Aug 14th, 2019

Washington Legislature Now Allows All Parents to Recover for Adult Children’s Deaths

Suzanne Pierce

Suzanne Pierce

BREAKING NEWS! Due to a 2019 statutory amendment effective July 28, 2019, parents can now recover for loss of consortium in a wrongful death claim regardless of whether they were financially dependent on the child at the time of child’s death. RCW 4.20.060(2), see bill text at Senate Bill 5163

Prior to this amendment, the wrongful death statute limited recovery of non-economic damages to the surviving spouse or child of a decedent, parent of a minor decedent, or parent of an adult decedent when that parent could prove financial dependence upon the child. Thus, parents of an adult child who were unmarried and had no children usually could not sue for the wrongful death of that child. Parents who were not U.S. residents also were barred from recovery for death of their child.

The 2015 “Ride the Ducks” crash in Seattle was newsworthy in part because several of the passengers who died in the accident were unmarried and childless, with nonresident parents who were barred from making wrongful death claims. The Legislature reacted by amending the wrongful death statute to more liberally define who could make a wrongful death claim. Parents and siblings of the deceased can now recover non-economic losses of the deceased instead of being limited to the estate’s economic losses: “(3) In addition to recovering the decedent’s economic losses under this section, the persons listed in subsection (1) of this section are entitled to recover damages for the decedent’s pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, or humiliation, in such amounts as determined by a trier of fact to be just under all the circumstances of the case.” RCW 4.20.060(3).