woman with flowers morning at funeral next to coffinLosing a loved one is always difficult, especially when they passed away unexpectedly. Even as you struggle to overcome grief, you may find yourself saddled with unforeseen expenses, from medical bills to funeral fees and burial costs. You may feel overwhelmed and unprepared. However, you could have options for compensation. If nursing home neglect or abuse cost your family member’s life, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Kentucky

Kentucky law allows people to pursue damages for wrongful death in civil court. However, you must have legal standing to file a claim.

Although Kentucky ordinarily allows individuals, parents, and legal guardians to file personal injury lawsuits, it treats wrongful death cases differently. Unlike most other states, you can only file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky if you are the deceased person’s appointed executor.

If your loved one did not have a will, or did not name anyone as an executor, then the court will appoint someone to the position.

Wrongful Death Cases With Extenuating Circumstances

Kentucky’s standard for establishing legal standing has some exceptions. You could still file a wrongful death claim without first being appointed the estate executor if:

  • The deceased person’s death was caused by a deadly weapon, in which the case the decedent’s surviving spouse and/or children could file a lawsuit independent of an estate executor.
  • The deceased person was a minor, in which case the decedent’s parents may join a lawsuit first filed by the estate executor.

The Importance of Establishing Standing

You may not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky if you cannot first establish that you have the legal standing to do so. For most people, this means either consulting the deceased relative’s executor or petitioning the courts to appoint an estate representative.

If you do not establish standing before filing a wrongful death lawsuit, then the at-fault party and their legal counsel will inform the court that you are not entitled to bring a claim under Kentucky law. Your case will be dismissed, and you may lose your opportunity for justice.

The Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Claims

When you file a wrongful death claim, you will have to demonstrate that the at-fault party:

  • Had a legal duty to protect your loved one from harm; 
  • Negligently abrogated or otherwise breached their duty; 
  • Caused your loved one’s death through their negligence; and
  • Caused financial losses resulting in damages that could be recovered in court.

Kentucky does not currently cap the damages a person could recover in a wrongful death claim.

How Damages Are Distributed in Kentucky Wrongful Death Cases

Anyone seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit should understand that the state has different criteria for:

  • Establishing legal standing to file a claim; and
  • Distributing damages after the successful resolution of a claim.

Ordinarily, wrongful death cases must be initiated by the estate executor. However, this does not necessarily mean that the executor will receive all or any of the awarded damages.

Kentucky law instead specifies that the decedent’s surviving relatives will receive damages in the following order:

  • If there is a surviving spouse but not surviving children, then the spouse receives the entire amount.
  • If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, then the spouse and children split the damages equally.
  • If there are surviving children but no surviving spouse, then the children receive the entire award.
  • If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, then the decedent’s parents are entitled to the award.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, no surviving children, and no surviving parents, then any awarded damages are passed to the estate. If the deceased person had a will, then the award will be distributed to heirs named therein. If the deceased person did not have a will, then the award will be distributed to legal heirs

Do Not Lose Your Chance at Justice—Contact Us Today

Establishing legal grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit can be challenging, especially if your loved one did not have a will or appoint an estate representative.

Gray & White Law can help you collect, analyze, and present evidence of another party’s wrongdoing, making a compelling argument for compensation—money you can use to cover a family member’s medical bills, fund their last rites, and pay the costs of burial.

If your loved one’s life was taken by nursing home negligence, please send us a message online or call us at 888-450-4456 today.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law