The loss of a loved one in a fatal accident is traumatic. While nothing can ever truly be sufficient to make things right, grieving families need accountability, financial support, and closure. A civil wrongful death claim is an avenue to justice. This raises an important question: Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma? The short answer is that the claim should be filed by a personal representative of the state and it will be brought on behalf of immediate family members. At McGuire Law Firm, our Oklahoma City wrongful death attorneys provide an overview of the key things to know about who can file a wrongful death claim in Oklahoma. 

Know the Law: Oklahoma’s Wrongful Death Statute

A wrongful death is a civil cause of action. It allows grieving family members to get justice after a close loved one is killed in an accident caused by negligence. Under Oklahoma law (Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 1053), this type of legal claim arises when “the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another.” There are a number of different circumstances that can give rise to a wrongful death claim, including car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian collisions, premises liability claims, and dangerous and defective products. 

The Personal Representative of the Estate Should File the Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death claims fall under state law. In some jurisdictions, surviving family members have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit directly. However, Oklahoma is not one of those states. In Oklahoma, any wrongful death claim should be filed by the personal representative of the estate. The personal representative is appointed. In general, the personal representative will be the executor named in the will or the estate administrator as named by the probate court (no will). In some cases, a personal representative is a professional—such as an attorney. In other cases, the personal representative is a loved one. It may be the spouse, parent, or adult child of the victim. 

What exactly is the role of the personal representative? In the context of a wrongful death claim, the personal representative helps to move the case forward. It is their responsibility to act swiftly and efficiently to gather evidence. Among other things, a personal representative should consult with an experienced Oklahoma wrongful death lawyer to ensure the claim is being handled properly. It is their role to ensure that the rights and interests of the surviving family members are protected.

A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma is for Surviving Family Members

The untimely death of a person can affect an enormous number of people. An entire community may feel the impact. With that being said, unfortunately, not every person who has a close relationship with the victim has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit under Oklahoma state law. Instead, only certain family members are deemed primary beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim. In Oklahoma, wrongful death beneficiaries include the following family members:

  • Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased is entitled to file and receive compensation.
  • Children: Both minor and adult children can be beneficiaries.
  • Parents: If the deceased is a minor or unmarried without kids, parents may be beneficiaries.
  • Siblings: In certain situations, siblings might be considered beneficiaries
  • Next of Kin: If none of the above are around, next of kin is determined by Oklahoma law. 

Oklahoma Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death: Two Years

There is a strict deadline to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Oklahoma. The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the deceased’s passing. Surviving family members must act quickly to pursue their legal rights. You do not want to fall behind the defense or its insurance company in the claims process. Filing before the statute of limitations expires is crucial to ensure the case is heard. If a wrongful death lawsuit is not brought in a timely manner, the case could be dismissed without a hearing at all. 

Schedule Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyer for a Free Consultation

At McGuire Law Firm, our Oklahoma City wrongful death attorneys are compassionate and experienced advocates for families. If you have any questions about who can file a claim, our firm can help. Give us a call now or contact us online for a free, fully confidential initial consultation. We handle wrongful death claims in Oklahoma City and throughout the entire region.