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Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyers

Losing a loved one in an accident is overwhelming and devastating. Suddenly, a person you counted on personally, emotionally, and financially is gone. If another party caused the accident, it is critical to know what your legal rights are. A wrongful death lawsuit could be the best way to hold someone liable for your loved one’s death.

When considering legal action, you should speak to Oklahoma City’s wrongful death lawyers at Nix Patterson. Our attorneys have extensive experience holding parties liable for their negligent actions. A wrongful death claim, if successful, could provide you and your family with vital compensation to rebuild your lives.

Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Statistics

Accidents cause many deaths annually in Oklahoma City, per Oklahoma State Department of Health statistics. There are ten counties in the Oklahoma City metro area, and these counties had the following accident deaths in 2018 — the most recent year such statistics have been made available:

  • Cleveland: 95 deaths
  • Canadian: 84 deaths
  • Grady: 38 deaths
  • Lincoln: 16 deaths
  • Kingfisher: 6 deaths
  • Logan: 16 deaths
  • McClain: 19 deaths
  • Oklahoma: 406 deaths
  • Payne: 23 deaths
  • Pottawatomie: 40 deaths

The total number of accidental deaths in Oklahoma City in 2018 was 740, with 2,610 deaths statewide.

What Is Considered Wrongful Death?

In Oklahoma, a wrongful death occurs when the death of your loved one was because of another person’s wrongful act. The wrongful act may be purposeful, reckless, or negligent. If the accident that occurred could have led to a personal injury lawsuit if the person had lived, it could be a valid wrongful death lawsuit.

Be aware that the wrongful death claim is a civil action, not a criminal one. A criminal case is filed by the prosecutor when a crime is alleged to have happened, and the case’s outcome could involve punishment for the defendant. On the other hand, a wrongful death claim is a civil claim brought by someone or a group of people to receive damages for the person’s death. You can receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit regardless of whether a criminal case was filed.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Oklahoma City

The death of someone you love always feels unfair, but if the death was preventable, it’s even more difficult. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can assist you and your family members in obtaining a measure of justice as well as compensation. Some of the common wrongful causes of wrongful death in Oklahoma City are:

  • Auto accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Work-related accidents
  • Elder abuse and nursing home neglect
  • Dangerous product incidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Defective product incidents
  • Criminal violence

When another party owed your loved one a duty of care to prevent them from harm, and they failed in that duty, they could be liable for damages. Even though the injury victim died, it does not mean the negligent party escapes accountability. The remaining family members can receive compensation in a wrongful death claim if they can prove that the other party caused the death.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Each state has rules dictating who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Oklahoma, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file the claim. The court will name one or more people to act as the estate’s personal representative for the lawsuit. It is common for the personal representative to be a close family member, such as a spouse, adult child, or sibling.

Note that while the court can name the personal representative, it does not necessarily mean they will receive compensation from the wrongful death lawsuit. Awarded damages are distributed to the decedent’s next of kin, usually the spouse, children, and parents.

Compensation Available in Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury claim, the primary difference being that the victim did not live. The compensation that could be obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit includes:

  • Medical and burial expenses. Provided to the person or entity that paid the expenses. They could be paid to the decedent’s estate if the money came from there.
  • Loss of current and future income. You and your family could be entitled to money for losing your family member’s current and future income. Your Oklahoma City wrongful death attorney may hire economic experts to estimate what your loved one would have earned if they lived a normal life.
  • Loss of companionship. The spouse, parents, and children could be entitled to compensation for the loss of the person’s companionship and support.
  • Pain and suffering by the deceased. This money is for the pain and mental anguish your loved one suffered.

How Is Wrongful Death Negligence Proven?

If another person’s negligence caused a person’s death, you could be entitled to damages if you can prove it. There are four aspects of negligence you must meet to have a successful wrongful death lawsuit. They are:

  • Duty. Refers to what a reasonable person would have done in a similar circumstance. Under the law, everyone must be reasonably careful to avoid harming others. For instance, we have a duty of care to drive safely and not violate the law.
  • Breach. To be found negligent, you must establish that the person who caused the death had a duty and breached it. For instance, if a drunk driver killed your brother, that driver breached their duty to drive safely and not harm others.
  • Causation. The breach of duty has to have caused the death. If the drunk driver ran a red light and your brother died in the accident, that is causation. There will need to be extensive evidence that the breach of duty caused the death, such as witness testimony, police reports, skid marks, video, etc.
  • Damages. You also have to show the wrongful actions that harmed you. If your loved one died in the accident, you should be able to show that you have damages, such as funeral bills, lost earnings from your relative, and emotional distress.

What Are The Wrongful Death Laws in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, state law says that a wrongful death is one caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of another party. Under the law, the children, surviving spouse, and parents may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Oklahoma law also states you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.

Does Oklahoma City Have a Cap on Wrongful Death Claims?

Some states have caps on damages for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. However, Oklahoma does not. In 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that an earlier cap of $350,000 on pain and suffering damages in wrongful death lawsuits was unconstitutional. While compensation for your pain and anguish from the loss won’t bring your loved one back, it can offer financial relief to help you get back on your feet.

Are Wrongful Death Benefits Taxable?

As with most personal injury claims, most wrongful death lawsuit compensation isn’t taxable at the state or federal levels. Settlements and court awards for personal injuries aren’t usually taxable. However, receiving money for punitive damages will be considered taxable income at the state and federal levels. You also could owe taxes if you had no physical trauma, and the compensation was awarded for emotional distress. Your Nix Patterson wrongful death attorney can help determine if any part of your compensation can be taxed.

How Long Does an Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Claim Take?

Understandably, you want fast financial relief and justice for your loved one’s death. But depending on the case, it will take months or possibly years to resolve the matter. The laws of Oklahoma allow two years from the date of the person’s death to file a lawsuit.

Your attorney will try to obtain a fair settlement through insurance negotiations after they craft a persuasive demand letter outlining your losses and damages. If the insurance company contests the claim and doesn’t offer a fair sum, your attorney could take the case to court.

How Are Wrongful Death Damages Distributed?

If your case is decided in your favor, Oklahoma law divides the money into two parts, benefiting a different group. The first is damages for the deceased, including pain and suffering and lost wages. Those damages are paid to the estate.

The second category includes the damages the person’s loved ones suffered, such as emotional stress, funeral costs, and loss of companionship. These funds are usually provided to the decedent’s family, such as the spouse and children.

If there are punitive damages, they may go to the estate or family members, depending on the situation. For instance, punitive damages could be awarded for a drunk-driving accident in which the defendant was highly intoxicated.

Do You Have to Hire an Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyer?

No. You aren’t required to hire a wrongful death attorney to represent you in a wrongful death claim. However, this is usually the correct move for most grieving families.

Just like with personal injury claims, winning a wrongful death lawsuit usually requires a deep professional accident investigation and aggressive negotiations with insurance companies. For instance, if your relative died in a truck accident, you will have to prove that the other driver was responsible. Proving this fact by a preponderance of the evidence may require witness statements, police reports, a crash analysis, photos, video, and more. Only a skilled wrongful death attorney has the experience and resources to investigate your claim and prove negligence.

Also, determining the value of your case is complicated, and most victims undervalue their damages. What price tag do you put on the loss of your spouse? How do you determine what the person would have earned at work if they had lived an average lifespan? What is your mental anguish worth? Most grieving families wouldn’t know where to start in answering these questions.

Your wrongful death attorney addresses these issues, proves liability, and determines a fair case value. You can turn the legal case over to the experts while you grieve and spend time with your loved ones.

How Is a Wrongful Death Attorney Paid?

A common concern about filing a wrongful death lawsuit is that the plaintiff may be unable to afford the legal expenses. After all, attorneys bill at high hourly rates, so how could a grieving family that lost a breadwinner be able to afford it?

Fortunately, most wrongful death lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t pay upfront legal fees for your lawyer’s services. Instead, your lawyer takes no money from you for legal expenses. If the case is successful, your attorney will take a percentage of the settlement or verdict award. In many cases, you would pay 33% to 40% of whatever you receive at the end of the case.

What if my Loved One Died on the Job?

If your loved one dies at work in Oklahoma, the family could be entitled to workers’ comp death benefits. These benefits may include money for funeral and medical expenses, lost income, and financial support for dependents. If there was a third party responsible, you could be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against them.

For instance, if a defective piece of equipment at work killed your spouse, you might receive workers’ comp from the employer and potentially wrongful death lawsuit benefits by suing the equipment manufacturer. These cases are complex, so talk to your wrongful death attorney if your relative was killed in a job-related accident.

Speak to Nix Patterson’s Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyers Today

Losing your loved ones in a tragic accident is one of the worst things that can happen in life. The Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyers at Nix Patterson have years of experience helping people across the city and state hold negligent parties responsible. Our law firm focuses on obtaining financial justice for families who have been wronged in accidents involving the death of a loved one. Contact our Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyers today for a complimentary consultation.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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