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When can a car accident result in a wrongful death lawsuit?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one under preventable circumstances is tragic. Unfortunately, over 40,000 Americans lose their lives annually in car crashes. If a loved one dies following a car crash that is not their fault, you may pursue the negligent party for damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Generally, any death that is attributable to another person or entity’s negligence is considered wrongful. But do all deaths associated with fatal car wrecks qualify for wrongful death lawsuits?

Linking a car crash to wrongful death

Not all fatal car accidents qualify for wrongful death claims. To pursue someone for a loved one’s wrongful death, you must prove that their actions were negligent. You also have to prove that your loved one’s demise resulted in verifiable economic and non-economic damages. Finally, you must have the legal right to bring the claim. In Oklahoma, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by the decedent’s personal representative. 

That said, you may bring a wrongful death claim if the defendant:

  • Drove recklessly or was excessively speeding 
  • Was driving while intoxicated 
  • Willfully violated clear traffic rules like failure to yield way or stop at the red light
  • Was distracted while driving 
  • Was willfully operating a faulty vehicle

These actions are unlawful. Thus, alongside the civil claim, the defendant might also face criminal charges. 

The time limit for bringing a wrongful death claim

Even if you have a strong case against the defendant, your claim can be dismissed if you do not act within the statute of limitations period. In Oklahoma, you have up to two years from the date of a loved one’s wrongful death to file your lawsuit. 

Losing a loved one in a car accident that is someone else’s fault can be disheartening. It can leave you with lots of unanswered questions, especially if the decedent was the household’s sole breadwinner. Understanding the state’s wrongful death laws is critical during this trying time.