Wrongful Death Attorney

Tulsa Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one due to another’s negligence or intentional actions can lead to significant pain and suffering for survivors. When these situations arise, is may be possible for surviving family members and the estate of the deceased to recover compensation for their losses. Wrongful death lawsuits in Tulsa, if they are successful, not only help families with their expenses, but they can also bring a measure of closure.

Oklahoma’s Intestacy Laws

It can be challenging to understand who receives compensation if a wrongful death claim is successful in Oklahoma. According to state law, if the deceased leaves behind children but no spouse, the children will inherit everything and divide shares equally. However, if the deceased leaves behind a spouse but no descendants, parents, or siblings, the spouse will inherit everything.

If there are no the deceased leaves behind parents but no spouse or descendants, the parents inherit all of the property, and if there are only surviving siblings and no spouse or other descendants, the siblings inherit everything.

The intestacy calculations can get complicated if there are various decedents and a spouse, and individuals should work with a wrongful death lawyer who can help throughout this process.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

An untimely and unexpected death caused by another’s negligence, carelessness, unlawfulness, or recklessness constitutes a wrongful death. A wrongful death claim is a civil action for financial damages taken against the person, business, or government entity responsible for the injured victim’s death. Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths in Oklahoma include:

  • Surgical Errors
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Dangerous Products
  • Child Abuse / Neglect (foster care, daycare)
  • Elder Abuse / Neglect (nursing home, caretaker)
  • Accidents from Negligence
  • Work Accidents
  • Failing to respond to changing road conditions

Wrongful death claims are often filed by the surviving family members of the person who was injured and died. Some states require a wrongful death lawsuit be filed by the individual responsible for the estate.

Wrongful death lawsuits may emerge when a victim who may have properly filed a personal injury claim against another party then dies as a result of the defendant’s negligent acts.

Meeting the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit can be tough. To prove the elements of the claim, most likely negligence, a wrongful death attorney will need to gather evidence to establish a claim for negligence.

Survivors of someone who dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing may file a “wrongful death” claim. In some circumstances, restitution is sought for surviving losses such as the deceased’s lost wages, companionship, and funeral expenses.

Who Files a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Death?

In some places, the surviving family members of a deceased person can pursue a wrongful death case. In Oklahoma, however, the personal representative (sometimes known as the “executor”) of the deceased person’s estate is required by law to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Both the deceased person and the beneficiaries or heirs of the deceased are represented by the personal representative.

In many cases, a personal representative will have been named in the deceased person’s will. The court may appoint a personal representative if there is no named personal representative or if the named personal representative is unable or unwilling to serve.

The executor, or personal representative must be at least 18 years of age, be of sound mind (not deemed incapacitated by a court of law), and have not been convicted of a felony. A possible executor found unfit because of “drunkenness, improvidence, or lack of comprehension and honesty” will be rejected by an Oklahoma probate court in addition to the limits listed previously. Furthermore, a nonresident executor in Oklahoma must appoint an agent who lives in the county where the estate is being probated.

Distribution of Wrongful Death Damages

If the case is decided in the claimant’s or plaintiff’s favor, Oklahoma divides wrongful death damages into two parts, each of which will benefit two different groups of persons. The first category includes damages to the deceased, such as pain and suffering caused by their fatal accident or sickness, as well as wages they would have earned had their ailment or illness not been fatal. Damages paid for these reasons will go to the estate of the deceased.

The second category includes losses suffered by the deceased’s loved ones. Funeral expenditures, emotional stress, and loss of companionship are the three most prevalent types of damages in this category, and they will usually be paid to the deceased’s qualifying family members, such as spouses and children.

Punitive damages might also be given to the estate or members of the family. Punitive damages may be awarded if the offender committed an egregious act that resulted in the death or illness. Punitive damages, for example, could be used to punish a drunk motorist who was speeding through a residential area at a reckless speed before causing a deadly crash.

Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injury is the fourth-largest cause of mortality in the United States. Each year, about 160,000 people die as a result of unintentional accidents.

The following are some of the most common wrongful death instances, according to the CDC:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents, including truck accidents
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Premise Liability Accidents
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Medication or Prescription Error or Overdose
  • Boating Accidents
  • Workplace Accidents

The victim’s family members must be able to show that the at-fault motorist acted negligently or recklessly in a fatal auto accident for a wrongful death claim after a car accident.

A bicycle accident fatality must be caused by someone’s fault to be termed wrongful death. Frequently, the motorist is negligent, speeding, driving while distracted or inebriated, or breaking other regulations, resulting in the death of another person. If the driver is operating a commercial vehicle or is working, their employer may be held accountable. Companies can be held liable for bicycle wrongful fatalities if they fail to screen drivers, train them appropriately, or take other acts.

Premises liability fatalities occur when someone dies as a result of a property owner’s or manager’s willful disregard for their duty of care. Survivors have the right to file a wrongful death premises liability claim.

When a medical professional’s negligence or lack of adequate treatment directly causes a patient’s death, this is known as medical malpractice. In order to preserve patients’ health and safety, medical personnel must adhere to particular medical standards of care. Failure to achieve these requirements by doctors, nurses, or medical specialists may expose them to accountability for the consequences. Medical malpractice refers to any treatment of patients that is deemed inappropriate or irresponsible.

An employer could be held accountable for workplace fatalities depending on the circumstances. Wrongful death in the workplace occurs when an employee is killed while on the job.

Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim

A person’s untimely death is frequently caused by the neglect of another person. Negligence is defined as failing to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. To put it another way, negligence is merely another person’s error. The fact that someone may not have intended to cause your loved one’s death does not absolve them of responsibility.

Each of the four components of negligence must be met in order to be successful in a wrongful death claim arising from an individual’s negligent actions: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Duty: What a “reasonable person” would do in the same or similar circumstances determines a person’s duty. Everyone is required by law to act with reasonable caution in order to avoid foreseeable harm to others. Meaning, an individual owes the victim a responsibility if a reasonable person would believe that such an obligation exists in the same circumstances that caused the untimely passing of a loved one.

Breach: To be deemed negligent, it must be established that the person who caused the death of a loved one not only had a duty to that person but also breached that obligation. The first two components of negligence are satisfied if someone breached a duty they owed to a person.

Causation: To be deemed negligent, a person’s breach of duty must have resulted in his or her death. In most cases, causation can be seen as fault. In the area of negligence, there are two types of causation: cause in fact and proximate cause. “Cause in fact” indicates that the individual was the direct cause of the death—the death would not have been caused if it had not been for the individual’s negligent acts. Proximate cause, on the other hand, is concerned with an individual’s level of responsibility in the situation that resulted in the death of the injured person. If it was foreseeable that the individual’s activities may have caused the death, then he or she will be held to be the proximate cause of death.

Damages: An individual must be able to show that he or she was harmed by the at-fault party’s wrongful actions in order to be declared negligent. In a wrongful death lawsuit, this aspect is easier to establish because the “injury” was the untimely death of your loved one.

If all four elements can be established, then a person will be held liable for the death of the injured victim.

Statute of Limitations in Oklahoma

A person in Oklahoma has two years from the date of their loved one’s death to launch a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. This is known as the Statute of Limitations. The restrictions period is fairly short. If an executor fails to file a lawsuit against the negligent party within that two-year period, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case.

That is why it is vital to begin a wrongful death case with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following the death of a loved one.

Under Oklahoma law, there are two exceptions to the statute of limitations:

  • When all surviving family members are younger than 18 years of age.
  • If the executor of the estate or personal representative is not aware of how the death was caused. The personal representative and attorneys will need a discovery period in order to find the cause of death, and this can sometimes take longer than two years.

It is also worth noting that criminal proceedings have little impact on wrongful death litigation. Civil actions for wrongful death are heard in civil court, whereas criminal cases are heard in criminal court, and the two will have no bearing on the other.

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