What is a "Wrongful Death" Case in Oklahoma?
When a loved one suffers an untimely death, Oklahoma law permits a person to sue on behalf of the deceased person. Wrongful death is defined as a situation where the death of a person is caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another person. The family of the person who died can file a special lawsuit, known as wrongful death, in a court of law, seeking compensation for damages because of the person's death.
A wrongful death suit is in essence a personal injury lawsuit. The surviving family may bring such a lawsuit if the person would have been permitted to file a personal injury suit had they lived. The laws applicable to wrongful death in Oklahoma can be found in 12 O.S. Section 1053.
Who is Eligible to File an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Oklahoma law permits one person, known as a "personal representative," to bring the lawsuit in court. The personal representative will act as the plaintiff, standing in for the deceased person and the person's heirs/beneficiaries. The personal representative may be appointed because he was named in a person's will or trust documents. However, in many cases, the personal representative will be appointed by the court and it will be a person who is closely related to the person who died. If there is no named personal representative, and no one is willing to serve in that role, the court may appoint someone who is not a family member to represent the estate.
What Damages Are Available in an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There are two categories of damages available for a wrongful death in Oklahoma: the damages suffered by the deceased person, and damages suffered by the person's survivors:
*The lawsuit can seek damages for the deceased person's pain and suffering due to the injury or illness that resulted in death, as well as the person's lost wages and benefits.
*The lawsuit can seek damages experienced by the surviving family members because their loved one passed away. This includes damages to compensate for losses like grief, loss of companionship, and reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
In some wrongful death actions, Oklahoma allows a third category of damages: punitive damages. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the family for a loss, nor are they measured by the suffering of the person who is deceased. Instead, they are meant to punish defendants for bad conduct, sending a message from society that the behavior is so egregious it must be punished.
What Are the Time Limits to File an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma is two years from the date the person passed away. In almost every circumstance, the person's estate will be unable to bring a claim if it is not filed within the two-year time period.
What Courts Hear a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death suit is filed in civil court, like other personal injury claims. Although it often arises from criminal conduct by the defendant, it is a separate trial and has nothing to do with any criminal case against the defendant. Although some findings of a criminal case will impact the civil lawsuit, if a criminal trial is pending, the estate must file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations or else it will be time-barred.
What Kinds of Accidents or Incidents Create Liability for Wrongful Death?
The most common kinds wrongful death cases are:
*Medical malpractice which resulted in someone's death;
*Vehicle accidents resulting from someone's reckless driving or because of vehicle defects;
*Defective products that cause a wrongful death, such as pharmaceuticals, dangerous products and toys, defective
vehicles, or toxic food products;
*Workplace deaths which were caused by unsafe conditions.
Call an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawyer
In order to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, extensive documentation is required and timing is very important. Since collecting records, investigating the case, and researching the claims can take time, it is important to contact an experienced Oklahoma lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our law firm today, or call 405-542-2529 (542-CLAW) and one of our Oklahoma Wrongful Death Attorneys will speak with you about your case. Read more about our team, or continue reading and researching our free legal information library, or enter live chat.