When your loved one passes away suddenly, it changes your world. Not only are you left without the person you loved, but you may be left wondering if their death could have been prevented. if their death was caused by another person’s negligent action or inaction, it is possible to hold that person responsible through a wrongful death claim.

What is wrongful death?

While every death is a tragedy, not every death can be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim in the state of Washington is very similar to a personal injury claim—it holds a person or company responsible for the part that they had in the death of your loved one.

For example, hundreds of thousands of people die from medical errors each year, and if one of those errors took your loved one from you then you could bring a lawsuit against the doctor, nurse or other medical professional who caused their death. In other cases, if your loved one was killed in a crash with a drunk driver, that other driver could be held responsible through legal action.

It is also possible to hold companies to account for the part that their products had in your loved one’s death. If a malfunction in their car’s brake system caused a crash, for example, then the manufacturer could be responsible. Likewise, if design flaws or improper labeling of a chair or crib took your child from you, you can take action against the company that made this defective product.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

In Washington, only specific people can benefit from a wrongful death claim. These people are the spouse, registered domestic partner, child or stepchild of the person who has passed away, or—in cases where there was no spouse, partner or child—their parents or siblings.

While nothing can bring your loved one back to you, if you are eligible for a wrongful death claim then you could receive damages to offset the financial and emotional toll that this loss has had on you. By holding negligent people and companies responsible, you could also prevent others from suffering in the future.