Wrongful Death Claims in Washington, D.C.

Woman reacts to bad news about her husband.
If your loved one died due to a negligent or intentional act or because of medical malpractice, you might have the right to file a wrongful death claim.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in D.C.?

Under the D.C. Code of Civil Damages, families can file wrongful death claims against a negligent party if their actions caused the death of a loved one. For most families, this is the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, they are consumed by grief, anger and feelings of helplessness. They want to know why their loved one died and how they can make the at-fault party be brought to justice. In a civil case, there are no criminal charges; however, if any were made, they can be used in structuring wrongful death claims. 

Characteristics of  Wrongful Death Claims

The reasons for a wrongful death claim are:

  • A negligent action such as reckless behavior in a car accident
  • An intentional act against another person
  • Malpractice

While in criminal cases, the defendant’s actions against the state are examined and conviction is punishment-based, in a wrongful death claim, the compensation is financial. In addition, in a criminal case, the evidence must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt while the preponderance of the evidence proves liability in a civil case. Since the evidence in a criminal case is much stronger, it is often used as additional proof in wrongful death claims.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Washington, D.C., the executor of the deceased’s estate files a wrongful death claim. The representative does this on behalf of family members such as the decedent’s spouse, their children, stepchildren, parents and siblings. 

Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

The following damages can be recovered:

  • Funeral and burial costs can be recovered.
  • Medical expenses if a survival action is filed are recoverable. A survival action is a personal injury claim filed for the deceased to recover the damages they suffered between the time of the accident and their demise. 
  • Lost wages are recoverable. These are the wages, bonuses, commissions and other job perks the decedent would have made from the time of their death to their retirement. It also includes pensions.
  • The monetary amount the family must pay for household tasks normally done by the decedent is recoverable. This can include doing the taxes, mowing the lawn or child care. 
  • The loss of training, comfort and inheritance the children would have received from the decedent can be recoverable.

There is no limit to the amount of damages the family can receive. The grief the family feels and their mental distress is not recoverable. 

Time Limit to File Wrongful Death Claims

Under the law, claims generally must be filed within a certain period of time called the statute of limitations. If the claim is filed after this time expires, the case will not proceed. In Washington, D.C., this time limit is two years from the time when the decedent died. 

The Roeser Law Firm

If your loved one died due to a negligent or intentional act or because of medical malpractice, you might have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Call the Roeser Law Firm at (202) 660-4070 or contact us online to find out. We offer a compassionate, free case review where your family can ask questions and obtain information about filing a wrongful death claim from an experienced attorney. 

Zeke Roeser


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