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Significant changes to Washington wrongful death law

Back in 2015, the tragic traffic crash involving the "Ride the Ducks" tour vehicle brought national attention to Washington. The crash injured 69 individuals and killed five. 

The aftermath of the crash rattled the families who lost loved ones and suffered such emotional and physical losses. And it soon rattled the nation as well when the investigation reported that the tour company's negligent maintenance of their vehicles caused the crash. It also seems to have influenced Washington lawmakers. 

First, a look at Washington law

Washington's wrongful death law dated back to 1909 with minimal changes over the years. It required families to meet specific conditions to file a wrongful death claim. The legal conditions included factors such as:

  • The family had to be financially dependent on the victim
  • The family had to live in the United States

The law also did not allow parents to pursue wrongful death claims for adult children. The century-old law imposed strict limitations on Washington families for years.

Why this accident made lawmakers take a second look

The "Ride the Ducks" crash brought all of the factors and limitations of the old law into question.

In the 2015 collision, the amphibious tour vehicle drove into oncoming traffic. There were various college students from foreign countries on board at the time of the crash. And it was these students who suffered the majority of injuries.

Those students and their families did not meet the old requirements to file a wrongful death claim. It was the fact that many of these families could not fight for justice that led Washington lawmakers to reform the wrongful death law, according to The Columbian.

Expanding the right to compensation for grieving families

No one wants to imagine--and much less endure--the pain of losing a loved one. And this pain can quickly turn into frustration and anger if the law blocks any efforts of recovering compensation for these unimaginable losses.

The reform to the wrongful death law could change all of that. Now, families only have to prove that they suffered emotional and psychological suffering and trauma from the loss of a loved one to file a wrongful death claim.

Specific rules still apply. For example, only the personal representative of the loved one can file a claim, but the reform could make it easier for families to recover financial restitution for:

  • Lost love and companionship
  • Lost support, guidance and assistance
  • Their loved one's lost earnings that supported the family

Monetary compensation may not cover the emotional losses of losing a loved one. However, it can help ease the financial stress put on families and serve as reparations for negligence. 

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