What is Considered a Wrongful Death?
Losing a loved one can be overwhelming emotionally and financially devastating. It is difficult enough to grieve a loss that was not unexpected or unavoidable, so the wrongful death of a loved one can cause complex, compound grief. When a loved one’s death is caused by the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of someone else, you can take legal action to hold the negligent party liable and pursue compensation for your loss.
Each state has its own laws and statutes with regard to wrongful death claims and what must be proved in order to success in a lawsuit. These laws allow a deceased person’s survivors to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if the death was the legal fault of another individual or entity.
Similar to many other states, in Ohio, a wrongful death claim can be brought forward when an individual’s death was the result of wrongful acts, negligence, or default actions that would have entitled the decedent to recover damages had the death not occurred. A wrongful death claim is usually brought by a family member or representative of the deceased for damages they suffered due to their loved one’s untimely and unexpected death. The key factor is that the loved one died as a result of another individual or entity’s wrongful action, neglect, or fault.
What Are Types of Wrongful Death Actions?
A wrongful death case is considered a type of personal injury lawsuit in which the injured victim is no longer able to bring their case to court. Instead, a representative is required to step in and file the claim on the deceased party’s behalf. Liability in a wrongful death is solely expressed through financial compensation or damages that the court orders a defendant to pay to the decedent’s survivors.
As with personal injury lawsuits in general, wrongful death lawsuits can arise from several different circumstances, including negligence-based accidents, medical malpractice, and intentional acts which include crimes. There are multiple types of wrongful death claims that can be brought by a personal representative of family members, including:
- Car or truck accidents
- Medical malpractice incidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian or cyclist accidents
- Premises liability
- Prescription drug errors
- House or building fires
- Criminal behavior such as driving under the influence (DUI)
- Occupational exposure to hazards
Some kinds of wrongful death claims are more complicated than others, and can involve more than one legal issue. For example, premises liability claims may involve slip and fall accidents, negligent security claims, and defective property conditions. It is advisable to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help you negotiate what can often be a legally complex process.
Who Can Bring Forward a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the state of Ohio, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or the estate executor must file a claim on behalf of the deceased surviving family. Ohio laws have established requirements for who can become a personal representative.
Sometimes the executor of personal representative of the estate is named in the decedent’s will. In cases where the deceased did not have a will in place, the court can appoint a person to act as executor of the estate. It is important to note that an estate must be opened with a personal representative appointed by the probate court before a wrongful death settlement can be approved.
The Ohio statute specifically states that the law presumes the spouse, children, and surviving parents of the deceased person have suffered a direct loss as a result of their loved one’s wrongful death and have standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Other family members may be able to bring a wrongful death claim; however, they are not presumed to have suffered a loss and will likely need to prove this element to the court.
Ohio intestate laws dictate how any awarded settlement of a wrongful death claim is divided. The courts aim to divide settlement fairly based on the damages the family members suffered. Typically, the decedent’s surviving spouse, parents, children, or other dependents will receive the compensation for a wrongful death claim. Siblings, grandparents, and other relatives are not entitled to compensation unless they can prove they had a relationship with the decedent and suffered damages as a direct result of their death.
Ohio law states that wrongful death claims must be made within two years from the date of the family member’s death. If the proper filing is not handled in a timely manner, any potential for a claimant to pursue compensation is lost. This is another reason is it important to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer to handle each step of a wrongful death lawsuit and ensure your case is diligently tracked.
What Damages Can Be Compensated in Wrongful Death Claims?
In Ohio, wrongful death claims are not subject to damages caps as is the case in other states. Claimants can receive compensation for both economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Loss of financial support from the reasonably expected earning capacity of the deceased.
- Loss of household and/or childcare services of the deceased.
- Loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education.
- Loss of any future inheritance from the deceased
- Emotional pain and suffering of the deceased’s family
- Incurred medical expenses
- Funeral and final expenses
In most wrongful death cases, the settlement is not considered taxable income. However, it is important to note that a claimant may have to pay taxes for a portion of the recovery obtained for the following:
- Medical expenses previously deducted in past tax years.
- Pain and suffering that is not related to the decedent’s physical injury or death.
- Punitive damages.
There are a number of variables that factor into how much a wrongful death claim is worth. Some relevant factors that contribute to the amount of a final wrongful death settlement include:
- Availability of insurance coverage
- Collectability of the at-fault individual or entity
- Decedent’s age
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of expected income
- Loss of services to family members
- Medical expenses
- Mental anguish
It is recommended that potential claimants seek counsel from a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer to ensure that all legal issues and avenues are discussed and investigated. A skilled wrongful death lawyer can assist in identifying liability and understanding the applicability of various insurance coverages. Every wrongful death case is different, and warrants the personalized review of an experienced wrongful death lawyer.
If your loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligent behavior, it is essential to contact a knowledgeable Dayton wrongful death lawyer to help guide you through the process necessary to obtain the fair compensation you need and deserve.
Our team has a reputation founded on strong principles of ethical practice and client service. Our attorneys embrace hard work, skilled negotiation, and aggressive litigation in order to protect the rights of our clients to the fullest. We strive to secure the maximum amount of compensation on behalf of our clients to ease their losses.
The Dayton Wrongful Death Lawyers at Wright & Schulte, LLC Fight for the Rights of Our Clients and Their Families
If someone you loved died because of another’s negligence, Dayton wrongful death lawyer at Wright & Schulte, LLC can provide the caring, personalized and loyal representation you deserve. For a free legal evaluation of your case, call us at 937-222-7477 or contact us online today. With offices in Dayton, Vandalia, and Cleveland, we serve clients throughout Ohio.