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When you lose a loved one due to someone else’s actions, you may experience many emotions. Naturally, you feel grief and anger. You may also wonder how you can achieve justice for your loved one and prevent others from experiencing similar harm.

At Gerling Law, we can’t take away your pain. However, we can help you pursue justice. We can help you hold the person who caused your pain accountable for their actions. Our compassionate attorneys have been representing victims and their families for decades. If you would like to speak with one of our knowledgeable lawyers, call anytime for a free consultation.

When many clients initially speak with us, they’re not sure if they can sue for their loved one’s death. Here, we provide an overview of who can file a lawsuit for wrongful death and what such legal action involves.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the surviving family for the harm they have suffered.

Before considering a Kentucky wrongful death lawsuit, you should know what the term actually means. Wrongful death is the death of a person caused by the negligent or wrongful act of another. This wrongful act could be unintentional or purposeful. In other words, someone does not have to intend to kill your loved one for it to be a wrongful death.

A person or company might be responsible for your loved one’s death. For instance, if a drunk driver hits your loved one, that individual should be held responsible. However, if a sober driver hit your loved one after her brakes malfunctioned, the auto manufacturer may be liable.

Who Can File a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In Kentucky, the personal representative (executor) of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The probate court names a personal representative based on the instructions in the deceased’s will or the preference of the judge.

While the personal representative files the wrongful death lawsuit, most of the lawsuit proceeds go to the deceased’s estate and surviving family members. Funeral and burial expenses, as well as attorney fees, go to the estate. But then the remainder of the award goes to the deceased person’s surviving family members. Payment is awarded according to these rules:

  • All to the surviving spouse if there are no surviving children;
  • If there are a surviving spouse and surviving children, half to the spouse and half divided among the children;
  • If there is no surviving spouse, all divided among the children; or 
  • If there is no surviving spouse or children, all to the surviving parents.

If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the wrongful death award goes to the estate. After paying debts, the award will be distributed according to the deceased’s will or intestate succession rules.

What Damages Are Available?

A wrongful death lawsuit compensates family members for the harm they have suffered as a result of their loved one’s death. You can sue for these damages in a wrongful death case:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of companionship,
  • Loss of support,
  • Loss of care,
  • Funeral and burial expenses, and
  • Attorney fees.

You may also be able to request punitive damages for intentional harm or gross negligence. These damages go beyond compensating your family for the harm suffered. Instead, they serve the goal of punishing the person for their wrongful actions. The State may choose to criminally prosecute the defendant, but that is a separate legal action. A criminal prosecution punishes a wrongdoer by taking away their freedom. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that will not put the defendant behind bars but seeks to financially compensate your family for the death of your loved one.

If you think you might have a Kentucky wrongful death claim, you should contact an experienced attorney. At Gerling Law, we have helped grieving family members with wrongful death claims in Kentucky for decades. We have the experience to get the results you deserve while showing you compassion and respect.

Contact our law firm for a free consultation. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and get to know our knowledgeable legal team. If we think we can help you, you should know that we work on contingency. This means you owe us nothing until we win your case. Review our decades of winning cases here, and call us when you’re ready to talk. Don’t trust the fight for justice and your family’s financial future with just anyone. Remember:

Go with Experience. Go with Gerling.®

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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