Families across Oklahoma who have had to experience losing a loved one unexpectedly because of another person’s negligence can be devastated. A sudden death leaves behind an unfathomable loss, so many questions, and an endless pile of medical bills.
If you are one of these families, you may be asking how you are going to pay for expenses like this without the help of your loved one’s income. You may also be asking if there is anything you can do to find justice and hold the negligent person responsible for paying the bills. A wrongful death settlement may be the answer to those life-changing questions.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
A wrongful death is when a person dies as a result of another person or group legally at fault by:
- An incident or accident that is based on negligence
- A medical malpractice
- An intentional criminal act
After someone performs a negligent or malicious act that causes another person’s death, it is possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil lawsuit separate from any criminal charges. In most states, the deceased person’s surviving family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, in Oklahoma, state law requires a personal representative, or executor, of the dead person’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
This personal representative, typically appointed by the fatal accident victim in their will, represents the victim and their beneficiary family members, such as a spouse, children, or parent. If no personal representative is named or unwilling to serve in this role, the court may appoint one. Wrongful death lawsuits can result from a variety of accidents, such as:
- Truck, motorcycle, or car accidents
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Medical malpractice
- Criminal assault
- Domestic violence
- Pedestrian or bicycle accidents
- Injury while on someone else’s premises
- Elder and nursing home abuse
- Defective or dangerous products
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The Statute of Limitations to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma
Oklahoma state law allows for a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed within two years of the date of death. If the case is not filed within this statute of limitations or period of time, you will most likely lose your right to compensation from the settlement, and the court will not acknowledge your claim.
Two years may sound like a lot of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but this type of claim is complicated and will require a rigorous amount of preparation, evidence gathering, and intense investigations to strengthen your case. Along with that, this time is critical to open an estate and appoint a personal representative, so it is a good idea to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney in Oklahoma right away to stay ahead of each step.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma
The process of filing a wrongful death in Oklahoma is complex, but a knowledgeable attorney will be able to guide you step by step and stay on top of the legal timeline. Some recommended actions you can take include:
Open an Estate
This is the first step to filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of your deceased loved one. All compensation you recover from the settlement will go to the estate. To open an estate, you and your lawyer will file a series of documents with the probate court and appoint a personal representative according to Oklahoma laws.
If your deceased loved one did not leave a will, you would have to choose someone to serve as the personal representative, which is usually the deceased’s spouse, child, parent, or sibling.
File Insurance Claims
Next is filing insurance claims with all policies relevant to the accident, which could include those with a reckless driver’s liability policy, a negligent doctor’s malpractice insurance, or a manufacturer’s commercial liability coverage.
Listing the Damages
You and your attorney will complete documents that outline and detail your claims and damages. If you cannot resolve your claims with the at-fault party out of court through a settlement, your lawyer may opt to file lawsuits on behalf of the state or any other injured party.
The final step is when the court distributes compensation from the settlement according to how the estate was designed and by following inheritance laws in the state of Oklahoma.
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How Much Is Your Wrongful Death Settlement Worth?
There is certainly no price tag on losing your loved one at the hands of someone (or a corporation, government agency, or other entity) who was negligent or malicious. However, a wrongful death settlement could compensate you for your financial loss and stress and gain justice after their death.
So how much is your wrongful death settlement worth? Consulting with an experienced legal representation in this practice area is the best way to get an accurate value of your claim. Juries in the Oklahoma court system award compensation connected to the damages of your case, which includes:
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income, benefits, and future earnings
- Lost support for children’s education, activities, and daily maintenance
These are economic damages, but noneconomic damages can also be compensated through a settlement.
In 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the previous $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits is prohibited, which can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Grief and loss of companionship suffered by the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased
- Loss of consortium by the spouse
- Mental pain and anguish
- Loss of services, support, companionship, relationship, and love for the children
In some Oklahoma wrongful death cases, the court may also award punitive damages for particularly egregious or grossly negligent conduct. This not only compensates the family or estate for their losses but also sends a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by the courts.
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Turn to an Oklahoma Attorney for Help with Your Wrongful Death Settlement
It is in your family’s best interest to consult with an experienced wrongful death settlement attorney in Oklahoma to find success in the justice of your loved one’s death and the survival of your future financially, mentally, and emotionally.
Contact our office to schedule a consultation today.
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