If someone gets hurt in a car accident, they can ask for money to cover their losses through a personal injury claim. But if the accident causes a person’s death, their family can seek compensation from the people at fault through a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death suits can give the surviving family a nest egg to cover funeral expenses and pad the way as they learn to live without their loved one, but compensation isn’t the only goal.
These lawsuits also hold the responsible party accountable for their actions. It forces them to recognize their negligence has permanently changed your family’s life and helps you find a measure of justice.
Our competent Tulsa wrongful death attorney has the expertise to cut through the legal red tape and secure the compensation and justice your family rightfully deserves.
How Does Oklahoma Categorize a Wrongful Death?
According to Oklahoma law, a wrongful death is a fatality resulting from the negligent or intentional actions of another party, which, had the victim survived, would have warranted the pursuit of a personal injury lawsuit.
If the lawsuit succeeds, the responsible party must pay money, referred to as damages, to the estate of the person who died in the accident.
To prove the defendant’s responsibility, you must show it more likely than not that they caused the death.
In some cases, one action can lead to both criminal charges and a wrongful death lawsuit. This means you could take a person to court for accidentally causing someone’s death through the criminal justice system and the civil court system simultaneously.
Who Can File an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A person who has passed away can’t file a lawsuit themselves.
Authorized individuals who may file a lawsuit for them may include:
- Surviving spouses
- Parents or children
- Other close family members
- A representative appointed to manage the deceased person’s estate
After someone dies, a will may name someone to manage their estate. If the will specifies no one, or the chosen individual cannot fulfill this role, the court may appoint someone to take on the responsibility.
Does Anyone Have Immunity From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You can hold most people and businesses legally responsible for wrongful death, with some exceptions. Government workers and agencies might enjoy immunity for their actions while doing their official jobs.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Oklahoma?
A statute of limitations is a law that says you can’t take someone to court for something they did wrong after a certain amount of time has passed. So, if too much time passes, you can’t sue them anymore.
In Oklahoma, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death case is two years after a person’s death. If you don’t initiate the case within this timeframe, the court can reject it.
As time passes, valuable evidence can be lost, and witnesses’ memories may become unreliable. Legal proceedings initiated under such circumstances may not provide a fair outcome for all parties involved.
If you’re contemplating a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma, consult a local personal injury attorney. An attorney can clarify how complicated laws apply to your situation.
Wrongful Death vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits
Wrongful death claims share many similarities with personal injury lawsuits. The main difference is that they come into play when an incident causes injuries and leads to a death.
In personal injury cases, individuals who have suffered harm due to an accident can initiate legal action or negotiate to seek compensation from those at fault.
To secure compensation, personal injury victims must demonstrate that the defendant either intentionally or negligently caused harm to them. If they succeed, they can be awarded damages for medical expenses, lost wages, physical and emotional pain, and emotional distress.
Wrongful death claims involve the deceased person’s family or designated representative pursuing a legal case against those accountable for the fatality. They can file a lawsuit or engage in settlement negotiations and receive compensation for the medical costs and suffering experienced by the deceased before their passing.
They may obtain reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses and compensation for losing the deceased’s potential future income and companionship.
Settlements & Compensation
The compensation awarded for wrongful death hinges on various factors, primarily the magnitude of the loss. Since each case has distinctive characteristics, there is no standard settlement amount.
Types of damages
In Oklahoma, wrongful death claims follow the same legal principles as other personal injury cases. There are two main types of compensation. Compensatory damages cover expenses and losses resulting from the wrongful death.
Punitive damages serve a different purpose. They penalize the defendant for their wrongful actions and deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Following a successful wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs can expect compensation for:
- Medical expenses related to the accident.
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased.
- Loss of the deceased’s future income.
- Loss of services provided by the deceased.
- Loss of any inheritance.
- Loss of companionship or consortium.
- Funeral costs.
What Determines the Size of the Payout?
Every wrongful death case is unique. Damages can vary widely.
The amount of compensation depends on:
- The age and health of the deceased.
- The deceased’s earning capacity, education, and training.
- The age and circumstances of surviving family members.
- The extent of medical and funeral expenses.
- The level of suffering experienced by the deceased.
- The loss of benefits like health insurance and retirement for survivors.
The individualized compensation in wrongful death cases depends on a combination of significant factors.
How Is Compensation Issued in Oklahoma?
Compensation may come from a single, one-time payment or through a structured settlement. Opting for a structured settlement provides a consistent stream of payments to the surviving family members over an extended period, ensuring a steady income for them.
Situations involving insurance coverage more commonly involve lump-sum payments. However, without insurance, a structured settlement allows defendants to make gradual payments over time.
Are Wrongful Death Payouts Taxed?
Wrongful death settlements are typically non-taxable when they serve a compensatory purpose, aiming to reimburse the family for various expenses, emotional distress, and lost income.
The IRS may tax punitive damages. The settlement agreement must specify the nature of the compensated damages. Consult a lawyer for precise guidance.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Win a Wrongful Death Suit?
Yes. Hire an attorney if you are pursuing a wrongful death case.
A knowledgeable attorney can significantly increase your chances of success in your wrongful death suit.
- Legal expertise: Attorneys focusing on wrongful death cases have the legal knowledge and experience to navigate the complex legal system. They can explain your case’s relevant laws, procedures, and potential challenges.
- Investigation and evidence gathering: An attorney can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and work with experts to build a strong case. They can collect all necessary documentation to support your claim.
- Valuation of damages: An attorney can evaluate the financial and emotional losses the surviving family members suffer and seek appropriate compensation.
- Negotiation with insurance companies: In many wrongful death cases, you will deal with insurance companies. Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can advocate on your behalf and work to secure a fair settlement.
- Court representation: If negotiations cannot reach a settlement, your attorney can represent you. They will present your case to a judge and jury, arguing for the compensation you deserve.
- Reducing stress: An attorney can relieve some of the emotional challenges and stress by allowing you to focus on grieving and healing while a professional manages the legal aspects of the case.
- Statute of limitations: Wrongful death cases have specific time limits within which plaintiffs must file them. An attorney can file your claim within the required time frame.
Never attempt a wrongful death suit without a lawyer. Always consult an experienced Tulsa personal injury lawyer who can guide you, answer your questions, and help you get justice for your loved one.