Pursuing A Wrongful Death Action In Kentucky
A wrongful death action is a civil legal proceeding to hold a person or company responsible for a death caused by negligence. Under Kentucky law, if someone dies as a result of an injury that was caused by the wrongful act or negligence of a third-party, then the personal representative of the deceased may bring an action to recover damages. (See KRS 411.130). These damages may include compensation for expenses incurred and loss of future income, but if the action that caused the death "was willful or the negligence gross," then the court also may award punitive damages. (KRS 411.130).
If you have lost a loved one, you may not want to think about pursuing a lawsuit against the party responsible for the death. However, the law limits the time in which you can file a case and it is important to know your legal options as soon as possible so that you can obtain the resources to move forward after this tragic death.
In order to bring a lawsuit, there must be a personal representative appointed by the probate court, so it is necessary to open an estate in the District Court where the deceased resided prior to his or her death. The probate process can be complicated and an experienced estate attorney can aid greatly in this process. The personal representative also will act as the executor of the estate.
Although a wrongful death action is the means to obtain a recovery to compensate for the future losses that you will sustain without your loved one in your life and to cover expenses that resulted from the injury that led to the death, it also may be the only way to achieve some measure of justice. Accidental deaths generally do not lead to criminal prosecutions, so civil recourse is the only way to hold responsible parties accountable. Common wrongful death actions include losses arising from automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and workplace tragedies, among other circumstances.
A wrongful death action may be brought within one year of the date of the death of your loved one, so there is a very short time in which to protect your rights. In order to prevail in the case, at least negligence must be proven. However, the burden of proof in a civil case is different from criminal actions. In a criminal prosecution, the elements of the charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but in a civil wrongful death action, the defendant will be found liable if he is more likely than not the cause of your loved one's death.
It is important to keep track of all expenses related to the injury and death of your loved one, as these are recoverable in the legal action. Some of the items that can be recovered include:
- Medical expenses that amassed because of the injury;
- Costs associated with the funeral, burial, or cremation;
- Future earnings that reasonably would have been provided by the deceased;
- Compensation for pain and suffering experienced by family members who were left behind;
- An award for loss of consortium for both the spouse and any children (brought under separate claims); and
- In the case of extreme negligence, punitive damages may be awarded.
Depending upon the specific facts of your case, other damages could be awarded. The distribution of any recovery will be made in accordance with Kentucky law after funeral expenses and estate administration costs are deducted. (See KRS 411.130).
Having lost a loved one, you probably are struggling to get through day-to-day activities, but it is imperative that you act to preserve the rights of you and your family. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Goeing Goeing and McQuinn PLLC can help you get through this very difficult time. We are ready to sit down with you and discuss your legal options during a free consultation. Please call us, or feel free to contact us through our website.