In Kentucky, Who Files a Wrongful Death Claim and Who Gets the Proceeds?

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What does wrongful death mean?

Wrongful death means that someone has been killed due to another person or entity’s misconduct or negligence. Wrongful death claims can stem from almost any type of incident but are often the result of motor vehicle accidents.

A wrongful death claim or lawsuit is a civil, not criminal, action that seeks monetary
compensation for the decedent’s death. Someone must be authorized by the court to oversee the estate and initiate a wrongful death claim. Who should that be?

  1. If there is a valid will, the person named in the will as executor or executrix and duly
    appointed by the court has the authority to pursue a wrongful death claim.
  2. If the decedent did not have a will, someone must apply to be appointed administrator of the
    estate to bring a wrongful death claim. The court will consider the relationship between the
    applicants and the decedent, taking into account the priorities set forth by statute, and select an
  3. The surviving spouse has the highest priority and usually has the superior right to file the
    wrongful death claim. There are considerations that may cause the court to deny the spouse the
    right to bring the case, such as if the surviving spouse and decedent were separated or in the
    process of a divorce, or if the surviving spouse is not competent. The surviving spouse may waive the right to serve.
  4. Children of the decedent are next in line to pursue a wrongful death claim if there is no
    surviving spouse.
  5. The decedent’s parents have priority for appointment if the decedent was a child or was unmarried with no children.

It is important to note that the person authorized to bring a wrongful death claim has the
authority to select an attorney to pursue the claim. However, that person does not have the right to determine who will receive money from the wrongful death claim settlement or judgment.

When money is recovered through a wrongful death claim, the money is distributed according to the law. After medical, funeral, and legal expenses are paid, the remainder of the money will go the surviving spouse and children. If the decedent was unmarried without children, then the decedent’s parents would receive the proceeds. If there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the proceeds would pass through the estate.

The experienced attorneys at Crocker Law Firm represent wrongful death claimants throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. Our practice is devoted to personal injury and wrongful death cases.

If you have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence, please give us a call. It does not cost anything to see if we can help.

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Robin Hewitt

Robin Hewitt is a personal injury attorney with Crocker Law Firm. She is a graduate of George Mason University and the University of Dayton School of Law.


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