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How Are Wrongful Death Damages Calculated in Oklahoma?


Losing a loved one because the reckless or negligent actions of another caused their death is not only painful, but it creates a huge loss in the lives of those who loved the decedent and who relied upon their income to live. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks financial damages to compensate the surviving loved ones for their loss, and it is brought against the party whose negligence caused the death. But how does the court decide on how much to pay in a wrongful death lawsuit? Every life is precious, but some jury verdicts or settlements will be considerably larger than others. We will look at why that is the case and how the difficult job of putting a dollar value on a life is accomplished.

Valuation of A Life for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating the damages after the loss of a loved one can be difficult and create stress and anxiety for the family members. When you think of how much the deceased has contributed to your life every day, you understand that no amount of money will make up for your loss. In filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you understand that there are medical bills to pay, final expenses and other losses related to your loved one’s death. The proceeds from the lawsuit will help make sure that the loss created by your loved one’s death will not ruin you financially.

The pecuniary rule is one of the main methods used by the courts to value a life for a wrongful death claim. Pecuniary means financial or pertaining to money, so the pecuniary rule calculates how much the decedent’s life was worth based on how much they currently earned, how much they might be expected to earn in the future, along with several other factors including:

  • Age and life expectancy of the deceased
  • His or her state of health
  • His or her income at the time of death
  • Approximate future earnings
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of goods and services the deceased might have produced
  • Age of his or her dependents
  • Final medical bills
  • Funeral expenses

The non-economic losses that the family suffered because of the loss of the deceased might include:

  • Grief and emotional anguish, and pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium for the surviving spouse
  • Loss of guidance, support, love and companionship of a parent and spouse

The unfortunate aspect of the pecuniary rule in calculating wrongful death verdicts and settlements is that a wealthy, young, single entrepreneur who was tragically killed in a negligent accident might command a much higher settlement than a middle-aged single mother who has five children who depend on her, but she does not have a high income. Both are dearly loved and missed by their loved ones, but because the wealthy young business man has built companies, created products and employed lots of people, his net worth would create a more significant settlement that the divorced mom who works as a teacher.

Don't Wait to File Your Claim

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another person and you are thinking about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you might consider consulting with an Oklahoma wrongful death attorney from the Stipe Law Firm right away. There is a two-year statute of limitations for most wrongful death lawsuits, so there is no time to hesitate about seeking the justice you deserve in the form of fair compensation for your loss.

The loss of a loved one may have devastated your life, but there may be more shock later when you find out what the insurance company is offering in a wrongful death settlement. When you are grieving the loss of a loved one that was caused by the negligent actions of another, you may benefit from a conversation with an experienced Oklahoma wrongful death attorney. The discreet and compassionate legal team at Stipe Law Firm will evaluate your case and advise you on legal strategy.

Please call (918) 505-7741 or complete our contact form today for a free consultation in our McAlester office. We serve families throughout the state of Oklahoma.