Who is entitled to wrongful death benefits in Oklahoma?

Any death is a tragedy, and it’s particularly devastating when caused by another’s negligent or reckless behavior.

Whether your loved one suffered a wrongful death from an auto accident, physical injury, medical malpractice, or something else, speaking with an attorney can give you clarity on how to recover financial compensation through a wrongful death claim.

What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Oklahoma?

The legal definition of wrongful death is the “wrongful act or omission of another” that causes death.

This could be an act that is negligent or reckless, such as a drunk driver causing a fatal crash. Or, it could be a failure to act (referred to as nonfeasance), where a party had a duty or responsibility to act and elected not to. The party’s inaction led to the person’s death.

Other common situations that result in wrongful death lawsuits include may involve crimes. With criminal activity, the defendant may have to answer in both criminal and civil courts. The difference between a criminal and civil action has to do with the consequences that the defendant faces. In a criminal case, the defendant may face jail time, and there is a high burden of proof that must be established to find the defendant “guilty.”

In a civil action, however, if the defendant is found “liable,” he or she will pay monetary damages to compensate the wronged party. In this situation, the wronged party is a personal representative or executor of the estate.

Who Is Able to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

While some other states allow surviving family members to file a lawsuit for wrongful death, Oklahoma law operates slightly differently. Here, the personal representative acts on behalf of the family members. In some cases, this representative is assigned in the will. If, however, the will does not specify a personal representative, one may be appointed by the court.

Types of Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases

Both economic and non-economic damages may be awarded to surviving family members in a wrongful death lawsuit. The eligible family members may include parents, children, and a spouse. Under Oklahoma law, siblings are excluded.

Economic damages are damages that can be measured. The courts will evaluate the various forms of information submitted to come with a figure to compensate the estate for the following:

–   Medical expenses

–   Burial expenses

–   Lost wages, including benefits, that the deceased person would reasonably have earned had they lived an average life span

–   Expenses paid to a guardian for the child’s education, support, and maintenance

Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify and fall under the categories of pain and suffering and mental anguish.

This compensation typically includes:

–   Grief and loss of consortium suffered by the surviving spouse

–   Grief and the loss of companionship experienced by the children and parents of the deceased

–   Loss of companionship, love, services, and support (if the deceased is a child)

–   Mental pain and anguish

In addition to economic and non-economic damages, some courts may award punitive damages. Though the deceased’s estate receives these damages, the purpose is not compensatory in nature. Instead, the goal of punitive damages is to punish egregiously lousy behavior and deter it in others.

Contact Bryan Garrett to Discuss Your Case

At Bryan Garrett PLLC, we operate with the utmost compassion and discretion. With over 15 years of practicing law in Oklahoma, Bryan Garrett has a long and successful track record in helping victims and their families.

Further, we work on a contingency basis, which means that you pay nothing until we’re successful in recovering payment for you. We encourage you to get in touch for a free consultation at (405) 369-4498.

Bryan Garrett PLLC

Bryan Garrett has been dedicated to personal injury law for over 15 years in Oklahoma City. He has achieved excellent results for countless clients, whether through settlement or litigation.

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