After a loved one dies, pursuing legal action against the parties responsible for the death is not usually a priority. The emotional toll of their passing is costly; additionally the loss of the family member’s income can lead to significant financial hardships. Wrongful death actions cannot replace a loved one, but they can help with the financial burden brought about by the loved one’s absence.
When someone dies from an accident or severe injury from the negligence of another, the law allows their family members to file a lawsuit. Wrongful death cases can arise in Kentucky due to any number of circumstances, including death from a truck accident, car accident, drunk driving accident, defective or dangerous products, medical malpractice such as medication errors or failure to diagnose.
We have handled numerous wrongful death claims resulting from careless and reckless conduct. We regularly employ experts to assist in proving wrongful death claims including engineers, accident reconstructionists, pathologists, vocational economists (to prove earnings loss), and other case specific experts.
In Kentucky, wrongful death actions are controlled by state statute. To pursue a wrongful death action, an estate must be opened and an executor or administrator appointed. Generally, an estate is opened in the district court where the loved one resided. In most cases, we will handle the legal work related to the probate estate as part of representation in the wrongful death action at no additional cost to the survivors.
In wrongful death actions, damages including medical bills, funeral bills, lost lifetime earning capacity, and pain and suffering can be recovered. In cases where the conduct of the company or individuals that caused the death was particularly heinous, punitive damages may also be recovered. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future.
Damages from wrongful death actions are not necessarily distributed in the same manner as the deceased’s assets. Kentucky’s wrongful death statute, rather than the deceased’s will, controls the distribution of the proceeds of the lawsuit. Kentucky Revised Statute 411.130 sets the order of priority:
- Surviving spouse, if the deceased does not have any children;
- If the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, 50% to the surviving spouse and 50% divided between any surviving children.
- If there is no surviving spouse, 100% divided equally between the children.
- If the deceased leaves spouse or children, the parents.
- If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, child, or parent, then the recovery becomes part of the deceased estate and passing according to the deceased will or Kentucky’s intestacy rules (KRS §391.010 et. seq.) if there is no will.
In many wrongful death actions, separate claims can be brought by the survivors to compensate for the loss of love and affection of their family members. Often theses “loss of consortium” claims are as important, or more important, than the statutory claims for wrongful death.
We are experienced in representing the families of loved ones who died due to the wrongful conduct of companies and individuals. If you believe a significant wrong has caused the death of a loved one contact us today.