All You Need to Know About Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington, D.C.

Fatal rollover accident on freeway.
Death can occur due to negligence such as a traffic accident, slip and fall or for other reasons.

Learn About Wrongful Deaths in Washington, D.C.

When a family loses a loved one either through negligence or an intentional act by another, they may file a wrongful death claim. In Washington, D.C., the claim may be brought if the person who died would have been able to file a personal injury claim had they survived. Since they didn’t survive, the family may file in their stead.

What Are the Causes of a Wrongful Death?

The law in the District, under D.C. Code § 16-2701, states that when an individual’s demise occurs due to neglect, a wrongful act or default by a corporation or person, the injured party may file or join with the spouse or domestic partner and the deceased’s next of kin to file a claim for damages. The claim is based on one of the following:

  • The death occurred due to negligence such as a traffic accident, slip and fall or for other reasons.
  • The death occurred because of medical malpractice.
  • The death was an intentional act.

In the third category, this claim is presented in civil, not criminal, court. The evidence in a wrongful death claim demonstrates liability on “the preponderance of the evidence,” not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is required in criminal court.

Is There a Timeline for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

In the District of Columbia, a wrongful death claim has to be filed within the statute of limitations, which is within two years of the date the loved one died. If the claim is not filed within this period, the executor/representative of the family will probably not be able to file. When your family is thinking of filing a claim for wrongful death after the loss of a loved one, consulting with an attorney is a good idea because some of these cases are complicated and handled to meet the situation.

What Members of the Family Can Join in the Claim?

The spouse or putative spouse and children can file for wrongful death. In some circumstances, other family members may file. For example, if the decedent left behind no spouse or children, then other relatives such as siblings or parents may file. Your wrongful death attorney can tell you more about what family members can join in.

Who Files the Wrongful Death Claim?

In the District, the estate’s executor is the person who files the claim for wrongful death as their personal representative. If the decedent left no will naming an executor, or the person named in the will is unable to serve, the court will appoint one.

Damages That Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim in the District

Recoverable damages in a wrongful death that are awarded to the survivors of the decedent include:

  • The expenses for the funeral and burial are recoverable.
  • Any medical bills related to the injury or illness such as ambulance fees, treatment before the death of the loved one and related expenses can be recovered.
  • Wages and other benefits the decedent would have earned until their age of retirement are recoverable.
  • Services provided by the decedent such as education, companionship, support and care can be recovered.
  • Damages for anguish, emotional distress and other things of this nature are not recoverable in the District of Columbia. However, there is no cap on the amount that can be recovered by the family. 

Roeser Law Firm

If your family lost a loved one to wrongful death, the Roeser Law Firm can help you obtain the settlement you deserve and remove the burden from your shoulders. Call us at (202) 660-4070 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can answer your questions, tell you how the process works and represent you with the insurance company or take the case to civil court if necessary. If you prefer, we can be reached online.

Zeke Roeser


3000 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 140
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 660-4070