“Wrongful death” is a type of legal action allowed by state law, and every state has its own guidelines for this type of claim. Kentucky is no different. Anyone filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky civil court should be aware of the specific requirements and restrictions set out in the state’s wrongful death statute (Kentucky Revised Statute 411.130).
In order to have your personal circumstances and legal rights evaluated soon after a death in the family, you should not wait to discuss your situation with an experienced Kentucky wrongful death lawyer. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about getting started filing a wrongful death claim.
What “Wrongful Death” Means Under Kentucky Law
The statute in Kentucky states that a wrongful death is that “of a person (that) results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” It is important to understand the meaning of the terms used in the law, including the following:
- “Negligence” means that another party that owed the deceased a duty of care breached that duty and it resulted in the fatal injuries. Examples of negligence that may lead to wrongful death include distracted or drunk driving, selling a defective product, and medical malpractice, among many others.
- “Wrongful” can mean an act that is more egregious than negligence, which can include recklessness or intentional acts of violence that result in death.
- “Another” can refer to another person (such as a driver or doctor), a company (such as the manufacturer of a dangerous pharmaceutical), or even a government entity.
In the absence of violence, it can be difficult to identify when a death was a mere accident or whether it was caused by negligence and may be actionable under Kentucky wrongful death laws.
Strict Statute of Limitations in Kentucky
One critical thing to know about wrongful death laws in Kentucky is that the statute of limitations — the time limit you have to file a lawsuit — is extremely short. While some states allow surviving family members five or more years to pursue a legal claim, Kentucky law limits the time to one (1) year from the date of the death (KRS 413.140). Once that one-year period has passed, any claim that is filed will almost certainly be dismissed and the right to financial recovery is lost.
While one year may seem like a long time to some people, it is important to realize that wrongful death claims can be complex. It can take a substantial amount of time to conduct an investigation to identify liable parties, as well as to prepare the complaint to be filed with the court. For this reason, anyone who believes they may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death should contact a knowledgeable lawyer in Kentucky as soon as they can.
Can I file a Kentucky wrongful death claim?
If your family member dies, you may want to rush into court and demand justice. However, in Kentucky, family members do not automatically have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Instead, the court-appointed personal representative of the estate of the deceased victim is the party with the ability to file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, the personal representative is an immediate family member, such as an adult child or spouse.
Kentucky law also allows additional causes of action to be filed on the part of the spouse and children who survived the deceased, which are separate from the wrongful death claim. These claims are specifically for “loss of consortium,” which refers to the loss of services and companionship of the deceased, as well as the loss of a conjugal relationship between spouses. KRS 411.145.
Damages after a Wrongful Death
Kentucky law allows the personal representative to recover damages for the following losses stemming from a wrongful death:
- Medical bills incurred before the death;
- Funeral and related expenses;
- Lost earning power of the deceased;
- Punitive damage if the wrongful act was particularly egregious, such as intentional violence or grossly negligent acts.
If a claim is successful, the proceeds may then be distributed to both the estate and to qualified surviving family members. Kentucky law (KRS 411.130) specifically addresses how damages should be allocated, including as follows:
- To the spouse, if there are no surviving children;
- To the children, if there is no surviving spouse;
- Divided equally between a surviving spouse and children if both exist;
- To the surviving parent or parents if there is no spouse or children;
- If there are no surviving parents, spouse, or children, the proceeds go to the estate and anything leftover after the estate is settled will go to beneficiaries in the will or will be distributed according to Kentucky intestate laws (KRS Ch. 391).
Because the laws regarding wrongful death in Kentucky are so complicated and the statute of limitations so short, you should always have the guidance of an attorney who has specific understanding of this type of claim. Contact us today for a free case review.