Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Oklahoma
The death of a loved one is always a difficult event. If that death was due to someone’s negligence or reckless behavior, it can be even harder to take. In such situations, the American legal system allows families to recover from the actions (or inactions) of at-fault parties. However, the law in each state can differ.
Who May Bring a Case In A Wrongful Death Scenario?
Oklahoma Statute Title 12, Chapter 17 Section 1053 provides the statutory framework guiding wrongful death lawsuits in The Sooner State. This statute defines a wrongful death as a death “caused by the wrongful act or omission of another.” A person who believes the death of a family member is a “wrongful death” must generally commence a case to collect damages within two years of the death against the person or persons believed to have been negligent or reckless in causing the death. Failure to do so may bar the plaintiff from ever bringing the suit.
When the deceased is an unborn child, Oklahoma’s wrongful death statute also applies. An exception is when a woman is pregnant and the unborn dies, unless the death was caused by the mother’s criminal actions.
Medical actions can have an inherent high risk of death, and the statute specifically states that a death that occurs “pursuant to the usual and customary standards of medical practice during diagnostic testing or therapeutic treatment,” will not be considered a wrongful death.
When a plaintiff prevails in a wrongful death lawsuit and the dollar amount of the damages is determined, the judge in the case apportions the share to each of the deceased’s survivors, which may include parents, children, and spouses.
What Are Monetary Damages for Wrongful Death?
What monetary damages can plaintiffs in wrongful death suits claim, and collect, if successful?
- Medical and funeral costs, paid to the person or entity who paid the expenses.
- Loss of companionship and grief to a surviving spouse, the mental pain and anguish the deceased suffered before death.
- Loss of companionship and grief of a surviving spouse, children, and parents.
- Mental pain and anguish suffered by the deceased.
- Expected financial loss of the decedent’s family, taking into account factors such as the expected life span of the decedent prior to death and the decedent’s earning capacity, health-related habits and health condition, ages of the decedent’s dependents, and any loss of inheritance.
The factors relating to a family’s pecuniary loss will result in a wide range of damage amounts awarded by the courts.
Additional punitive damages (often referred to as exemplary damages) are sometimes recognized by Oklahoma courts in wrongful death cases in order to punish especially egregious behavior by a defendant, and as a way to send a message of warning to all that certain behavior will not be condoned.
Legal Advice on Wrongful Death
While there are many situations that can result in death, some common causes of wrongful death include vehicular accidents, defective products and pharmaceuticals, medical malpractice, and workplace accidents.
Anyone who thinks a loved one’s death was caused by the negligence or recklessness of another should seek the legal advice of a skilled and experienced attorney.