Losing a loved one is never easy. Not only is your family experiencing unspeakable grief, but the unexpected financial burden can bring additional stress.
If your family member died due to another party’s negligence, intentional acts, or recklessness, you could have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
While financial compensation will not make up for the loss of your family member, it can ease some of the financial strain you’re dealing with right now. Understandably, families want to know the value of wrongful death settlements in Kentucky.
Our Kentucky wrongful death lawyers will explain what you should know.
What Is the Average Settlement for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Unfortunately, we can share no average wrongful death settlement payout with you. Every situation is different, and the circumstances will vary in each wrongful death lawsuit. For example, a victim killed in a car accident will not have the same injuries or damages as someone who suffered medical malpractice and died after a surgical procedure.
Rather than focus on researching what the average wrongful death settlement is in Kentucky, contact Gerling Law Injury Attorneys. One of our knowledgeable Kentucky wrongful death lawyers can help you determine what your individual case is worth.
Defining a Wrongful Death in Kentucky
Before you focus on compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s crucial to verify that your family has a valid cause of action. A wrongful death is when a person dies from injury inflicted by another party’s wrongful act or negligence.
Negligence-based incidents, such as car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents, could lead to a wrongful death action in Kentucky. Acts of medical malpractice or defective products also can result in wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful death also includes intentional actions, such as committing a crime. For example, imagine a robber killed your family member.
Some people mistakenly assume that criminal acts are not eligible for wrongful death lawsuits because the government files criminal charges. These are two different types of cases with varying burdens of proof. A jury can acquit a defendant of criminal charges, but they can still be held liable in a civil trial.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kentucky?
In some states, certain surviving family members are the ones who initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. In Kentucky, the estate’s personal representative is the one responsible for filing a case.
It doesn’t mean they are the ones entitled to the compensation; it’s simply the person who files the lawsuit on behalf of the decedent’s estate. You may also hear a personal representative referred to as administrator or executor.
This person is appointed to handle the decedent’s estate, such as probate of a will. It could be a spouse, sibling, adult child, etc. Someone can also apply to be the personal representative under Kentucky Revised Statutes 395.040.
Courts prefer that the person be a surviving spouse, but they will also consider other people entitled to distribution under the probate laws. If there is no suitable option, the court will appoint one or more people the judge believes will best manage the estate.
Once there’s a personal representative in place, this person will be responsible for filing the wrongful death lawsuit. It’s best to have an experienced Kentucky wrongful death lawyer assisting you. At Gerling Law, we can help with the entire process—from getting a personal representative appointed to pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Potential Compensation in a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Typical wrongful death settlement amounts differ in every case due in part to the total amount of damages. When a person dies from their injuries, Kentucky law allows you to join the decedent’s personal injury action with the wrongful death action.
That means your family could recover financial compensation for:
- The decedent’s medical expenses;
- Lost income and loss of earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering of the decedent prior to their death;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Costs related to estate administration; and
- Loss of consortium.
If the decedent was a minor child, surviving parents can recover compensation for the loss of companionship and affection that they would’ve derived during the child’s minor years. This right is separate and in addition to the personal representative’s cause of action for wrongful death.
In cases involving willful or gross negligence, Kentucky Revised Statutes 411.130 (1) allows the right to pursue punitive damages. Courts don’t award punitive damages to compensate surviving family members or the decedent for their losses.
The object of punitive damages is to “punish” the responsible parties and deter others from engaging in the same or similar behavior. Punitive damage awards can be substantial, which is another reason it’s impossible to determine an average wrongful death settlement payout.
How to Calculate Wrongful Death Settlements in Kentucky
The value of damages in a Kentucky wrongful death lawsuit can be subjective. Certain factors can increase or decrease the potential value, further contributing to the challenge of determining typical wrongful death settlement amounts.
Examples of factors to consider in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The decedent’s age and health at the time of death;
- Their family situation, such as the number of dependents;
- Total damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages;
- The decedent’s education, career path, etc.; and
- Insurance benefit values, such as pensions or insurance policies.
Someone who was younger and healthy at the time of death could have higher calculations than someone already retired with existing health issues. The defendant’s insurance company will typically place a lower value on your claim no matter the circumstances to decrease their potential payout.
Having a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side can help you maximize a wrongful death claim. The wrongful death lawyers at Gerling Law are well-versed in the tactics that insurance companies use to minimize their exposure and reduce their payout.
Order of Payments in Wrongful Death Settlements in Kentucky
Some states have laws that dictate what order wrongful death payments must be made.
Kentucky Revised Statutes 411.130 (2) says you must first deduct:
- Funeral expenses,
- Administration costs, and
- Attorney fees.
Whatever remains must be distributed in a specific order.
The order is as follows:
- When there is a surviving spouse but no surviving children, the entire remaining amount will be paid to the spouse.
- If there is a surviving spouse and one or more surviving children, the spouse will receive one-half of the remaining amount while the children will split the other half.
- If there are surviving children but no surviving spouse, the children will split the entire remaining amount.
- Lastly, if the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, the decedent’s parents will receive the entire amount.
In the event there is no surviving spouse or children, and the decedent’s parents are also deceased, then the settlement will be applied to any debts of the estate. If there is any leftover money, it will be distributed to distant relatives of the victim, according to Kentucky probate laws.
Contact a Kentucky Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death settlements in Kentucky are dependent on individual factors, which is why you need a skilled legal advocate on your side. Don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of your family during an already highly emotional time.
The professional team at Gerling Law will review your case and advise you on the best legal course of action. We understand what a difficult time this is for you and your family. You should be concentrating on your family, not arguing with an insurance company over the value of your family member’s life.
Contact Gerling Law online or call (888) 437-5464 today to schedule a free consultation. We will handle all the complicated legal aspects of your lawsuit so you can focus on your family. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing surviving family members and will fight to help you hold the responsible parties accountable for your loved one’s death.
Remember, Go with Experience. Go with Gerling.®