Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
Personal injury lawsuits are designed to provide financial compensation when one person’s negligence led to another person’s injuries. Essentially, you are making the legal claim that you deserve a monetary reward from the person who injured you. You can sue to have your lost finances recouped, and you can even ask for damages from the pain and suffering you’ve endured.
What happens, then, if the injured party dies? Is there any legal recourse for financial compensation? The answer is yes. In that case, surviving loved ones may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death suits work the same as any other personal injury lawsuit. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit for a car accident that resulted in death.
How Does Wrongful Death Work?
Wrongful death is a type of personal injury lawsuit where the injured party died from the event. The death could be instantaneous, or it could happen later, after a fight for survival. The results of a wrongful death suit should look just like any other personal injury case.
Civil vs. Criminal Court
Wrongful death lawsuits are not murder trials. If the defendant loses, they don’t face any criminal punishment. Instead, they will be ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the plaintiff. When a plaintiff proves that a defendant intentionally harmed the deceased, the plaintiff can be compensated for a “tort.” Torts are intentional, wrongful acts that damage someone else.
Another difference between wrongful death and murder is the amount of evidence needed to win. When the state accuses someone of murder, they need to prove that the murder happened “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The jury must be 100% sure that the accused committed the act. In a civil case, the court requires a “preponderance of evidence.” This means that the plaintiffs must convince the court that the defendant was at least 51% responsible for the act in question.
There are many kinds of damages you can receive in a wrongful death suit. “Damages” is a term for the financial compensation you win at the end of a civil suit. You can recover the money you lost because of your loved one’s death. This can include money spent on medical bills or funeral expenses. You can also include lost wages in the lawsuit. Losing an adult family member creates a real, tangible financial impact on the family. Additionally, you can receive damages for loss of potential wages, assuming the deceased had a higher earning potential.
Personal injury claims also allow for damages in the form of “pain and suffering.” When the injured party is still alive, they can be compensated for the time they spent hurting from their injuries. The courts allow for this claim to include mental suffering as well. In a wrongful death lawsuit, you can sue for the emotional agony you have endured after losing your loved one.
You can sometimes include the loss of services provided by the deceased as well. The value people bring into our lives is not always monetary. Perhaps the deceased was not the primary earner in the home, but they were the one who managed the home. They kept the house clean and functional. Maybe they took care of vehicle maintenance, and they took the kids to school in the morning. Readjusting to life without them will be pragmatically difficult. There is no amount of money that can replace their presence in the home, but compensation can help the surviving family members as they readjust.
When a plaintiff wins a wrongful death case, the money is distributed to the surviving family according to the state’s inheritance laws. Oklahoma has a specific chain of family members who can inherit assets called “intestate succession.” This chain of survivors is used as the basis for beneficiaries of a wrongful death case.
Who Can File?
After someone dies, the court appoints a personal representative, or “PR,” of the estate. This person handles the affairs of the estate, paying off leftover bills, appraising property, and distributing assets to the deceased’s loved ones. The PR can be named in the deceased’s will, or, in the absence of a will, they can be appointed by the court. Only the personal representative of the estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit on the deceased’s behalf. This means that the lawsuit can be brought forth by a non-family member. PRs have two years after the person’s death to file suit.
If a loved one was killed in a car accident, call us today. Our number is (918) 347-6456, and we can be reached online. We care about our clients, and we want to help you seek damages to ease your burden during this difficult time.