Have you lost a loved one because of an accident involving someone else’s carelessness or recklessness? If so, the law in Kentucky allows you an opportunity to file a lawsuit against the person or entity that caused your loved one’s untimely death.
At Morgan & Morgan, our attorneys have handled wrongful death lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, motor vehicle drivers and other parties who were negligent in causing another’s death. In Kentucky, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within one year after the death occurred. While taking legal action may not seem like a priority at this time, it is important that you speak to our attorneys in Louisville as soon as possible so that they may begin the process of investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death.
By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of support, funeral expenses and other damages. To find out if you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, complete our free, no-obligation case review form today.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when someone dies as a result of another’s negligent, reckless or intentional act. Specifically, Kentucky law provides that:
“Whenever the death of a person results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another, damages may be recovered for the death from the person who caused it.”
What Is “Negligence?”
Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care. For example, if the driver of a car is speeding and causes a fatal accident, the driver has acted negligently and may be held liable for his or her actions in a court of law.
To prove negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney must show that the defendant (the person or corporation being sued) acted carelessly and disregarded the safety of others. In addition, your attorney must prove a direct link between the negligent act and your loved one’s death. To help win your case, your attorney may work with a medical expert who will review the evidence in your case and write an expert report describing how your loved one’s death was caused by the negligent conduct of another.
What Could Lead to a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death lawsuit could be based on any death involving the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another. In Kentucky, wrongful death lawsuits often involve:
- Car, truck and motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Defective or dangerous products, including medical devices and prescription drugs
- Workplace injuries, including coal mining accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
What’s Involved in Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There are very few types of lawsuits where the stakes are higher than a wrongful death case. To convince a jury that the wrongful conduct of another caused or contributed to the death of your loved one, your attorney may work with medical experts and other specialists who will investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the death. Your attorney may call these experts as witnesses during trial to explain to the judge and jury how your loved one’s death was caused by negligence, medical malpractice or some other form of wrongful conduct.
Other steps your attorney may take in preparing and handling your wrongful death lawsuit include the following:
Drafting a Complaint: The complaint is the legal document that starts a lawsuit. In this document, your attorney will describe in detail the wrongful conduct that occurred and how it caused or contributed to your loved one’s death. The complaint will also state the damages that you are seeking, should the judge or jury rule in your favor.
Conducting Discovery: After the complaint has been filed, the lawsuit may enter the discovery process. During the discovery phase of a wrongful death lawsuit, the judge will allow your attorney to collect relevant documents from the person or corporation that you are suing. For example, in a wrongful death case involving allegations of medical malpractice at a hospital, your attorney will request that the hospital turn over all medical records and files from the hospital pertaining to your loved one. In addition, during this time, your attorney may conduct depositions of doctors, nurses and hospital staff members who have direct knowledge of events leading up to your loved one’s death.
Evaluating Settlement Offers: Many lawsuits settle before trial. If the person or company you are suing offers to settle the lawsuit, your attorney will help you evaluate the settlement offer to determine if it provides you with a fair amount of compensation. If the settlement offer is inadequate, your attorney will engage in settlement negotiations with the defendant and argue why you are entitled to a higher amount. If these negotiations do not produce a higher settlement, your attorney will prepare your case for trial.
Preparing for Trial and Arguing Your Case Before a Judge and Jury: The attorneys at Morgan & Morgan are experienced trial lawyers with many years of experience fighting for victims in the courtroom. During trial, your lawyer will present opening and closing arguments, question witnesses and cross-examine any witnesses that are put forth by the defendant.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Kentucky, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased. The personal representative is the person appointed by the decedent prior to death, such as the executor of the estate, to represent the beneficiaries of the deceased. The proceeds of the wrongful death lawsuit go to the spouse, children or parents of the deceased.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
Yes, a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of your loved one’s death. Under this time limit, referred to as the “statute of limitations,” Kentucky courts will throw out wrongful death lawsuits that have been filed more than one year after the date of death.
What Type of Compensation Is Available Through a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for the following damages:
Medical and Funeral Expenses: Through a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving spouse and certain relatives of the decedent may be able to recover medical costs incurred as a result of the incident that lead to the victim’s death. In addition, funeral expenses may be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Conscious Pain and Suffering: The victim’s spouse and relatives may be able to receive compensation if the decedent was conscious and aware of their impending death or expressed pain during their death.
Destruction to Labor and Earn: The victim’s spouse and family members may be able to receive compensation for the value of lost earnings and retirement benefits. To determine the value of this loss, our wrongful death attorneys will work with economic experts who will review the decedent’s employment history and explain to a jury, if necessary, the economic loss that the decedent suffered as a result of the wrongful death.
Loss of Consortium: The surviving spouse may be awarded compensation for the loss of services, assistance, aid, society, and companionship of his or her loved one as a result of their wrongful death. Surviving parents may be awarded compensation for the loss of love, affection and companionship of their minor children as a result of their wrongful death. Likewise, minor children may be awarded compensation for the loss of services, assistance, aid, society and companionship of their parents as a result of their wrongful death.
Punitive Damages: Although rare, punitive damages are awarded by courts in cases involving intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct. Punitive damages are intended to discourage others from engaging in similarly dangerous behavior.
How Much Does A Lawyer Cost?
The attorneys in our Louisville office work on a contingency fee basis, which means your lawyer only receives a legal fee if he or she is successful in obtaining compensation for your injuries. The fee is usually a percentage of the total amount that is recovered on your behalf through a settlement or court award.
Do you have questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit? Contact Morgan & Morgan today by filling out our free case evaluation form to learn more about the legal options that may be available to you.