It is difficult to believe it took 110 years. It is heartbreaking to imagine the suffering in Washington state and around the world during 40,000 nights of remembering. But last year, Washington finally did the right thing.
Our state laws now permit parents to seek justice in civil court when somebody’s negligence kills their daughter or son. The parents no longer must live in the United States and they no longer had to rely on their kid to survive financially.
An old law left countless parents with no options
By all accounts, the old 1909 version of the law was an artifact of a shameful chapter in Washington’s history.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the western U.S. commonly used workers from China for hard labor, mostly building railroads and mining. Safety laws barely existed, and countless immigrant workers died.
To keep American companies from having to make amends for their negligence, Washington State simply declared that parents overseas could not sue for the wrongful death of their loved ones. Any parents living in the U.S. had to prove they were financially dependent on their children.
Justice and the facts finally flow from state statutes
In the newly revised law, parents need to show their child’s death took away their chance to either give or receive emotional, psychological, or financial support in their relationship with their child.
The new version deletes old parts of the law, so it now applies no matter where in the world the parents live and no matter how old or young their child was. If their child had children of their own, a spouse, or a domestic partner registered with Washington, the ability to file suit is theirs instead.
The ability to file a civil suit opens opportunities beyond financial compensation and the accountability it inspires. Early in every civil suit, there is a phase called “discovery” that requires handing over documents, records, communication and anything else that might matter to the suit.
Before the change in the law, parents who just wanted to know why their child was dead were often simply out of luck.