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Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Car Accident

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

The sudden death of a loved one is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult situations to cope with. When someone you care about loses their life because of another’s negligent act, this can add yet another layer of grief and trauma.

If you have recently lost someone close to you in a fatal car, truck, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle accident, you may be able to file a claim for wrongful death. This will allow the decedent’s close family members to receive compensation for losses suffered by the family because of the death. Read on to learn how these claims work in Oklahoma from our Tulsa wrongful death attorneys.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Oklahoma Statutes Chapter 12, Section 1053 defines wrongful death as " the death of one…caused by the wrongful act or omission of another." What does the law mean by a “wrongful act”? Negligent acts that can cause wrongful death due to a car accident often feature reckless driving, criminal acts, and manufacturing defects.

Common causes of car accidents that can lead to a fatality include:

  • Car manufacturing defects
  • Distracted driving, especially texting and driving
  • Driver fatigue
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Reckless driving (speeding, tailgating, etc.)
  • Street and highway defects

If a negligent act such as the above lead to your loved one’s death, you can file a wrongful death claim against the motorist, government organization, or manufacturing company responsible for the death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Only certain close, surviving family members of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim in Oklahoma. However, they must do so through a "personal representative" of the deceased. In some cases, the deceased will have appointed a personal representative in their estate plan before their passing. If there is no named personal representative on the deceased’s will, or the personal representative is unavailable, the court will appoint a personal representative.

Damages in an Oklahoma Wrongful Death Case

A wrongful death claim allows the surviving family members to receive a sum of money to cover any losses they have suffered as a result of the accident that killed their loved one. These damages are paid by the individual or company who caused the death (or, depending on the claim, through their auto insurance company).

Damages that are available in an Oklahoma wrongful death claim include:

  • Medical and burial expenses
  • Loss of consortium and the grief of the surviving spouse
  • Mental pain and anguish suffered by the decedent
  • Wages the decedent would have been expected to earn had they lived
  • Grief and loss of companionship of the children and parents of the decedent

The monetary value of each depends on your and your family’s specific losses, so make sure to save all receipts, bills, and other documentation related to the above to ensure you get properly reimbursed.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

According to state law, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two (2) years of the decedent’s passing. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations” and will prevent you from claiming damages if you try to file a claim after the deadline.

We understand this is a hard time for you and you likely have many questions than those we addressed above. Our legal team is here to answer them whenever you are ready to set up your free consultation.

Contact our compassionate and experienced Tulsa wrongful death attorneys now to get started.