First and foremost, we are incredibly sorry that you find yourself here. The fact that you are investigating whether a wrongful death lawsuit would be appropriate for you and your situation means something very tragic has happened in your life.
After the unexpected death of a loved one, legal definitions and terms are probably the last thing on your mind. But after some time has passed, you may want to explore your legal options regarding the accident, whether it was a car wreck, a slip and fall incident, medical malpractice, or a workplace incident. Whenever a loved one dies because of the carelessness, recklessness, or negligence of another, the survivors may be eligible for compensation. Each state is different in terms of what compensation may be recoverable.
Texas Wrongful Death
In Texas, the statute for wrongful death is Texas Statutes section 71.002 (d)(2)(A), which states that an action for wrongful death may be brought if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party causes the death of another.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Texas, the surviving spouse, children, and/or parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. Any of them may file individually or they may file together as a group.
However, if the above-named individuals do not file a wrongful death claim within the months of the date of death, the personal representative or executor of the deceased individual’s estate may file the claim, unless a surviving family member request otherwise.
In Texas, an adopted child, if fully and legally adopted by the adoptive parent, may file a wrongful death claim for the adoptive parent. Similarly, the adoptive parents may file a wrongful death claim for an adopted child.
Oddly enough, an adopted child may not file a claim for the wrongful death of a biological parent. And Texas law does not allow surviving sibling to file a wrongful death claim for the death of a brother or sister, regardless of being biological or adopted.
Damages are paid to compensate the surviving family members and the estate for their losses from the unexpected and untimely death. Damages in Texas may be compensated for losses such as:
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel of the deceased
- Mental and emotional anguish, pain, and suffering
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society
- Lost inheritance, including what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members if they lived an average lifetime
In some instances, exemplary damages, also known as “punitive damages” may be available. These types of damages may be recovered only when the wrongful death was caused by a willful act or by gross negligence. Exemplary damages are put forward not to compensate the family, but instead to punish the wrongdoer and send a message to dissuade others from such action.
Oklahoma Wrongful Death
In Oklahoma, the statute for wrongful death is Oklahoma Statutes Chapter 12, Section 1053, which states wrongful death as a situation “when the death of one is caused by the wrongful act of another.”
Who May File?
In Oklahoma law, it is the “personal representative” of the deceased individual’s estate that is allowed to bring forth a wrongful death claim. The personal representative is essentially a stand in for the deceased and for the beneficiaries or heirs of the deceased.
If the deceased had an estate plan in place that named a personal representative, that appointed person, often the spouse of the deceased, although sometimes parents, children, and siblings are appointed, given that they are willing and able, will likely be recognized by the court and will be allowed to file a wrongful death claim.
In instances where there is no estate plan and no named personal representative, the court may appoint a personal representative. Often times, this person is a family member, although they don’t have to be.
Oklahoma wrongful death lawsuits allow two separate categories for damages to be sought:
- Damages suffered by the deceased
- Pain and suffering endured between the final injury or illness and the death
- Loss of wages and benefits the deceased would likely have earned if he or she had lived
- Damages suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the deceased person’s death
- Loss of companionship
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
Like Texas, Oklahoma allows for punitive damages to be awarded to punish particularly bad conduct and send a message condemning that kind of behavior.
If you have lost a loved one due to negligence, contact us today for a free consultation. We can answer your questions and help you determine if you have a case. Call us at (940) 569-4000 or send us a confidential message by completing one of our contact forms.