Criminal law and civil law are distinct. They have different processes, goals, and outcomes. In a criminal court, someone commits a crime, and they serve a sentence after being found guilty. In civil law, one person negligently harms another, and the victim dues for financial compensation.
Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil, personal injury lawsuit. The unique component is that the injured party did not survive. Someone must file a lawsuit in place of the deceased.
Each state has its own laws and standards regarding wrongful death lawsuits. Some allow only the estate’s personal representative to file. Others allow close relatives to sue.
In this article, we will broadly discuss wrongful death lawsuits and Kentucky’s standards for filing one.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
The property you pass along after death is called your “estate.” This property does not automatically transfer to its recipients. First, it must go through “probate.” Probate takes care of the deceased’s existing debts. Then it officially transfers property from the deceased to their beneficiaries.
Someone must handle all this work. This person is called the “personal representative,” or PR, of the estate. They are often called “executors” of the estate as well. You can name your executor in your will. If you don’t, this person will be appointed by the court.
In Kentucky, only the estate’s personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
This can cause trouble for the surviving family members. They need financial compensation for their loss, but they must negotiate with the PR to file a lawsuit. If the PR is a court employee, they may not want to take this step. It creates more work for them, and they don’t really stand to gain much from it.
Talk to an attorney if you need help working with a PR on a wrongful death lawsuit. They can help you negotiate. For instance, you could make a deal where the PR gets paid for the work they do on the case.
What Justifies a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
The death of a loved one is hard, and it changes your family forever. You may be rightfully hurt and angry about your loss, but legally, you must still meet certain standards to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In Kentucky, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit when:
- Someone’s negligent or wrongful behavior results in your loved one’s death.
- The wrongful or negligent act directly led to your loved one’s injuries.
- Your loved one’s injuries were fatal. It doesn’t matter if the death was immediate or happened sometime later. If you can directly link the death to the injuries, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
- The death had a direct, damaging impact on the surviving family members.
Who Can Receive Compensation in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The deceased’s close relatives can receive financial justice for their damages. This includes spouses, parents, and children of the deceased. Depending on the chain of intestate succession, more distant relatives could be eligible for compensation as well.
Family members can be compensated for:
- Expenses related to the injury or death. This includes medical and funeral expenses.
- The loss of income that resulted in their loved one’s death
- Their pain and suffering
- Their loss of companionship, support, and so on
If the negligent party’s actions were particularly egregious, the court may also order punitive damages. This is extra money the defendant must pay as a form of punishment.
Our firm is here to help if your loved one was killed through negligence. For a free consultation, call us today at (270) 977-8910, or contact us online.