Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawyers
Our Oklahoma wrongful death attorneys understand that no amount of money can bring back a loved one. However, the person who died may have been a provider who was supporting you and your family, who you counted on for emotional and financial support.
The loss of a loved one can be devastating in many ways, which is why the law protects the rights of victims who suffer a loss due to another’s negligence. Remember, your case is about more than just money. It is about justice and accountability. It is about sending the message that the behavior which took the life of your loved one will not be tolerated.
Who is Allowed to Sue for the Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death cases can be confusing because the person who was injured and killed cannot hire a lawyer and sue the responsible party anymore. Because of this, Oklahoma Law makes a special exception that allows a “personal representative” of the deceased person’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court on their behalf. This personal representative is someone appointed by a judge who will have the best interests of the estate in mind such as an estate executor or administrator, especially if this person is approved by the surviving family. Additionally, surviving family members are also a typical choice in acting as a personal representative in a wrongful death claim. Preference is usually given to the spouse of the person who was killed, followed by their next of kin if no surviving spouse exists.
Choosing the right person to be responsible for the wrongful death claim of someone who was killed is a very important decision to make. While it may seem like common sense to select a family member, that may not always be the case. This person who is selected will act on behalf of all people entitled to the estate and must be trusted to act and make decisions that are in the best interests of everyone involved. Such choices included interacting with the wrongful death attorney, discussing potential settlement offers, and making decisions on whether a case should be settled or to go ahead and take the risk of going to trial.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the state of Oklahoma, a wrongful death suit is plainly defined by Oklahoma Statute 12 § 1053. It is when a death is caused by the “wrongful act or omission of another.” This “wrongful act” that has killed a family member can be caused by negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct by the defendant, the more severe the action the more severe the punitive damages may possibly be. Essentially, a wrongful death lawsuit is identical to that of a personal injury lawsuit except that it resulted in the death of the person, allowing for other damages to be considered.
A wrongful death claim requires the demonstration that negligence contributed, in whole or in part, to the deceased’s death and that the family suffered financial loss as a result of the death. Successful wrongful death lawsuits typically cover damages for:
- Medical Expenses
- Funeral Expenses
- Loss of Income / Loss of Future Income
- Loss of benefits such as health insurance and retirement packages
- Grief, trauma, and emotional anguish
- Loss of companionship, support, or parental guidance
- Punitive Damages to Punish the Negligent Party (In Rare Cases of Extreme Disregard for Human Life or Safety)
The laws governing who can file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In Oklahoma, people who can legally file a wrongful death claim include wives who have wrongfully lost a husband, children who have wrongfully lost a parent, and parents who have wrongfully lost a child.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims in Oklahoma
The death of a loved one always feels wrong, but when the death was entirely preventable had it not been for the negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing of someone else, it’s especially traumatic for those left behind. A successful wrongful death claim can help family members achieve a sense of justice as well as financial compensation. Common wrongful death claims in Oklahoma often stem from the following:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Slip and fall injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Defective product injuries
- Workplace accidents
- Acts of criminal violence
When another party owes a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to others, and they fail in that duty, they are responsible for damages. The death of the injury victim does not protect them from accountability. Family members left behind to suffer the damages deserve legal redress. A wrongful death lawsuit may be the answer to relieving financial burdens resulting from the death and helping grieving family members to achieve a sense of justice.
Is a Wrongful Death Claim the Same as a Survival Action?
It’s easy to confuse wrongful death claims with survival action claims in Oklahoma, but they are not the same. While a wrongful death claim focuses on compensating the deceased person’s close family members for the financial losses they suffer from losing a provider, as well as for their grief and anguish over the preventable death, a survival action focuses on the experience of the deceased family member before their death. For example, if the person suffered a long hospital stay with painful procedures, a survival action can gain compensation for their medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. This amount goes to the deceased person’s estate, while the compensation gained in a wrongful death claim goes directly to the closest family member, such as a spouse, parent, or child.
What Compensation is Available in an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Claim?
An unexpected death in a family causes shock, grief, and emotional anguish. It may also cause financial hardship related to the medical expenses incurred before the death, the funeral, and the loss of a family provider. When someone else’s negligence or wrongful behavior caused the death, they are responsible for damages. In most cases, damages are paid out by the negligent party’s insurance policy.
Fatal Accidents in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported there were 678 fatal traffic accidents in 2013. That’s an average of nearly 2 deaths per day. The state provides the number of fatal car accidents in Oklahoma County, and surrounding counties, for 2013. We have listed some of these statistics below to illustrate how common fatal accidents are in the Sooner State.
Fatal Accidents in Oklahoma Counties (2013):
- Oklahoma County: 75
- Logan County: 5
- Kingfisher County: 3
- Canadian County: 12
- Cleveland County: 21
- Pottawatomie County: 6
- Lincoln County: 14
When a family member is killed in a fatal car accident, contact an Oklahoma City accident attorney, as you may need to file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue fair compensation for your losses. A wrongful death lawsuit can also be used to hold the responsible individual or company accountable. Some wrongful death cases may be tied to other accidents or negligence. If a fatal workplace accident, medical malpractice, or other accident rooted in negligence claimed the life of someone you love, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyer at our office.
Will I Have to Go to Court for an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Case?
Most wrongful death cases in Oklahoma settle out of court. In fact, about 90% of Oklahoma wrongful death claims settle through an attorney’s strong negotiations with an insurance company so family members never have to testify in court. Only in the most challenging cases, or when an insurance company uses bad-faith practices and denies a valid claim does the case advance into a lawsuit. In the event that the case requires litigation, your Oklahoma wrongful death attorney from Dan Davis Law will file in court before the state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death expires. A skilled attorney will aggressively defend your rights and best interests in court.
What is the Statute of Limitations For Wrongful Death Cases in Oklahoma?
Like all states, Oklahoma places a time limit on wrongful death lawsuits. This statute of limitations helps to keep evidence readily available and testimony fresh and reliable. It also protects defendants against living under the threat of a lawsuit indefinitely. In Oklahoma, family members have 2 years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim. Most courts will simply dismiss lawsuits filed later than the 2-year limit. The only exceptions to this time limit occur when a defendant flees the state or remains unidentified for a period of time. In limited circumstances, the state may delay or suspend the two-year time limit for wrongful death. This suspension is known as “tolling” the statute of limitations.
Do I Have to Worry About Taxes After a Wrongful Death Payout?
Wrongful death claims are a type of personal injury claim. In most cases, payouts for physical injuries or fatalities aren’t taxable. The only exceptions may be on the portion of the payout allotted as compensation for lost wages, or on any interest accrued on the settlement between the filing date and the date of the payout.
If your payout on a wrongful death claim was only for emotional damages and not for a physical injury to the deceased, the compensation is taxable.
What Should I Do If A Family Member Suffered a Wrongful Death?
If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, reckless actions, or purposeful wrongdoing, you can take important steps to help your family achieve compensation and justice for your loss. To prepare for your wrongful death claim in Oklahoma, do the following:
- Determine who the family’s representative is likely to be based on the deceased family member’s will. It’s typically a spouse or adult child, but the court may appoint a family member as a representative if one isn’t named in a will
- Save all medical bills associated with the loved one’s fatal injury
- Save all invoices from the funeral and burial expenses
- Obtain a copy of the medical records, coroner’s report, and police report/accident report
- Gather financial documents such as the decedent’s W2 forms indicating their amount of annual income
- Gather any other relevant financial records to show loss of benefits such as medical insurance and retirement contributions
- Call the wrongful death attorneys at Dan Davis Law in Oklahoma City
It’s essential to take time to grieve your loved one’s loss and care for your family’s needs during this distressing time, but it’s also important to protect your family’s financial future and hold the negligent party responsible. Your actions following your loved one’s death can help maximize your financial recovery later so you can focus on your family’s emotional healing.
What If There Are Criminal Charges in My Loved One’s Case?
A wrongful death case in Oklahoma proceeds separately from any criminal charges pending in the case. For example, if your loved one died after an accident involving a drunk driver, your wrongful death claim takes place in civil court while the state may also charge the driver in criminal court. A wrongful death claim can proceed forward regardless of the verdict in criminal court.
If you have a family member who was killed, call us any time at (405) 930-4210. You don’t have to face this alone, we’re here to help.
It’s difficult enough dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, it’s another thing entirely trying to figure out how to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and continue supporting a family without them. It’s completely free to speak with one of our attorneys, and they’ll be ready to help you and your family at a moment’s notice. At the Law Offices of Dan Davis, you’ll never be treated like a number, our Oklahoma City injury attorneys are here for you when you need us most.