The unexpected death of a loved one is already a traumatizing event that is difficult to navigate as is. Still, it can be even more devastating if it resulted from a preventable action stemming from the negligence of another.
In legal terms, wrongful death describes a death that was the consequence of either negligence or a wrongful act committed by an individual or an entity. The death is wrongful because it could have likely been prevented if the implicated party had fulfilled their duty of care. Therefore, the negligent party who directly caused the death, played a part in the death happening, or could have likely prevented the death can be subject to a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma.
When Can a Wrongful Death Claim Apply?
Oklahoma’s civil statutes dictate that wrongful death actions can be applied to numerous situations that result in the death of a person due to negligence on someone else’s account.
There are certainly several scenarios where this could apply, but here are a few of the most common:
- The victim was killed intentionally – Although criminal courts obviously deal with cases such as manslaughter and murder, the deceased’s family may choose to bring a separate civil suit against the party responsible that is entirely its own case and separate from any criminal trial or verdict. The criminal and civil trials may end up sharing many of the same witnesses and evidence, but the outcomes serve different respective purposes and involve different courts.
- Death from medical malpractice – Wrongful death lawsuits can often be filed if the family of the deceased suspects the death to be the result of malpractice from a medical professional. Such situations can arise from negligence during surgery, failure to diagnose, or a misdiagnosis.
- Death from a car accident – If the victim was a driver or passenger of a vehicle in a fatal accident caused by the other party, the deceased’s family may choose to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties responsible for the collision.
- Death from excessive force – Law enforcement officers are entrusted with the use of reasonable force while on duty. However, if the deceased party died as the result of excessive force on account of law enforcement— even if they were committing a crime at the time — the family could choose to bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages for their loved one’s death.
- Death from nursing home abuse – Nursing homes have an inherent responsibility to provide the appropriate care and medical attention to their residents. Still, instances of neglect and even abuse do sometimes occur that lead to the death of a loved one, which opens the possibility of a civil suit.
Types of Damages You Can Recover from Wrongful Death Suits in Oklahoma
Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Section 1053 states that the deceased’s representative can claim damages for the following damages:
- Loss of consortium and grief of the surviving spouse
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
- Financial loss to the surviving spouse and children
- Mental pain and suffering by the deceased
- Loss of companionship and grief to the parents and children
- Punitive damages
How Long do I have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma has a two-year statute of limitations for most wrongful death cases, meaning the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the event. If a representative tries to file a suit after the statute of limitations has run out, there is a great chance it will be dismissed. It is therefore crucial for the deceased’s family not to delay filing a lawsuit if they are considering one.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
A representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma. This can be the surviving spouse or next of kin. However, the court can also choose to appoint a representative in a probate action. Keep in mind that while the representative can file the lawsuit, it does not make them the sole heir to any compensation that is eventually paid out in the suit. The damages are distributed according to state laws. This is precisely why it is important to hire an experienced civil litigation attorney who handles wrongful death cases and can ensure your matter is handled properly.
Your Choice of Legal Representation Will Make All the Difference
The death of a loved one caused by the negligence or actions of another only party further compounds the trauma and grief to be endured, but civil litigation through a wrongful death lawsuit can sometimes offer a sense of solace and justice while also mitigating the lasting financial impact of the loss.
If your family is considering a wrongful death lawsuit, Overman Legal Group can provide the legal help and guidance you need to navigate this complex issue and determine if a wrongful death lawsuit is indeed the right avenue for you and your family.