When a family member dies due to the negligence or carelessness of another person, the family is entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the wrongdoers. The aim of wrongful death claims is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions in civil court.
A wrongful death claim is brought by the spouse, personal representative, special administrator or next of kin of the decedent. The representative generally files the claim on behalf of the spouse, children or next of kin. If the accident victim was a child, then the parents are the beneficiaries. Some other people such as grandparents may benefit depending on the decedent’s family relationships.
Oklahoma’s wrongful death statute provides that the damages payable to the beneficiaries/survivors are:
- The medical and burial expenses
- A spouse’s grief and loss of consortium
- The “mental pain and anguish” of the decedent before he/she died
- The “grief and loss companionship” of the children and parents of the decedent
- The financial losses of the survivor due to the decedent’s wrongful death
- In some cases, the survivors may also be entitled to punitive or exemplary damages meant to punish the wrongdoer for inexcusable conduct
In Oklahoma, wrongful death claims include the death of an unborn person (as defined by Oklahoma law). An experienced wrongful death lawyer can explain who is responsible and how.
The family members normally testify as to their own grief, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship Skilled wrongful death lawyers work to show just how devastating the loss of a loved one is.
How is the pecuniary loss determined in a wrongful death case?
The financial losses are usually shown with the help of financial professionals who have expertise in analyzing death cases. Oklahoma considers the following factors in determining the pecuniary losses:
- The victims’ age and life expectancy
- The victims occupation
- The earning capacity of the victim
- The health of the victim prior to the accident
Generally, unless it’s clear from the statute, the judge decides how to apportion the financial losses among the survivors.
What are the practical issues in a wrongful death case?
As with all negligence cases, skilled wrongful death lawyers work to prove that:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent. For example, all drivers owe a duty of responsible driving to other drivers on the road.
- The defendant beached the duty of car. In the car example, speeding or running through a red light indicates the duty of car was breached.
- The accident caused the victim to die. We work with investigators, traffic reconstruction experts, industry professionals, and your physicians to help show your loved one died due to the accident.
If there are criminal charges, such as DUI charges, the criminal case usually proceeds first. A conviction in the criminal case often helps to force a settlement in the civil case.
In wrongful death cases, the ability of the defendant to testify about how the accident happened is often limited or forbidden, because the accident victim can’t tell his/her version of the events. This means that the case is usually proven by physical evidence, by eyewitnesses, and through other means. The dying words of the victim are generally admissible.
If the survivor is a child, it may be necessary to establish a trust on the child’s behalf.
If a loved one was killed due the negligence of another person or business, the wrongdoer should be held accountable. At Biby Law Firm, we guide the survivors through each stage of the litigation process. Many wrongful death cases due settle before trial. Call us at 918-574-8458 or use out our contact form to schedule an appointment with an experienced Tulsa wrongful death attorney.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.