There is no bigger loss than losing a loved one. When someone dies prematurely because of another’s wrongful acts, the hurt hits so much harder. Knowing a family is grieving because of circumstances that could have been avoided makes it even harder to take.
An experienced Oklahoma wrongful death attorney can explain the laws in place to protect the rights of families who have lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions. A wrongful death lawyer in Oklahoma can explain these laws and file a lawsuit to make sure any responsible parties are held accountable.
Oklahoma’s Recoverable Damages in Wrong Death Suits
According to Oklahoma law, the state’s wrongful death statute provides descriptions of possible damages and how they should be distributed. These include:
- Financial loss – The decedent’s future earnings lost because of early death are determined by their age and probable life expectancy, occupation and earning capacity, and their health habits. Recovered compensation is paid to the spouse and each child.
- Grief and loss of companionship – This is meant to compensate the children and parents for suffering the loss of their parent and their child respectfully.
- Loss of consortium – Loss of consortium describes the damages a surviving spouse is awarded for the loss of the decedent’s love and companionship for a lifetime. Common law unions are also protected by Oklahoma law.
- Medical and Burial Expenses – The recovered compensation is distributed to whoever paid these expenses.
- Mental pain and anguish suffered by the decedent – The surviving spouse and children receive compensation for these damages.
- Punitive damages – Also known as exemplary damages, these additional damages are awarded with the intent of punishing the parties responsible for the decedent’s death. If compensation is recovered, the surviving spouse and children receive it as a portion of the estate.
Punitive damages fall under the state’s rules concerning tort law which uses civil law to impose punishment to rectify another’s wrongdoing. In order for these damages to be awarded, the defendant must have acted egregiously, showing reckless behaviors and disregarding the decedent’s rights.
If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse or children, personal representatives can still file a suit. The decedent’s next of kin would receive any recovered damages. There is also specific language in Oklahoma’s wrongful death statute that allows a parent to sue for an unborn child’s death if it resulted from another person’s negligence or reckless behavior.
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How Do the Types of Damages in an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Case Work?
The damages discussed above are situated into two separate categories under Oklahoma statutes:
- Compensatory Damages
- Non-compensatory Damages
Compensatory damages are broken into economic and non-economic damages:
- Economic damages: These damages have concrete money amounts associated with them. These damages often include:
- Lost earnings
- Medical expenses
- Property damages
- Noneconomic damages: These damages do not have specified money amounts associated with them. and they are often awarded at the discretion of a jury or judge. These damages often include:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
Non-compensatory damages are often referred to as exemplary or punitive damages. These damages are not correlated with compensating the decedent’s loved ones. They are intended to punish a defendant because of wrongful acts or reckless behavior and deter these types of behaviors in the future.
Punitive damages can play a crucial role in the legal process. They prevent corporations and businesses from acting in reckless ways or committing questionable behaviors.
- How serious was the risk or public hazard created by the defendant’s behavior or misconduct?
- Was the behavior or misconduct profitable?
- How long did the misconduct last and did they try to conceal it?
- Was the defendant aware of the hazard and how bad it was?
- How did the defendant act, and what did they do after they discovered the hazard?
- If the defendant was a corporation or business, how many employees and who were the employees that either caused the hazard or tried to conceal the misconduct?
- What is the financial situation of the defendant?
Can Damages Have Limitations or Caps?
Damages in an Oklahoma wrongful death lawsuit do have caps or limitations on the amounts awarded to certain types of damages. The decedent’s family can be compensated for the whole amount of the calculated economic damages.
In a normal personal injury case, the non-economic damages are limited to $350,000, no matter how many defendants are involved in the case. This limit on non-economic damages does not exist if a judge or jury finds convincing evidence that reckless acts or negligence by the defendant or an insurer has shown a disregard for others’ rights or acted in breach of its duty to act fairly or in good faith.
Punitive damages are awarded in cases where a defendant’s behavior has been found to be malice, wanton, or cause intentional harm. And these damages are capped at $100,000 or equaling the amount awarded for actual damages.
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Contact an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawyer
When a fatal accident takes away a loved one, the recovery process can be extraordinarily tough. It is even more difficult when tragedy happens because of someone else’s reckless actions and poor choices. Bringing a lawsuit against the responsible parties may not be your primary focus.
The Oklahoma wrongful death lawyers at BDIW Law can help with this. We can evaluate the case and see if you have a claim and deserve compensation for your losses. We understand the challenges you face and are willing to devote our 65 years of combined legal experience to working on your case.
If you lost a loved one because of someone’s wrongful actions in Oklahoma, contact the wrongful death attorneys at BDIW Law for a free consultation.
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