Photo via Q13 Fox
A 33-year-old Seattle woman, Melissa Protz, died on Wednesday, July 16th while sailing on Lake Washington near Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood. Ms. Protz’s sailboat was slowly returning to shore late that night because the wind had died down. Her sailboat was struck broadside, or possibly head-on, by a motorboat that was traveling at up to 50 miles per hour. Other occupants of the sailboat were injured due to the impact.
In total, there were seven people on the sailboat and four people in the powerboat according to the Seattle Fire Department. The captain of the powerboat, a 46-year-old Renton man, was allegedly impaired at the time of the accident. The captain was arrested for suspicion of homicide by motor craft. He apparently had prior drunk driving incidents.
Melissa Protz was a teacher at St. Assumption-St. Bridget School and is said to have had a “way with people and especially kids that made relationships easy and learning more fun than work.”
This news story is almost identical to a case I handled years ago when an 18 year old man was idle on Lake Sammamish in the dark when a speeding boat struck his boat and killed him. It was a great tragedy and adding to this his body was not found. As in the case of Ms. Protz, the young man was not married. In the state of Washington under the Wrongful Death statute, RCW 4.20.020, there is no recovery for the parents or siblings' anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of love and affection unless the parents, or siblings, were dependent on the deceased for support. The only recovery in this situation is under the Survival statute, RCW 4.20.046, for loss of accumulations to the estate of the deceased. The accumulations are the deceased’s anticipated income over their lifetime less what they would spend over that lifetime.
The fact that the Wrongful Death laws in Washington deny a cause of action to the parents of an emancipated son or daughter has been attacked as unfair. There have been attempts by the Washington State Association for Justice to change the law but the legislature has failed to remedy what we see as an injustice.
If you or someone you know has died as the result of the negligence of another person, contact me for experienced legal representation that will help you get justice for your loss.