Frequently Asked Questions
“wrongful death” is defined as a preventable death that results from an individual or organization’s negligence or misconduct.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case brought against the entity whose actions allegedly led to someone’s accidental death.
What is a “wrongful death” lawsuit?
Examples of actions that can lead to a wrongful death may include:
- a product that was designed or manufactured defectively
- negligent or careless conduct, such as malpractice
- exposure to hazards while on the job
- reckless conduct or gross negligence, such as causing a car accident while driving under the influence
- intentional misconduct or deliberate harm, such as criminal behavior
Each state has its own set of laws that define wrongful death and regulate who can file a lawsuit, as well as the types of losses that may be recovered and the timeframe in which a suit must be filed. Kentucky statute 411.130 defines wrongful death as that “of a person (that) results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” State law allows for damages to be received from the party who caused the death. In the case of gross negligence or deliberate intent to cause harm, punitive damages may also be recovered.
Which elements must be present to bring a wrongful death lawsuit?
A successful wrongful death lawsuit must show that an individual lost their life due to another party’s negligence or misconduct and that the deceased person’s family members were impacted financially by the death. A wrongful death case must be able to establish that:
- The death was caused by another individual’s or entity’s neglect, default, misconduct or wrongful act;
- The deceased individual has surviving dependents or beneficiaries, such as a spouse or children; and
- These surviving family members have experienced measurable monetary injury as a result of the wrongful death
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Kentucky?
Not all family members are eligible to file wrongful death claims in Kentucky. State law allows wrongful death actions to be filed only by a court-appointed representative of the deceased person’s estate. The court appoints this representative — often an immediate family member of the deceased, such as a spouse or an adult child — to act as an executor or administrator of the estate. In this capacity, the representative may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How much time do I have to file a wrongful death claim?
Kentucky law allows surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit for up to one year from the date of death. Suits filed after that one-year period have very little chance of resulting in financial recovery. While a year may seem like a long time, keep in mind that investigations can move slowly, and filing a lawsuit can be complex and time-consuming. We suggest contacting an attorney as soon as possible in the case of a wrongful death, before the statute of limitations runs out.
How are wrongful death and murder different?
Wrongful death claims are filed in civil court, by eligible representatives. The plaintiffs in such a case must show a preponderance of evidence to prove that the defendant is liable for the victim’s death. If the defendant is found legally responsible, they must pay monetary damages.
In contrast, murder charges are filed in criminal court by the state. The prosecution attempts to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant is found guilty, they (usually) are punished through incarceration.
Who can be sued for wrongful death?
Wrongful death lawsuits may be brought against a range of entities, including individuals, companies, organizations and government agencies.
What types of damages can survivors recover in a wrongful death claim?
Under Kentucky law, a personal representative may recover losses that include:
- Medical bills from before the death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of financial support
- Reimbursement for future services the victim would have provided
- Compensation for pain or suffering experienced by the victim
- Loss of care, companionship, support and parental leadership
- Punitive damages in the case of particularly gross negligence or malicious misconduct
Who may receive damages from a successful lawsuit?
Kentucky law directs damages to surviving family members and the victim’s estate, including:
- To the victim’s spouse, if they had no children
- If the victim had children, half to the spouse, half to the children
- To the victim’s children, if they had no spouse
- To the victim’s parents, if they had no children or spouse
- To the estate, if the victim had no children, spouse or parents
If you’d like to learn more or have a question about wrongful death claims, please contact the Johnson Law Firm for a free consultation.
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