The untimely loss of a loved one can not only be emotionally challenging to cope with but financially crippling as well. The latter is particularly the case if you counted on your deceased loved one to meet you halfway in covering your household bills or relied wholly on them as your Lexington family’s breadwinner.
There’s no amount of money that will fill the void left behind by your loved one’s unexpected passing. However, recovering compensation by filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit is what our Kentucky legal system allows us to do when a wrongful death situation occurs. Read on to learn what types of damages you can receive on behalf of a deceased spouse when they pass away due to someone else’s negligence.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful deaths stem from careless or intentional acts. For example, careless drivers may cause a car accident that may lead to wrongful death. When a person unexpectedly passes away in a situation like this in Lexington, KY, the victim’s personal representatives—such as a spouse or child—may file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death lawsuit allows the decedent’s surviving family members to request compensation for damages or losses related to the death.
Can You Sue on Behalf of a Deceased Spouse?
Yes, you can sue on behalf of a deceased spouse. To do so, you may want to go ahead and have yourself appointed as your spouse’s personal representative by a Fayette District Court, Probate Division judge if you live here in Lexington. Otherwise, you’ll want to make such a request to the probate court in the Kentucky county you reside in. The State of Kentucky has an online directory of district court systems by county, which you can use to find the contact information for the probate court in your area that you would file with.
Personal representatives are authorized to take legal action on behalf of an estate. Establishing yourself as a personal representative will show that you have the legal standing to file the wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
What Type of Compensation Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?
A surviving spouse may receive the following damages on behalf of a wrongfully deceased spouse:
If a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, you, as the surviving spouse, may be eligible to receive damages to cover medical expenses.
Your loved one may incur significant hospital bills if they were in the intensive care unit on life support or even if they received triage care in an emergency room. The obligation falls on your shoulders as their spouse to pay these bills on your husband’s or wife’s behalf after their passing. Recovering a wrongful death settlement can help you do this.
End-of-life expenses, such as funeral and burial costs, can be financially crippling. Fortunately, a wrongful death action can help you recover compensation to pay for burial plans your loved one or you selected, whether that’s cremation, a casket and internment, or something else, plus the cost of any memorial or funeral services.
It’s important to keep in mind that caps often apply to how much you can recover for medical and funeral costs.
Lost Wages and Lost Future Earnings
In a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving spouses can receive compensation for the lost provisions of their late spouse, which encompasses both lost wages and lost future earnings. In other words, if your deceased spouse was working at the time of their injury incident and remained alive after it yet was unable to work, then you might be able to recover the wages they were unable to generate because they were unwell. Additionally, you may be able to recover anticipated earnings they were expected to generate had their life not been prematurely taken.
Loss of Companionship and Protection
Loss of companionship and protection means something different for every couple. Loss of companionship is an intangible effect of wrongful death. Therefore, each case will be different. If a case like this goes to trial, the jury must decide on a monetary value “loss” amount based on the surviving spouse’s story of the impact it has had on their life.
Mental Anguish and Pain and Suffering
These two are also intangible types of losses, just like the loss of companionship is. Mental anguish refers to the emotional pain associated with watching a loved one suffer or having to endure their loss. Pain and suffering can refer to the unanticipated pain a loved one may have endured leading up to their death. This may cause a spouse unnecessary emotional pain, as well.
There’s no exact formula for calculating these types of losses. However, surviving spouses can still receive compensation for them on a case-by-case basis. A jury may consider the following factors when assigning monetary compensation to a surviving spouse:
- The state of the relationship between the survivor and the wrongfully deceased
- Grief expert testimony based upon analysis of the marriage
- Mental health counseling costs because of the wrongful death
Who Else Can Be Awarded Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
Spouses aren’t the only party who can receive damages in wrongful death cases in Kentucky. Parents and children of the deceased are also eligible for compensation. The legally responsible party named in the deceased person’s will is the first eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits. If the deceased person does not have a will, then intestate succession rules apply, which generally means a spouse, children, and then the decedent’s parents would be eligible to take legal action and recover damages.
How To File a Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one is so difficult. A wrongful death adds to the pain and struggle. If you want to seek justice, but don’t know where to start, follow these steps:
Hire an Attorney
A successful lawsuit is near impossible without the right attorney. As soon as you decide you want to file a wrongful death claim, reach out to an attorney that specializes in wrongful death claims like ours here at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the entire process with confidence.
You can expect our team to understand Kentucky wrongful death statutes and filing deadlines inside and out, and they’ll help you avoid detrimental mistakes. With a strong case and experienced attorney, you have a better chance of receiving maximum compensation from your spouse’s wrongful death.
Make Sure You Are Eligible to File a Claim
As hinted at earlier, Kentucky has laws governing legal rights to file a wrongful death claim. Usually, there is an order in which privileged party rights are passed down. Usually, the surviving spouse has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. If this party isn’t fit or doesn’t exist, the surviving children or parents come next. After this, blood relatives or anyone with legal rights, according to the deceased person’s will may file a claim. Your attorney can help you determine if you are one of the privileged parties.
Gather Evidence of Wrongful Death
To build a strong case, you will need to gather supporting evidence that proves wrongful death. Your loved one’s death isn’t representative enough that a wrongful death occurred. You must prove that their death was preventable had it not been for the negligence that another party engaged in. Your attorney can help you determine if what happened to your spouse qualifies as a wrongful death situation. Your case may warrant an investigation to further prove that another party’s wrongful act caused the death of your loved one.
A lawyer can help you collect the following evidence and documentation which may be relevant in proving your case:
- Police reports
- Accident reports
- Medical records
- Coroner’s report
- Lost wages
- Witness accounts
- Expert testimonies
File Your Claim on Time
Most states impose a time limit on when surviving parties may file a wrongful death claim. The wrongful death statute of limitations in Kentucky is two years from the time of the death. Make sure you file the claim before this deadline for the best chance of receiving compensation.
The Law Office of Todd W. Burris Can Support You
Losing a spouse is one of the most devastating occurrences that could happen in a person’s life. If you believe your spouse died due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, burial costs, and more. You can count on the Law Office of Todd W. Burris to help you navigate this sensitive legal matter on your behalf as you continue to grieve the loss of your husband or wife.
Reach out to our office to schedule an initial free consultation with a wrongful death attorney who is committed to giving your case the attention it warrants to help you secure the best possible award for the unimaginable loss you’ve suffered.