Wrongful Death Laws in Oklahoma
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The loss of a family member can impact a family in many ways. In addition to dealing with the emotional aspect associated with the passing of a loved one, the surviving family members must also confront the economic aspect of the situation. For instance, the surviving family members are often left wondering how future bills and expenses will be paid for.
In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action that are brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because wrongful death causes of action are established by state law, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.
If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may result in a wrongful death claim. The State of Oklahoma defines wrongful death simply as one that is “caused by the wrongful act or omission of another”. The “wrongful act or omission” of the person or entity that led to the death of the individual can be intentional, reckless, or negligent.
The Oklahoma wrongful death statute essentially treats a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the deceased to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.
It is important to keep in mind that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court.
However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose challenging legal questions, it is worth discussing your options with a wrongful death attorney.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This personal representative is often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses, adult siblings, or adult children of the deceased.
If the personal representative named in the decedent’s estate plan is also deceased, then the personal representative of that individual is entitled to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no named personal representative, or the named personal representative is unable or unwilling to serve, the court may appoint a personal representative.
What Damages are Available in an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Claim?
A successful wrongful death claim will lead to compensation in the form money damages. In Oklahoma, the damages recoverable for a wrongful death claim may include the following:
- Medical and burial expenses (distributed to the person or agency who paid for these expenses)
- Loss of consortium and grief of the surviving spouse (distributed to the spouse)
- Mental pain and anguish suffered by the decedent (distributed to the surviving spouse and children, if any)
- Loss of wages and benefits the deceased would likely have earned if not for the death (distributed to the surviving spouse and children, if any)
- Grief and loss of companionship of the children and parents of the decedent (distributed to the children and parents of the decedent)
Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. Unlike typical compensatory damages, which are intended to make a party whole, punitive damages are intended to punish acts which are particularly egregious or reckless.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than two years after the date of the deceased’s death are effectively barred from being litigated in court.
However, some circumstances may “toll” or pause this two-year time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with a attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding Oklahoma’s statute of limitations.
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our dedicated attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.