First, let’s look at some examples of wrongful death:
- an accident at work such an industrial machine malfunctioning or an oil field explosion
- an airplane or helicopter crash
- medical malpractice
- a car, truck or motorcycle wreck
- death of a nursing home or assisted living resident
- a non-suicide death in prison
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action (meaning not a criminal issue) that is started by someone (called the plaintiff) related to or working for the person who died. The lawsuit is against a defendant who is accused of being partially or fully responsible for the death. The defendant could be a single person or a corporation (such as a hospital, trucking company, product manufacturer, drug company or nursing home). In a wrongful death case, one of the following must be proven:
- The defendant was negligent or careless in not fulfilling their responsibility.
- In dealing with products, the seller, manufacturer and distributor could be “strictly liable” for the person’s death — the defendant is to blame, even if they were not negligent in the sale, manufacture or design of the product.
In order to win a wrongful death case, the plaintiff’s case must be more probable than the defendant’s case, which is referred to as there being a “preponderance of evidence.” In a wrongful death case, if the outcome is in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant will be made to pay monetary damages for causing the death.
Types of Loss
Each state has its own laws regarding wrongful death. From one state to another, there could be differences relating to time frame, finances, types of accidents and other issues. In Oklahoma, there is a time limit (called a “statute of limitations”) of two years from the date of death in which a law suit must be filed. Because of this important deadline, you should speak to an Oklahoma attorney as soon as possible to insure that your rights are protected. Also, a lawyer who frequently works with wrongful death cases will be able to answer your questions concerning possible defendants, the difficulty of the case and how to compensate damages. Additionally, it is not required that the person who died is the primary breadwinner of the family. The pain of losing a loved one is significant, no matter whether the person died was an infant, a child, a teenager, an active adult or an elderly person. When someone is killed, the defendant has injured not only the person who dies, but also their family members. In wrongful death suits, you may be compensated for:
- economic loss – this includes the loss of wages of the person who died, their funeral expenses, and the value of lost household services
- non-economic loss – this includes the loss of love, companionship, guidance or mentoring, physical pain and suffering if there was a period of time between the injury and death.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In order for you to file a wrongful death suit, you must be a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. In Oklahoma, this means you must be the spouse, child or next of kin. In some states, dependents, stepparents and grandparents may also bring a claim; you should discuss this with an experienced lawyer if you believe this applies to your family’s situation. Children under the age of 18 typically work with a trusted adult guardian to bring a claim to court. In a wrongful death case, if the plaintiff wins, the settlement amount may be shared among relatives. Additionally, the settlement amount can be shared among relatives if a case is settled before it gets to court.
What Should I Do If I Think a Wrongful Death Has Occurred?
If you believe a wrongful death has occurred, you should contact an experienced attorney right away. The Oklahoma and Arkansas wrongful death lawyers at Carr & Carr have helped hundreds of family members understand the steps involved in pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, and can help you determine what your next steps should be. Call us at 866-510-0580.