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Kentucky Wrongful Death Laws

The Kentucky Wrongful Death Statute can be found in KRS § 411.130.  Pursuant to the Act, whenever the death of a person results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another, damages may be recovered for the death from the person who caused it, or whose agent or servant caused it.  If the act was willful or the negligence gross, punitive damages may be recovered.  The action shall be prosecuted by the personal representative of the deceased.

The amount recovered, less funeral expenses and the cost of administration and costs of recovery including attorney fees, not included in the recovery from the defendant, shall be for the benefit of the kindred of the deceased in the following order:

(a) If the deceased leaves a widow or husband and no children or their descendants, then the whole to the widow or husband.

(b) If the deceased leaves a widow and children or a husband and children, then one-half (1/2) to the widow or husband and the other one-half (1/2) to the children of the deceased.

(c) If the deceased leaves a child or children, but no widow or husband, then the whole to the child or children.

(d) If the deceased leaves no widow, husband or child, then the recovery shall pass to the mother and father of the deceased, one (1) moiety each, if both are living; if the mother is dead and the father is living, the whole thereof shall pass to the father; and if the father is dead and the mother living, the whole thereof shall go to the mother. In the event the deceased was an adopted person, “mother” and “father” shall mean the adoptive parents of the deceased.

(e) If the deceased leaves no widow, husband or child, and if both father and mother are dead, then the whole of the recovery shall become a part of the personal estate of the deceased, and after the payment of his debts the remainder, if any, shall pass to his kindred more remote than those above named, according to the law of descent and distribution[i].

Further, it shall be lawful for the personal representative of a decedent who was injured by reason of the tortious acts of another, and later dies from such injuries, to recover in the same action for both the wrongful death of the decedent and for the personal injuries from which the decedent suffered prior to death, including a recovery for all elements of damages in both a wrongful death action and a personal injury action[ii].

In a wrongful death action in which the decedent was a minor child, the surviving parent, or parents, may recover for loss of affection and companionship that would have been derived from such child during his/her minority, in addition to all other damages usually recoverable in a wrongful death action[iii].

However, a parent who has willfully abandoned the care and maintenance of his or her child shall not have a right to maintain a wrongful death action for that child and shall not have a right otherwise to recover for the wrongful death of that child, unless:

(a) The abandoning parent had resumed the care and maintenance at least one (1) year prior to the death of the child and had continued the care and maintenance until the child’s death; or

(b) The parent had been deprived of the custody of his or her child under an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and the parent had substantially complied with all orders of the court requiring contribution to the support of the child[iv].

The action to recover damages from wrongful death shall in all cases be prosecuted by the personal representative of the deceased person. The General Assembly may provide how the recovery shall go and to whom belong; and until such provision is made, the same shall form part of the personal estate of the deceased person[v].

[i] KRS § 411.130

[ii] KRS § 411.133

[iii] KRS § 411.135

[iv] KRS § 411.137

[v] Ky. Const. § 241

Inside Kentucky Wrongful Death Laws