Washington Wrongful Death Laws

Pursuant to Washington statutes, when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another, his/her personal representative may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death, although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount to a felony in law[i].

Every action shall be for the benefit of the wife, husband, state registered domestic partner, child or children, including stepchildren, of the person whose death shall have been so caused.  If there be no wife, husband, state registered domestic partner, or such child or children, such action may be maintained for the benefit of the parents, sisters, or brothers, who may be dependent upon the deceased person for support and who reside within the United States at the time of his/her death.  The jury may give such damages as they deem just, given all of the circumstances of the case[ii].

The contributory fault of one spouse or one domestic partner shall not be imputed to the other spouse, other domestic partner,  the minor child of the spouse, or domestic partner to diminish recovery in an action by the other spouse, other domestic partner, the minor child of the spouse, or other domestic partner, or his or her legal representative, to recover damages caused by fault resulting in death or in injury to the person or property, whether separate or community, of the spouse or domestic partner.  In an action brought for wrongful death or loss of consortium, the contributory fault of the decedent or injured person shall be imputed to the claimant in that action[iii].

It is a complete defense to an action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death, that the person injured or killed was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug at the time of the occurrence causing the injury or death, that such condition was a proximate cause of the injury or death, and the trier of fact finds such person to have been more than fifty percent at fault.  The standard for determining whether a person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs shall be the same standard established for criminal convictions under RCW 46.61.502.  The evidence that a person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs under the standard established by RCW 46.61.502 shall be conclusive proof that such person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs[iv].

In an action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death that is brought against the driver of a motor vehicle who was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug at the time of the occurrence causing the injury or death and whose condition was a proximate cause of the injury or death, this section does not create a defense against the action notwithstanding that the person injured or killed was also under the influence so long as such person’s condition was not a proximate cause of the occurrence causing the injury or death[v].

[i] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 4.20.010

[ii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 4.20.020

[iii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 4.22.020

[iv] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 5.40.060

[v] Id.


Inside Washington Wrongful Death Laws