A Guide to Wrongful Death Cases for Family Members
Nothing will ever replace a family member who is taken from us too soon. Wrongful death cases, however, work to help relatives move forward after their painful loss. If someone dies because of negligence, reckless or deliberate actions, a wrongful death lawsuit can secure monetary compensation for surviving family.
Family members considering filing a claim for wrongful death usually have a lot of questions. The attorneys at Amourgis & Associates want help you as you navigate this painful time and difficult decision. We have provided answers to some of the most common concerns related to wrongful death suits.
What is Wrongful Death?
This type of civil suit is designed to provide family members with financial compensation when a loved one’s death is caused by the negligence or misconduct or someone else. Wrongful death is defined and prosecuted differently across the states, although often there are similarities to be found. In Ohio, action for wrongful death is addressed in section 2125 of the Ohio Revised Statutes (ORS) and defined as a death that occurs through the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
In Ohio, there are a variety of wrongful death claims a beneficiary can make. A few examples include:
- Medical malpractice,
- Pharmaceutical errors,
- Workplace accidents,
- Slip and fall accidents,
- Defective products,
- Negligent supervision,
- Car accidents involving negligence,
- Car accidents involving speeding, or criminal behavior, such as DUI and DWI,
- Commercial trucking collisions,
- Other types of accidents – motorcycle, train and airplane – including those caused by Criminal attacks and murder.
These are just a few examples of situations that can occur and give surviving family members the grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a person, organization, or other entity.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain individuals with specific relationships to the deceased can be beneficiaries of compensable damages through a wrongful suit. A family member of the deceased often acts as the representative to file a wrongful death suit in the civil court system. While one family member may file the claim, he or she can seek compensatory damages for other surviving family members. The wrongful death claim will show how they have suffered direct damages when their loved one died.
The plaintiff must be a person who is related to the deceased in some manner and is presumed, by law, to have suffered a direct loss because of their loved one’s untimely or wrongful death. This often indicates the person’s surviving parents, spouse, and/or children, including adopted children. Grandparents or siblings may have the standing to bring a lawsuit, but they have difficulty showing the court how they suffered a direct loss. These relatives will likely have to show the court proof of a compensable loss, if they want to recover damages.
Other entities, such as corporations, may not act as the representative for the family. Additionally, the parent of a deceased child does not have standing to file a suit if the court determines they abandoned the child.
What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Suit?
Wrongful death suits can follow criminal cases and utilize similar evidence. The main difference is that the standard of proof for civil suits is lower. In a criminal case, the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, the plaintiff only needs to show evidence that his or her version of events is more likely.
Because it is civil action, the burden of proof is different for wrongful death lawsuits versus criminal charges. Ultimately, the plaintiff must be able to prove their loved one died as a direct result of someone else’s wrongful actions or neglect.
What Possible Damages Are Available in Ohio?
Compensatory damages awarded when wrongful death claims are successful, according to Ohio’s statute, include the following:
- Loss of support from the reasonably expected earning capacity of the decedent;
- Loss of services of the decedent;
- Loss of the society of the decedent, including loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education, suffered by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin of the decedent;
- Loss of prospective inheritance to the decedent’s heirs at law at the time of the decedent’s death;
- The mental anguish incurred by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin of the decedent.
Ohio’s inheritance laws govern how the awarded damages are distributed among surviving family members. Often, the distribution depends on how the family members are related to the deceased individual. For example, two siblings who have lost a parent have the same relationship to the deceased, and the damages would likely be split equally between them. If surviving family members have different relationships to the deceased—such as a spouse, a child, and a former spouse who has remarried—the court determines the fairest way to distribute damages among them.
How Much Time Does a Family Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the state of Ohio, there is a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death suit. Family members have two years from the date of the death to make a claim. If they try to file action after two years have passed, this is grounds for having the case dismissed by the court.
Find Reliable Legal Assistance
State laws in Ohio are subject to change when new legislation is passed and through higher court rulings. Additionally, lawsuits involve a variety of factors that can make them complicated and difficult to manage.
If you believe you have grounds for filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased family member, contact a reputable law office that handles personal injury cases. The legal professionals at Amourgis & Associates can provide expert knowledge on wrongful death suits and help the surviving family members traverse the civil court system. With 19 offices throughout Ohio, we are accessible to families throughout the state and can be contacted online or by calling 800-444-1967.