Losing a loved one is devastating, and can be made even more tragic if his or her death was preventable. When this occurs, certain members of the decedent’s surviving family may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim against the liable party.
If you believe another’s negligence resulted in the death of a loved one, the Edwards Law Firm’s wrongful death attorneys are ready to help you file a claim. Below, we discuss who is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma and when this type of legal action can apply. Do you need a personal injury lawyer in Tulsa you can trust? Contact us today.
What is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death in Oklahoma is a death that resulted from a wrongful act or omission caused by another’s negligence, recklessness or intentional actions, according to Oklahoma Statutes Title 12, Chapter 17, Section 1053.
Oklahoma also allows a wrongful death claim to be filed if the wrongful act would have allowed the decedent to file a personal injury claim had he or she survived. Instead, the decedent’s surviving loved ones must file a wrongful death claim on his or her behalf.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Oklahoma, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, who acts on behalf of the decedent’s family members and loved ones.
Often, the decedent will name a personal representative in an estate plan or will before his or her death. The representative can be a member of the decedent’s family or an outside party and is not entitled to receive a portion of the damages recovered.
However, if the decedent did not choose a personal representative or the person chosen refuses to act as such, a court may appoint one to oversee the claim.
In the event that an unborn child’s death was caused by another’s wrongful actions, a parent of the child can bring a claim against the at-fault party.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate has two-years file a wrongful death claim, according to OKS Stat. Ann tit. 12 § 1053.
If the decedent’s personal representative fails to meet this deadline, the survivors of the decedent lose the right to recover compensation from the at-fault party.
What Damages Can I Pursue in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The damages awarded from an Oklahoma wrongful death lawsuit are generally distributed between the decedent’s surviving spouse, children or next of kin, as such:
These damages are to be proportionally distributed to the person or entity that initially paid for the decedent’s medical treatment prior to his or her death. If the decedent’s estate paid for his or her medical treatment, the estate will be awarded the recovered damages.
Any damages recovered for burial expenses, such as the cost of the decedent’s funeral, transportation to the funeral, casket or headstone shall be awarded to the person or entity that originally paid these expenses. If the decedent’s estate paid for his or her burial expenses, the estate will be awarded the damages.
Mental Pain and Anguish
The compensation recovered for the mental pain and anguish the decedent suffered prior to his or her death shall be distributed to the surviving spouse or children, or the next of kin, in the same proportion as the decedent’s personal property.
Loss of Financial Support
This includes compensation for the financial support the decedent would have provided to his or her dependents had he or she survived the wrongful act.
These damages shall be distributed to the decedent’s survivors based on evidence submitted by the decedent’s personal representative with regard to the decedent’s:
- Age at the time of his or her death
- Earning capacity
- Health habits
- Probable duration of the decedent’s life, had he or she survived the wrongful act
These damages shall be distributed among the decedent’s children, spouse or next of kin according to their level of dependence upon the decedent.
Loss of Consortium
All damages recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit regarding loss of consortium shall be awarded to the decedent’s surviving spouse. This includes compensation for the loss of an intimate and emotional relationship, and includes damages for losing:
- Sexual relations
Loss of Companionship
The damages recovered for loss of companionship shall be payable to the decedent’s children and parents and distributed in proportion to the loss each suffered.
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit where the victim’s children and parents cannot receive a portion of the awarded damages, loss of companionship is intended only for parents and children. The decedent’s spouse cannot receive a portion of these damages.
In rare instances, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to the above damages in a wrongful death claim. However, these damages can only be awarded depending on certain factors listed in OKS Stat. § 23-9.1, which include the:
- Seriousness of the hazard to the public caused by the at-fault party’s misconduct
- Profitability of the at-fault party’s deeds
- Duration of the at-fault party’s misconduct and any attempt to conceal it
- Degree of the at-fault party’s knowledge of the hazard and of its excessiveness
- At-fault party’s attitude and conduct upon discovering the misconduct or hazard
- Number and level of employees involved in causing or hiding the misconduct from public knowledge, if the at-fault party is a corporation or entity
- Financial condition of the at-fault party
If these conditions are met, a jury can award punitive damages to the decedent’s surviving spouse and children in proportion to the same amount as personal property of the decedent’s estate.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Tulsa
At the Edwards Law Firm, we are committed to providing victims of negligence with diligent legal representation to recover the justice and compensation they deserve.
If your loved one’s untimely death was the result of another’s negligent or reckless actions, our wrongful death attorneys will thoroughly investigate the situation to hold the at-fault party accountable for your suffering.
We will provide you with a free legal evaluation of your claim to determine if you have a valid case that entitles you to compensation. We work only on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you receive compensation for your loss. Schedule a consultation today.