These are subjective, non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and so on.

How Are Noneconomic Damages Calculated?

The law sets a formula for calculating the maximum amount one can claim for noneconomic damages. The formula multiplies 0.43 by the average annual wage in Washington and the life expectancy of the person who incurred the damages. The law also states that for the purposes of this calculation, a claimant’s life expectancy cannot be less than 15 years.

Does This Law Apply To Wrongful Death Claims?

Yes, the limitation on noneconomic damages is applicable to all claims for personal injury or death. This includes wrongful death claims.

What Can’t The Jury Know?

The law specifies that if your case goes to trial, the jury will not be informed about the limitation on noneconomic damages. This is to prevent the jury from being influenced by the cap and ensure they make a judgment based on the facts presented.

The Impact Of RCW 4.56.250 On Wrongful Death Claims In Washington

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim, you should be aware that the maximum amount you can claim for noneconomic damages is constrained by this statute. While economic damages like funeral expenses, loss of income, and medical bills are not limited, the law does cap the amount you can claim for subjective, non-monetary losses like pain and suffering or loss of companionship.

The Role Of A Wrongful Death Lawyer In Washington State

When you’re grappling with the emotional toll of losing a loved one because another acted intentionally or negligently, it can be a confusing and overwhelming time. One of the many challenges you may face is understanding the legal process and your rights under Washington law. That’s where a wrongful death lawyer comes in. Here’s what you should know about the role of a wrongful death lawyer in Washington State.

The Initial Consultation: Understanding Your Case

During the initial consultation, our compassionate attorneys will actively listen to your story, evaluate the facts, and determine whether you have a viable wrongful death claim under Washington State laws. They will consider elements like negligence, causation, and the damages you may be entitled to, like funeral expenses, lost wages, and emotional suffering.

Investigating The Facts: Building A Strong Case

Once your lawyer agrees to take your case, they will begin a thorough investigation. This usually involves collecting evidence, talking to witnesses, and possibly consulting with experts. Under Washington State law, the evidence must establish that the defendant’s negligence or wrongful act led to your loved one’s death. Therefore, strong evidence is crucial for a successful claim.

Understanding Washington State Laws: Knowing Your Rights

Washington State has specific laws governing wrongful death claims. These include the statute of limitations, which is a time limit for filing a claim. According to RCW 4.16.080, you typically have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawyer will make sure that all the legal requirements are met so that your claim is valid under Washington law.

Filing The Lawsuit: Legal Procedures

Once the investigation is complete and the evidence is collected, your wrongful death lawyer will file the lawsuit on your behalf. They will draft the complaint, serve it to the defendant, and represent you in all court proceedings. This process involves a lot of legal paperwork and strict timelines, which your lawyer will manage meticulously.

Negotiation And Settlement: Financial Compensation

Not all wrongful death cases go to trial. Many are resolved through negotiations between the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys. In Washington State, it is common for both parties to engage in mediation or direct negotiations to reach a settlement. Your wrongful death lawyer will negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your loss.

Going To Trial: Fighting For Your Rights

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial. Here, your wrongful death lawyer plays a crucial role in presenting your case, examining witnesses, and arguing on your behalf. They will aim to prove, under Washington law, that the defendant’s wrongful actions or negligence led to your loved one’s death.

Post-Trial Procedures: Securing Your Compensation

Even after a successful verdict, there may be post-trial motions or appeals from the defendant. Your wrongful death lawyer will guide you through these processes and ensure that you receive the awarded compensation. Once the case is concluded, the lawyer will also assist in settling any remaining financial matters like medical bills or funeral expenses.

Hiring the Right Tacoma Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one is an unimaginable tragedy, especially when it is due to someone else’s negligence. In such times, our wrongful death lawyers will provide caring and invaluable assistance. From conducting investigations to navigating complex Washington State laws, from filing wrongful death lawsuits to negotiating settlements, and from going to trial to securing your compensation— Our Tacoma wrongful death attorneys will play an indispensable role in making sure justice is served.

If you or someone you know has experienced the devastating loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it’s crucial to act quickly to protect your rights and secure the justice your family deserves. At Freeman Law Firm, Inc., we specialize in bringing cases for wrongful death victims and offer compassionate yet vigorous representation to help you navigate this difficult time. Whether you’re in Tacoma or elsewhere in Washington, you don’t have to go through this challenging experience alone. Reach out to our experienced wrongful death lawyers today at (253) 383-4500 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you in obtaining the compensation and closure you rightfully deserve. Don’t wait; justice and peace of mind are only a phone call or click away.

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