Can You Bring A NIED Claim If You Are a Bystander and Not Married to the Victim?

The wrongful death statute, RCW 4.20.020, describes the potential beneficiaries of a Washington wrongful death action:

Every such 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 are resident within the United States at the time of his or her death.

It does not include unmarried "loved ones" who are not related to the victim. The Washington Supreme Court requires that a bystander be a "relative" or "family member" of the victim in order to bring a wrongful death claim as a beneficiary. Despite challenges by lawyers on expanding the scope of who qualifies as a beneficiary to bring such claims, Washington courts have refused to broaden this class of people. In Percival v. General Electric Co., 708 F.Supp.2d 1171 (W.D.Wa. 2012), Judge Lasnik concluded that the victim's grandchildren (who had watched their grandmother burn to death) could assert bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED") claims. So far, this is as "broad" as it gets.

With the increase in police shootings and use of excessive force, even if you were to witness your loved one die in your arms--and you're unmarried--you're out of luck on bringing a bystander NIED claim in Washington. Engaged couples under the law are considered unmarried.

If you have any questions on what your civil rights are, contact AKW Law at or (425) 954-3512.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags

Practice Areas

MAIN OFFICE (and all mail)

6100 219th St. SW, Suite 480

Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043

DOWNTOWN SEATTLE (by appointment only)

1700 Seventh Ave., Suite 2100

Seattle, WA 98101

DOWNTOWN TACOMA (by appointment only)

1201 Pacific Ave., Suite 600

Tacoma, WA 98402

SILICON VALLEY, CA​ (by appointment only)

TEL:  (206) 259-1259

FAX:  (855) 925-9529



© 2020 by AKW Law, P.C. All rights reserved.



DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice under any circumstances, nor should it be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. Transmission of information to/from this website and/or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship, and such relationship will only be established after the attorney and client discuss the facts of the client’s case, a conflict check has occurred, and a written fee agreement is signed by the attorney and client. Do NOT disclose any confidential or private information not known to the public in any communications through this website AND until a conflict check has been completed. All visitors to this site are encouraged to retain counsel to review their individual matters and provide legal advice. Please check the latest laws and rules as content may not have been updated.