Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
Dealing with the death of a loved one is extremely difficult. At Hasbrook & Hasbrook, our Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyers know what a traumatic experience this can be, particularly when the death occurred as a result of a preventable accident. Under Oklahoma law (Oklahoma Statutes § 12-1053), when a person’s death is caused by another party’s negligent or wrongful act, then the “personal representative” of the deceased may be permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma.
Wrongful death claims are very similar to personal injury claims in that they allow an injury victim to seek compensation for his or her losses caused by another person’s wrongful act or omission. However, wrongful death claims differ from personal injury lawsuits since the injury victim no longer is alive and able to file a lawsuit. As such, the law permits a “personal representative” of the deceased to, in effect, file a claim on behalf of the deceased. The presumption is that, if the wrongful death victim would have survived, she or he would have filed a personal injury lawsuit.
Who is a Personal Representative Under Oklahoma Law?
We have mentioned that a “personal representative” can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma, but what does that term mean? Generally speaking, Oklahoma law defines a personal representative as someone who is appointed to file such a claim in one of a few different ways:
- Named in the deceased’s estate planning documents: if the deceased had estate plans prior to his or her death, the deceased might have named a particular person to serve as a “personal representative.” If the deceased took such steps, then the court usually will agree that the named person will indeed serve as the personal representative for the deceased when filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma.
- Immediate or close relative of the deceased: in the event that the deceased did not undergo estate planning prior to his or her death—or in the event that the person the deceased named as a “personal representative” in an estate plan does not want to serve in that role—then the court typically will appoint a person to serve as the personal representative. In most cases, if the deceased has a surviving spouse, then the spouse will be appointed as the personal representative. However, if there is no surviving spouse, then the court also may appoint a parent of the deceased, a child of the deceased, or a sibling of the deceased.
- Another party appointed by the court: in some cases, the deceased does not have any immediate or close surviving family members. In such a situation, the court may appoint another party to serve as personal representative. In the event that the wrongful death lawsuit results in a damages award, the damages can be distributed to the deceased’s surviving next of kin, and/or to pay for remaining debts owed.
Time Limit for a Personal Representative to File a Claim in Oklahoma City
It is important for anyone seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma to recognize the limits imposed by the statute of limitations. According to Oklahoma law, a personal representative must institute a wrongful death action within two years from the date of the victim’s death.
If an action is not commenced within this two-year period, the surviving family members may lose their eligibility to be compensated for their losses.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Oklahoma City
Do you have questions about filing a wrongful death claim? An experienced wrongful death lawyer in Oklahoma City can speak with you today about your case. Contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook to learn more about how we can assist you.