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How Soon Can I Start a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After My Loved One’s Death?

The death of a loved one is an extremely difficult experience for surviving family members, especially when that person’s death could have been prevented. In the aftermath of a preventable death, especially one that was caused by someone else’s negligence, families often face both emotional devastation and financial hardship.

It’s common for grieving families to pursue compensation after a fatal accident through wrongful death lawsuits, but they also may wonder about the timing of these lawsuits. How soon after their loved ones’ deaths should they start the process? And what’s the maximum amount of time they can wait before beginning?

What Is Wrongful Death?

Before diving into timelines, it’s important to understand what constitutes a wrongful death. In Oklahoma, a wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional act of another.

This can include medical malpractice, car accidents, workplace incidents, and more. The lawsuit aims to provide financial compensation for the survivors for their losses, including funeral expenses, loss of household income, and emotional distress.

You Can Take Legal Action Immediately

In Oklahoma, you can immediately take legal action for a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a loved one. There is no mandatory waiting period before you can initiate a lawsuit.

 In fact, in accidents that aren’t immediately fatal, it’s common for some families to meet with attorneys and begin the preliminary process before their loved ones have passed away if their prognosis is poor and they are likely to die from their negligence-related injuries or illnesses. Even if you don’t begin the process early, you can still begin at any point after your loved one’s death—but you must do so within a certain timeline.

You Must File Before the Statute of Limitations Expires

While there is no time limit on grief, the statute of limitations in Oklahoma for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the deceased’s death. This legal timeframe is crucial; missing it can bar you from ever bringing a lawsuit to court.

However, the exact timing can vary depending on specific circumstances surrounding the manner of death—for example, in certain types of medical malpractice—so it’s important to contact an experienced Oklahoma City wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can tell you exactly how much time you have to file a lawsuit against the negligent party before you lose the right forever.

Why It’s Important to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Right Away

While two years to file a wrongful death claim might seem like you have a long time, especially if you want to take the time to properly grieve before getting involved in a likely-to-be-stressful legal case, starting the legal process early has significant advantages to keep in mind:

  • Preserving Crucial Evidence: Evidence can deteriorate or disappear over time. Acting swiftly ensures that crucial evidence is preserved and collected, which can be vital for building a strong case.
  • Gaining Accurate Witness Testimonies: Witness memories fade as time passes. Gathering testimonies soon after the incident can provide more accurate and compelling accounts to support your case.
  • Getting Compensation Sooner: The financial impact of losing a loved one can be immediate and overwhelming. A timely lawsuit can expedite the process of securing compensation to help with expenses and lost income.
  • Receiving Emotional Closure: While no amount of money can replace a loved one, achieving justice can provide a sense of closure and peace for grieving families, allowing them to move through the healing process more easily.
  • Avoiding the Deadline: Two years can pass more quickly than you think, especially when you’re grieving and dealing with the loss of your loved one. By contacting a lawyer right away, you can get peace of mind knowing you won’t miss the deadline.

The important thing to remember is that hiring a lawyer can leave you the space you need to grieve while also protecting your rights. Your lawyer will take on the process of gathering evidence and completing the necessary paperwork so you and your family don’t have to.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oklahoma?

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit, even when they are related to the person who died. In Oklahoma, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. This person, sometimes referred to as the executor or administrator, may be named in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court if there is no will.

The personal representative acts on behalf of the estate and the beneficiaries, which can include the deceased’s immediate family members such as spouses, children, parents, and, in some cases, other dependents who were financially reliant on the deceased. The compensation recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit is distributed to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.

This typically includes:

  • The surviving spouse
  • Children, including adopted children and stepchildren
  • Parents, if there are no surviving spouse or children
  • Siblings, if there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents

Our Oklahoma City Wrongful Death Lawyers Are Ready to Help

Wrongful death claims are often difficult for families to start, but they play an important role in the financial and emotional recovery process when someone has died due to others’ negligence. At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we understand the sensitive nature of these claims, and we work hard to ensure our clients feel understood, heard, and taken care of throughout the process.

If you lost a loved one due to another person’s or party’s carelessness, we’re here to represent you. Our Oklahoma City wrongful death attorneys can begin building your claim immediately to help you get the compensation and closure you need as soon as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation.