Each year, countless individuals across Kentucky die unexpectedly in preventable accidents like car crashes, truck accidents, slips and falls, by using dangerous products, and due to medical malpractice. When someone passes in personal injury situations like these, it often falls under the definition of wrongful death, as the victim died due to someone else’s negligence.
Statute 411.130 is the Kentucky wrongful death law. It describes wrongful death as a situation in which someone dies “from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” That same state law details who is eligible to file a claim to recover compensation for their loved one’s untimely death and who can inherit any proceeds from the settlement of such a legal matter. Read on where Peterson Law Office shares details regarding these points and more.
Family Members That Are Eligible To File a Wrongful Death Suit in Kentucky
According to the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts and their Guide to Basic Kentucky Probate Procedures, a District Court judge accepts a decedent’s will and then appoints a personal representative to administer their estate. That individual, sometimes called an executor or administrator, is generally a resident or non-resident relative. Once appointed, that person can file a wrongful death claim on the estate’s behalf.
What Types of Damages Can a Personal Representative Demand in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Case?
The wrongful death statute in Kentucky mentioned above allows a personal representative to seek damages from the person, agent, or servant who caused a victim’s death. Losses that the executor may request include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages recoverable by filing a wrongful death action in Lexington, KY include:
- Medical bills the deceased incurred before passing away
- Funeral bills or burial costs
- Lost income and future earnings
Non-economic losses a Kentucky personal representative may demand in a case like this include:
- Loss of consortium (on behalf of a surviving spouse or child)
- Pain and suffering
Kentucky is unique in that it does not allow for the recovery of damages for loss of enjoyment of life when someone dies due to someone else’s negligence, as permitted in other jurisdictions in our country.
It is important to note, however, that our wrongful death law permits victims’ family members to demand punitive damages if it can be shown that the act was willful or involved gross negligence. A fatal driving under the influence (DUI) crash is an example of an offense that often fits the bill of warranting punitive damages.
How Long Do You Have To File a Kentucky Wrongful Death Claim?
A statute of limitations refers to the time limit any eligible parties have to take legal action by filing an insurance claim or lawsuit. Generally, the Kentucky statute of limitations in wrongful death cases is one year out from the time of a person’s passing. However, there are some instances in which a person’s death may not be attributed to another party’s negligence until some time after their passing occurs. In those cases, the time limit to file a claim may only begin ticking down once that cause of death determination is made.
Who Can Receive Wrongful Death Settlement Proceeds in Kentucky?
The state statute mentions who has a right to inherit any wrongful death settlement proceeds. That “law of descent and distribution” details who among the decedent’s surviving family members may inherit the wrongful death settlement and in which priority order:
- Spouse (if they didn’t have any children at the time of their passing)
- Spouse and their children (if they had both at the time of their death)
- Children (if they didn’t have a spouse upon their death)
It should be noted that a spouse would be entitled to 100% of the settlement proceeds if the decedent didn’t have any surviving children at the time of their passing. If they had a surviving spouse and children when they died, the settlement would be split 50/50 between the two parties. If there was no surviving spouse but there were children, then 100% of the damages would go to the decedent’s kids.
Grandchildren, siblings, and perhaps other, more distant relatives may also be entitled to receive a wrongful death settlement if none of the other surviving family members exist or are still alive.
How an Attorney Can Help in a Wrongful Death Case
It’s understandable that you’d want to hold whoever caused your loved one’s premature death liable for their actions; however, that’s the personal representative’s responsibility in a wrongful death case in our state. At Peterson Law Office, we regularly work collaboratively with families and personal representatives to establish that negligence occurred and help them file suit within the statutory time here in Lexington.
We would be more than happy to discuss the nature of your loved one’s passing with you during a free consultation to advise you of your legal options. Reach out to us to schedule this conversation with a Lexington wrongful death attorney at our law office today.