In Washington State, Parents Cannot Sue for the Wrongful Death of Their Adult Child.

Proudly Serving Clients in Seattle, Tacoma & nearby areas of Washington

In the Washington State, one of the tragedies of our legislatively drafted wrongful death statute RCW 4.24.010 is that a parent cannot recover damages for the wrongful death of their adult child unless the parent was financially dependent on their adult child (except for economic loss sustained by the estate). 

In Washington State, our wrongful death statute is tragic because a person driving negligently or a corporation wrongfully causing the death of an adult cannot be sued for the wrongful death to recover for the loss of consortium of that person:

Wrongful Death

  • the loss of love
  • affection
  • care
  • services
  • companionship and
  • emotional support

to the parents, brothers or sisters. 

The tragedy continues when nursing homes cannot be sued by the decease’s brother or sister for the wrongfully causing the death of a patient without children, allowing the nursing home to having caused a patient’s death without being financially liable to the decease’s family.  Only the decease’s estate can sue for the recovery of economic damages like the incurred medical bills or lost income after deductions for expected living expenses. 

In Philippides v Bernard, 152 Wash.2d 376, 88 P.3d 939 (2004), the Washington State Supreme Court on a 7-2 decision, overturned a jury verdict awarding $900,000 to each parent for the loss of consortium of their 22-year-old son and bicyclist killed in a crosswalk by a negligent driver.  In the same ruling, the Court also dismissed the claims by the parents of a 37-year-old son who died after a plane malfunctioned, a 39-year-old unmarried man when he died from an aortic aneurysm two days after he was examined and discharged by Group Health, a 34-year-old unmarried man who suffered from schizophrenia and died by alleged excessive force used by the police.  The Court reasoned that in drafting 1998 amendments to the wrongful death statute specifically aimed at cases involving minor children, “if the Legislature had intended this change to include adult children, the Legislature would have said so.”  At this time, without changes by the Legislature, generally only children and spouse of an adult victim can sue for wrongful death.  Parents and siblings can sue only if they are financially dependent on the victim.  

At Buckley & Associates, our attorneys are dedicated to helping families of wrongful death victims recover compensation for their losses. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence, please call Buckley & Associates today at (206) 622-1100 for your consultation. We represent clients in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.