Losing a loved one is a horrific tragedy. Understandably, family members want justice for their deceased loved one. Family members can pursue financial compensation when someone’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions result in another person’s death. But who can file a wrongful death suit? Identifying who has the standing to file a wrongful death claim in Kentucky depends on the circumstances.
Pursuing a wrongful death suit is complicated, so we highly recommend speaking with a Kentucky wrongful death lawyer. At Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, we know what a difficult time this is for your family. We can help you understand your family’s rights following a wrongful death and how to pursue a lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Kentucky requires the estate’s personal representative to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent. The personal representative represents the deceased victim’s estate. There are several exceptions to the requirement that the personal representative must file a lawsuit. The first exception involves death by a deadly weapon. The surviving spouse or children can file a wrongful death lawsuit in this situation. The second exception involves the death of a minor. If the victim was under 18, the surviving parents can join a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the personal representative.
Who Will Receive Money in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Settlement?
Determining who’s entitled to receive money from a wrongful death lawsuit can become complicated. Before funds are distributed to entitled parties, legal fees, funeral expenses, and other associated administrative costs will go to the estate. According to Kentucky law, the distribution order is as follows:
- If the deceased has a surviving spouse and no children or their descendants, then the entire settlement goes to the spouse.
- If the deceased has a surviving spouse and children, then the spouse and children each get half.
- If there is a surviving child or children but no surviving spouse, the entire settlement goes to the child or children.
- When a deceased victim has no spouse or living children, then the settlement will go to the parents. The amount will be divided between the parents. If only one parent is alive, they will receive the entire settlement. If the victim were adopted, the adoptive parents would receive the settlement.
What happens if the deceased didn’t have a spouse, children, parents, or other descendants? In this situation, the entire settlement becomes part of the person’s estate. Funds will be used to pay estate debts. The court distributes any remaining money according to the law of descent and distribution.
Proving Fault in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
For a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, you must present evidence that shows how the defendants are responsible for your family member’s death. In a standard negligence case, you must prove the following:
- The defendant owed the deceased some duty of care to act reasonably and safely;
- The defendant breached the duty by not acting reasonably and safely;
- The defendant’s breach of duty is what caused the victim’s death; and
- There are verifiable damages.
Failure to meet all four criteria means your family might not receive any compensation. That’s why we always recommend hiring a wrongful death lawyer to ensure you build a strong case and preserve all evidence.
It’s important to note that Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state. This law states that even when someone is partially at fault, they can still receive a portion of their damages. In a wrongful death case, it means even if the deceased shared some liability, family members are still entitled to a percentage of damages. Consider a situation where the deceased was 30% at fault. That means family members will receive 70%.
Damages in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit go toward compensating surviving family members and the estate for their losses. The estate will receive an award for funeral expenses, legal fees, and administrative costs. The remaining damages award goes to surviving family members based on the distribution method explained above.
In some instances, the court might award punitive damages against the defendants. Kentucky law notes under the order of distribution that punitive damages apply in certain situations. When the defendant’s actions rise to the level of gross negligence or intentional acts, your family might receive additional compensation. The purpose of punitive damages isn’t to compensate the deceased’s family but to punish the defendant for their bad behavior. It’s to send a message and deter others from acting similarly.
Kentucky law differs from some other states when it comes to loss of consortium damages. Loss of consortium refers to the right to assistance, services, society, aid, companionship, and a conjugal relationship with the person’s spouse. Loss of consortium is typically one type of damage in a lawsuit. In Kentucky, filing a separate action alongside the wrongful death lawsuit is customary.
How a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
After a family member’s unexpected and tragic loss, no one wants to embark on a complicated legal battle with the responsible parties’ insurance companies and lawyers. Knowing what to expect from litigation can make the process more manageable. However, you don’t need to go through this process alone. Let the experienced team at Gladstein Law Firm help.
When you hire a wrongful death lawyer at our firm, we’ll be there every step of the way. We know what it takes to build a solid case against defendants in a wrongful death case. Our office will conduct a thorough independent investigation and preserve all evidence that supports fault against the defendants. Your attorney will speak to any witnesses and handle all communication with the defendant’s representatives, including any potential settlement negotiations. Unlike some other firms, we aren’t afraid to take a wrongful death case to trial if that’s what’s necessary.
If you have questions about who can file a wrongful death suit and how to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions, contact Gladstein Law Firm. Let us put our years of experience to work for you and help you get justice for your loved one’s death.