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Guilty Plea in Fatal Tulsa, OK Crash Opens Door to Wrongful Death Claim

Posted on August 6, 2019

Charles Bryan Alred - Tulsa Wrongful Death Lawyer

More than four full years after a reckless driving car accident claimed the life of a Tulsa woman, the victim’s family can gain some closure.

A criminal case against the 22-year-old motorist responsible for the crash wrapped up August 1, 2019, when he pled guilty to motor vehicle negligent homicide. According to police, the man had been speeding when he failed to maneuver around a curve and flipped the vehicle on the night of August 7, 2015. Three other occupants in the same care were ejected, but survived their injuries.

Though the victim’s family was likely satisfied to see justice done, jail time, fines, and probation do not make up for their personal losses. A surviving spouse, children, parents, and others suffer tremendously when a loved one’s life is taken through misconduct of another person. The financial losses take their toll, and the emotional implications of grief can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, Oklahoma law does provide legal remedies beyond the criminal case when a person dies due to another’s intentional, reckless, or negligent acts. Certain individuals can file a wrongful death claim, which is similar to a personal injury case. However, since the victim is deceased, surviving family members are in a position to recover monetary damages.

Charles Bryan Alred, founding partner at Charles Bryan Alred, PC in Tulsa, OK, clarified some of the key issues in an Oklahoma wrongful death case. “First, it’s important to point out that only the decedent’s personal representative can file the claim. That person may be someone appointed in the will, or appointed by a probate court if the victim had no will. Second, you should note that there are two categories of monetary damages in a wrongful death claim: Those the victim sustains and those the survivors suffer.”

When asked about the recent case involving the Tulsa woman who was killed by criminal activity, Mr. Alred stressed that the criminal matter is separate from a civil claim. “A claimant doesn’t have to prove that the responsible party pled guilty or was convicted of a crime. Plus, a person found NOT guilty could still have rights in a wrongful death case, because there’s a lower standard of proof in a civil claim. You don’t have to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The OJ Simpson not guilty verdict – which was followed by an award of millions to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman – is a prime example.”