Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyer
The death of a loved one is mentally and emotionally stressful. This may be especially true if you must deal with practical considerations such as funeral details and expenses. However, if the death of your loved one was due to another’s carelessness or negligence, you may be able to collect damages to help with your expenses.
If you think that your family member passed away as the result of another person’s wrongful act, you may want to explore the possibility of filing a legal claim for wrongful death. An Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyer could review the circumstances of your loved one’s death and assist you in determining whether a wrongful death claim is appropriate.
Wrongful Death Laws in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma defines a wrongful death as the death of an individual “caused by the wrongful act or omission of another,” according to Oklahoma Statutes Tit. 12, §1053. Under this statute, any personal representative of the deceased may file a wrongful death action.
A wrongful death claim may result in the following types of damages, according to O.S. Tit. 12, §1053:
- Expenses related to medical care and burial
- Loss of companionship or support
- Mental pain and suffering of the deceased
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
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.
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?
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.
Damages in an Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Losing a loved one in an accident often is one of the most difficult experiences in the lives of the surviving family members. At Hasbrook & Hasbrook, know that the loss of a parent or spouse can also leave an enormous financial deficit. When a family member is killed in a tragic accident, the accident victim’s immediate family can suffer the economic consequences. Not only are medical bills and funeral costs expensive, but lost wages can total anywhere from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions. You should not have to pay the financial costs of a loved one’s untimely death. You may be eligible for damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma City.
Types of Damages for Which You May be Eligible
Under Oklahoma law (Oklahoma Statutes § 12-1053), the survivors may be able to receive two different kinds of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are designed to compensate survivors for losses associated with their loved one’s death. When a plaintiff is awarded compensatory damages, this type of damages award can take two different forms:
- Economic damages: this type of compensatory damages award is designed to provide survivors with compensation for specific, objective losses associated with the wrongful death. In other words, these are damages intended to cover the kinds of losses for which there is a clear dollar amount, such as hospital bills and medical costs (if the wrongful death victim initially survived the accident but later succumbed to his or her injuries), burial expenses, lost wages, and lost benefits (such as the deceased’s insurance coverage or a pension plan). Economic damages typically are those that would be calculated similarly by anyone examining the situation.
- Non-economic damages: this type of compensatory damages award is designed to provide survivors with compensation for less tangible losses. In other words, these damages are intended to cover the kinds of losses for which there is not an objective dollar figure, such as mental pain and anguish associated with the loss of a loved one, loss of the protection and care from the deceased, and loss of consortium.
In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and to help deter such harmful behavior in the future. While not all states permit punitive damages to be awarded, under Oklahoma law, “punitive or exemplary damages may also be recovered against the person proximately causing the wrongful death.”
Calculating Wrongful Death Damages
How are wrongful death damages calculated? When it comes to compensatory damages, economic damages typically are the easiest to calculate given their objective nature. However, calculating non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages, can be extremely complicated. It is important to work with an Oklahoma wrongful death attorney who can provide the strongest evidence in your case to show the jury the extensive losses you have incurred.
An Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Attorney Could Help with a Claim
If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to the actions of another, consider contacting an Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyer. You may be eligible to file a civil suit to collect damages.
For a review of your potential case, call us as soon as possible. They could analyze the facts surrounding the death of your loved one and advise you of the feasibility of a wrongful death lawsuit. If you do decide to file suit, they could also guide you through the legal process to help you receive the best possible result.
Be sure you know your rights. If you have questions regarding the death of a loved one, an Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyer is here for you.