In Oklahoma, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for your loved one’s death or the parties at fault for your loved one’s death. You will be prohibited from seeking relief or damages for your loved one’s death in a wrongful death lawsuit, unless you file your lawsuit within this timeframe. The time frame in which you must file a wrongful death lawsuit is called the Statute of Limitations. The proper representative of the decedent’s estate must file the petition in a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the loved one’s death or they may be forever barred from seeking relief or damages.

The unexpected death of a loved one is a loss difficult to describe. It will leave you and your family with many questions, including was someone’s negligence the cause of a loved one’s death. You may wonder how your deceased loved one’s outstanding medical bills will be paid for? Will you be able to pay for all your living expenses without their income? Will you be able to get justice for the loss of your loved one? How can someone be held accountable for causing a wrongful death? How can I seek justice for the wrongful death of a loved one? 

In this article we will discuss the timeline of wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, and answers to some of the most common questions related to wrongful death cases in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy™ for every client, including those suffering after the wrongful death of a loved one. We hope this information is helpful to you in this difficult time and we’re glad to meet with you to answer any questions not addressed in this article. 

When Does a Wrongful Death Claim Apply?

Wrongful death claims may arise from a wide variety of circumstances. However, each case has some element of a negligent or at-fault party acting or failing to act, which results in the death of another person. Wrongful death cases may originate from hundreds of events; however, the following are some of the most common causes of action, which give rise to a wrongful death claim in Oklahoma: 

  1. Victim is Intentionally Killed: criminal court deals exclusively with the punishment and potential incarceration of someone accused of a homicide or murder. However, in civil court the family of a deceased person may bring a wrongful death suit against the person that caused the death of a loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit is completely separate from a criminal prosecution; however, both may have overlapping witnesses and evidence, but the outcome and purpose are very different. 
  1. Victim of Medical Malpractice: whenever medical professionals fail to diagnose or perform any medical procedure negligently and it results in a patient’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit may follow. There are numerous medical malpractice wrongful death cases and causes of action for wrongful death to medical malpractice. It is best to speak to a qualified wrongful death attorney or medical malpractice attorney to identify whether or not you have a claim for wrongful death.
  1. Victim of Car Accident Fatality: whenever a passenger or driver dies in a car accident with a fatality, there is a possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit.
  1. Victim of Excessive Force: anytime a citizen, even one committing a crime, dies as a result of excessive force by law enforcement, a wrongful death case may exist. Law enforcement and police are entrusted with the use of force in conducting law enforcement; however, the use of force must be reasonable. Therefore, if officers take steps that result in the death of a individual, there is a good chance that a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought for damages as a result of the officer using excessive force. 

How Long Will My Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take to Settle?

The death of a loved one due to the recklessness of another individual can be devastating. After losing a loved one due to wrongful death, the family members are given the option to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This process is a civil lawsuit, which is commonly called a wrongful death lawsuit. Once a wrongful death lawsuit is filed it is difficult to estimate how long it will take to settle the matter. The average time to resolve or obtain judgment in a wrongful death case ranges between a settlement after only a few months or litigation that may take over two years. Hiring an experienced Oklahoma wrongful death lawyer who understands your situation and has your best interests in mind, can help ease the frustration and confusion you are likely feeling. 

What Factors Influence Wrongful Death Case Timelines in Oklahoma?

The time it takes to settle the claim of a wrongful death case in Oklahoma will vary based on many factors including the following. Unfortunately, there is no way to say with certainty how long your wrongful death lawsuit will take; however, clear liability and fewer involved parties will expedite the process in most cases. Conversely, wrongful death cases generally take more time, if it is unclear who is liable.  

Wrongful Death Disputes Over At-Fault Party

Each scenario is different, so it is important to consider the circumstances of your wrongful death case. If the cause of your loved one’s death is not clear, the identified responsible parties will likely be less willing to accept responsibility for the death of your loved one. 

 In contested wrongful death cases, the parties involved may spend a significant amount of time debating who is at fault and how to share the liability. This may result in the length of your wrongful death lawsuit being increased. This circumstance may be very frustrating as the parties will not only be denying liability, they will also be pointing the finger at other involved parties that may be responsible for the wrongful death of your loved one. 

In a wrongful death case with clear liability, it is less likely a dispute will occur about how responsible an involved party is in the case. Stated another way, in clear liability cases, the at fault party will often not contest liability, rather the dispute will be on damages

 Wrongful Death Disputes Over the Value of the Damages

All wrongful death cases are different; however, some disputes may be less complicated than others. When liability is clear in a wrongful death lawsuit, the next point of contention is often the amount of damages that are appropriate in the case. 

Damages are the primary remedy in civil lawsuits. Damages are simply an amount of money provided from one party to another party.  The value of damages may be a cause for dispute between the parties in a wrongful death case. The Plaintiff will typically seek more money in damages than the Defendant is willing to pay. Although this is difficult to imagine, companies and responsible parties in wrongful death cases, often refuse to provide compensation to grieving families in wrongful death cases. 

The types of damages sought in wrongful death cases vary widely. Wrongful death claims for damages include but are not limited to, lost income, medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and punitive damages. 

Many times defendants in wrongful death cases will attempt to offer the minimum when demanded for the costs of these damages by the Plaintiff. The conflict between the two parties will result in the settlement process being extended, until a resolution is reached or the parties go to trial. 

Another important aspect is the willingness of the Defendant to accept their proportionate share of fault in the case. Accepting fault in proportions means parties are not 100% liable for the death or damage caused, rather they are partially at fault, meaning they should be liable for less than 100% of the damages paid in the case. Determining the proper calculation of damages is highly complex and requires much study of the case in order to give an accurate assess of damages. 

Whether Disputes Can be Settled Out of Court or During Trial 

In a wrongful death claims case, the victim’s family is offered two options. The family can either come to an agreement with the opposing party out of court or proceed to trial. Settlements made outside of court are typically faster.  If the parties cannot come to a settlement or agreement the case will be taken to trial and presented before a Judge. The Judge and/or Jury will be allowed to decide the outcome of the case and render judgment either for or against the Plaintiff. 

In some cases, if either party finds the decision to be unfair, an appeal may be filed at the end of the case. This appeal process may halt compensation until a decision has been reached. If the appeal favors the Plaintiff, compensation will be awarded. This is just one example of how a settlement will expedite your compensation in wrongful death cases. 

Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations can be viewed as an expiration date set for each case type. Each state has its own Statute of Limitations for particular cases. Unfortunately, wrongful death cases must commence within a certain time frame. In Oklahoma, if your case is not presented within the Statute of Limitations, you may be restricted from obtaining financial compensation. When you consult a wrongful death lawyer, you have a better chance of knowing the Statute of Limitations and how other factors can affect the timeline of your wrongful death case. In Oklahoma, as stated above the statute of limitations in most cases is two years. It is in your best interest to meet with a qualified wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to identify the statute of limitations date in your case.

Your Next Steps 

The right wrongful death lawyer can guide you through the complex legal scenes of a wrongful death claim. Trust our attorneys at Cannon & Associates to work closely with you, answer your questions, and represent your interest from the start to the end of your case. Our attorneys won’t charge you a dime until your case has been completed and compensation awarded. Get the legal help you need, complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at (405) 657-2323. for a free, confidential case evaluation.