When someone else’s actions lead to the death of a loved one, it can be emotionally and financially devastating. A wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated to help recover financial damages, but there are specific rules in Oklahoma you should be aware of before proceeding.
This article will briefly overview how wrongful death claims work in Oklahoma. For more information or answers to specific questions about your case, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a civil action that can occur when another person’s negligent or reckless behavior results in the death of a loved one. This type of claim is distinct from a criminal charge that can result in the offending party potentially serving jail time or paying a fine.
When someone is found “guilty” for the death of another in a criminal proceeding, the surviving family members may have closure, but they are not given any financial compensation. By contrast, a wrongful death claim serves to financially compensate the deceased person’s estate and their loved ones.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
In many states, a close family member such as a spouse, child, or other relative can initiate this type of lawsuit. However, Oklahoma has a different set of rules to abide by. Instead of allowing a family member to file a wrongful death claim, a personal representative assigned to the estate is the only party authorized in this manner.
The personal representative, as the name suggests, represents both the estate and the family members. The deceased will have ideally assigned a personal representative in their will, but if none has been assigned, the court can appoint someone.
Possible Damages Available in Oklahoma Wrongful Death Cases
Several categories of damages will be calculated by your attorney and the other party’s insurance company to settle on an amount that should be paid to the decedent’s estate.
Though no amount of money can adequately compensate someone for losing a loved one, the goal is to approximate an amount that substitutes for the monetary support the person would have provided during the rest of their estimated lifespan and an additional amount for emotional anguish.
Potential damages include:
– Medical and funeral expenses
– Lost wages and benefits the person would have likely earned
– Loss of consortium
– Mental and emotional anguish
– Punitive damages
– Loss of anticipated services and support
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
Unlike a criminal case where the evidence must be presented “beyond a reasonable doubt,” liability for wrongful death can be shown by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the plaintiff (the personal representative) must present evidence that shows it is “likely” that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the death.
There are typically three elements that must be proven by the plaintiff for the lawsuit to succeed:
1. The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care. There could be different standards here, depending on whether the defendant had a special relationship with the victim or had specialized knowledge.
2. It must then be shown that the defendant breached the duty of care. The plaintiff will need to present evidence that the defendant did something that violated or breached this duty.
3. And finally, it’s required to show that the incident resulted in the victim’s death. Various evidence can be presented here, including accident reports, maintenance records, and expert testimony.
Contact an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Attorney to Discuss Your Case
We understand that this can be an incredibly challenging time for you and your family, and Attorney Bryan Garrett is here to lend a sympathetic ear and actionable legal advice. If you’ve lost a loved one because a person or company acted negligently or carelessly, that party should be held accountable. Contact us at 405-369-4498 to schedule a consultation.