Family members might sue for wrongful death when someone dies because of another party’s negligence or misconduct. But what qualifies as wrongful death in Kentucky? It’s important to understand the official definition and who has legal standing to bring a lawsuit after a family member’s death. If you have questions about what is considered a wrongful death, contact the skilled Kentucky wrongful death lawyers at Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule an initial consultation.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Death?
Understandably, surviving family members want to know what qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit. Kentucky law defines wrongful death as a death that results from another party’s negligence or wrongful acts. Specific family members can recover damages for the death from the person responsible or from the party whose agent caused the person’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the surviving family members’ losses, including funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and more. The court might award punitive damages if the act was gross negligence or willful.
Common Examples of What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death in Kentucky
Numerous events can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky. Some of the most common examples include the following categories.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Tens of thousands of people lose their lives annually due to auto accidents. Accidents can involve cars, motorcycles, commercial trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians. Some victims die due to the impact, while others pass away from complications of their injuries.
Drivers should always pay attention to the road, but unfortunately, many drivers don’t. Taking your attention off the road for even a second can have catastrophic results. Drivers who have been drinking, speeding, fatigued, or acting recklessly also put countless people at risk every day.
Fortunately, most medical professionals do their jobs to the best of their ability. However, mistakes can happen. When a mistake rises to medical negligence, the doctor or other medical professional might be guilty of medical malpractice. Surviving family members can bring a wrongful death lawsuit when a victim dies due to medical negligence.
Workplace Accidents and Illnesses
Most people know that an accident at work can lead to a workers’ compensation claim for benefits. However, some workplace accidents can lead to death, especially in hazardous industries. Places like construction sites, warehouses, and factories often have a higher worker fatalities rate than other types of work. Workers who have exposure to hazardous products can develop fatal illnesses.
Acts of Violence
Robberies, domestic violence, and assaults can all lead to death. When an act of violence kills a victim, family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. A wrongful death lawsuit is a separate and distinct legal action and has no bearing on criminal charges.
Premises Liability Accidents
Property owners must keep their land free from hazards so visitors are not harmed. Slip and falls, negligent maintenance, negligent security, and swimming pool accidents are just a few things that fall under premises liability.
Defective products kill people every day across the country. Everything from baby items to medical implants can contain a defect. Automobiles, vehicle parts, medications, household items, and more can also be defective. If a family member died from a defective product, contact a Kentucky wrongful death lawyer to discuss whether your family has a product liability case.
Proving Liability in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Before family members can collect compensation for their loved one’s death, the plaintiff must prove elements of a wrongful death claim. In a wrongful death claim involving negligence, you need to show evidence of the following:
- The defendant owed the decedent some type of legal duty,
- The defendant breached this duty, and
- The defendant’s breach is what led to the wrongful death.
Failure to prove all elements of a wrongful death claim means surviving family members will not receive any compensation, nor will the defendants be held accountable.
Please note that Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that even if the decedent was partially responsible for the accident, your family could still receive some financial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the decedent’s liability reduces your family’s settlement. For example, if the decedent was 10% at fault, the maximum compensation would be 90% of the damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
Kentucky law requires the decedent’s personal representative, or executor, to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although the representative must file on behalf of the family, it doesn’t mean they will receive compensation. Funds are distributed according to Kentucky’s wrongful death distribution laws, which state:
- The surviving spouse receives the entire settlement if there are no children or descendants.
- If there is a spouse and children, the spouse and children will split the settlement, each receiving half.
- When there are surviving children but no spouse, the children receive the entire settlement.
- The settlement would go to the parents if the deceased had no spouse or children.
- If the deceased had no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the entire settlement becomes part of the estate and will be distributed according to probate laws.
It’s often complicated to determine the distribution order in a wrongful death lawsuit. You need a legal advocate to help your family through the entire process.
Contact a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawyer
No one deserves to go through a contentious legal battle with the insurance company or lawyers representing the parties responsible for your family member’s death. Let the skilled legal team at Gladstein Law Firm help you. We’re here for you during your time of need and will fight tirelessly to get justice for your deceased family member. We have nearly 20 years of experience assisting injured victims. We know what to expect and how to build a strong case. You don’t need to go through a wrongful death lawsuit alone. Contact our office to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.