Overview of a Wrongful Death Case in Kentucky
Your case begins by filing a demand letter against the at-fault party—or, more commonly, with their insurance company. This is an official notice of the amount of your losses, the insurer's duty to cover them, and the time limit the insurer has to respond. The insurer may pay you outright, send you a counter-offer, or deny your claim.
During this time, the insurance company might call you "for more information" or to "clear up some details" regarding the claim. These are attempts to gather evidence against you that can be used to lower or deny your compensation. Insurance adjusters may also try to offer you a quick, small settlement to prevent you from seeking any other financial recovery.
We recommend that clients don't talk to insurers or agents or accept any money offered that is less than the total amount of their losses. We can also handle any communication about the claim on your behalf, protecting you from making mistakes while you're grieving the loss of a loved one. If the insurance company refuses to pay, we move on to filing a wrongful death lawsuit against them.
Filing a Lawsuit
The requirements for filing wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state. In Kentucky, surviving family members have the right to receive damages from the party who caused the death. However, legal actions can only be brought by the representative of the deceased person's estate (usually a spouse or immediate family member). If your loved one died without a will, a court must appoint someone in your family to act as executor of the estate.
Certain legal elements of a wrongful death lawsuit must be met to get compensation. You must show that an individual's death was directly due to another party's misconduct and that the deceased individual's family suffered real and calculable financial losses.
As in any personal injury case, surviving family members must meet the four requirements to establish negligence. To succeed in a wrongful death case, you have to prove:
- Your relative was owed a duty of care. The party at fault (the defendant) must have had a duty of care toward your relative. A duty of care is a level of responsibility to keep someone reasonably safe from harm. The extent of the defendant's duty of care depends on the circumstances. For example, if your loved one was killed in a truck crash, the trucker and the commercial carrier both have a duty of care toward other drivers.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. You will have to show that the defendant knew (or should have known) that their actions could potentially put others' lives at risk. In the example above, a defendant's breached duty of care might include a trucker speeding or driving under the influence or a company violating federal trucking regulations.
- The breach directly caused the wrongful death. Even if you can prove that the defendant was engaging in dangerous behavior, you will still have to establish a link between their negligent actions and the wrongful death. A trucking company may have been letting unsafe trucks back on the road, but it's up to you to prove that the truck's condition was a significant factor in causing fatal injuries. This is difficult to prove, especially if the defendant attempts to pin the accident on another party (such as the maintenance company) or shifts the blame onto your loved one.
- The wrongful death resulted in financial losses. The final step in establishing negligence is showing proof of your family's losses resulting from the death. You will need evidence of quantifiable financial hardship (such as lost income and increased medical bills) to seek damages.
Showing Proof of Losses
While no amount of money will ever be able to replace the person you lost, financial compensation is the only way the law allows you to get justice from the responsible party. It can also provide much-needed financial security for you and your family, especially if you lost someone who provided significant household income.
Estimating the total costs of losing someone you love can be overwhelming, but it's essential to arrive at an accurate figure. Our legal team performs a thorough financial analysis to identify losses many people overlook in their calculations.
We can help you get everything you're owed for your:
- Economic damages. These are the calculable losses of the accident, including all medical care, funeral and burial costs, and lost income during the injury period and over the deceased person's lifetime. Our attorneys use documentation such as bills, wage statements, employment contracts, insurance policies, and more to get the total value for these losses.
- Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages don't have a tangible dollar value but can cause significant personal and familial hardship. Typical damages include lost spousal services, loss of parental guidance, loss of protection, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and emotional anguish suffered by a surviving spouse and minor children.
- Punitive damages. If the defendant demonstrated gross negligence or a deliberate intent to cause harm, the jury might award punitive damages to the family. These punish the wrongdoing and prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.
Negotiation and Settlement
We negotiate aggressively with insurers throughout the case and advise you on your settlement options or recommendations to seek damages in court. Once we have secured payment for your losses, the law requires that damages be paid first to a surviving spouse, then to the victim's children, then to the victim's parents, and finally to the victim's estate.
A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You Through Every Stage of the Process
At Gray and White Law, we do everything we can to ease your burden and give you the time you need to grieve while we handle legal matters on your behalf. Contact us today or call 1(888) 450-4456 to schedule a free case consultation or read through our complimentary guide, Critical Information to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky.