When someone dies as a result of another party’s neglect, carelessness, or misconduct, Ohio law provides that family members may be entitled to financial compensation from the responsible party (defendant). The personal representative of the estate can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the survivors and obtain a settlement award for the family if he is able to prove the defendant’s negligence.
If your loved one recently died due to another person’s wrongful act (e.g., drunk driving, motor vehicle accident,), act of violence, or a medical mistake, or if you are the executor of an estate and wish to pursue a wrongful death action, contact Levy Law Offices in Cincinnati for a free consultation to discuss your options: 513-587-1323.
What types of wrongful death claims does Ohio recognize?
There are actually two separate claims that may be applicable when someone dies as a result of wrongful death. Each are for a different purpose, and the state handles the funds differently at the conclusion of each case.
- Survival actions: Survival actions recover the decedent’s losses and expenses he sustained prior to death as a result of the negligent act. These types of claims are essentially a personal injury case that the deceased would have filed had he lived. Damages include medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses the victim accrued up until the time of death. The proceeds from these actions go directly to the estate; once the personal representative has settled any debts, he will distribute them as described in the deceased’s will or intestacy laws if there is no will.
- Wrongful death claims: While survival actions focus on the deceased, wrongful death claims focus on the survivors. When a person dies, her loved ones sustain various damages, from loss of love and support to loss of income. As such, wrongful death claims are on behalf of the survivors for the sole purpose of recovering these types of losses. Proceeds will go to survivors as per Ohio wrongful death laws.
What types claims can wrongful death laywers help with in Ohio?
Rather than having multiple beneficiaries each file a wrongful death claim for the same loved one, ORC § 2125.02 provides that a personal representative of the estate must bring the wrongful death action. The personal representative is an executor or administrator of the estate, generally the one named as executor in the person’s will, or if there is no will, someone that the court appoints.
The personal representative files the claim as the plaintiff in the case and makes the important decisions about the wrongful death claim, such as which lawyer to retain, whether or not to sue, and when to settle. Note, the personal representative is person that files the wrongful death claim — but it is not for her benefit; it is on behalf of and for the exclusive benefit of all the survivors. In other words, the personal representative does not pocket the funds unless he or she is a family member; the family splits the funds as per Ohio’s wrongful death laws.
Which survivors receive the settlement from a wrongful death claim?
Ohio law assumes that certain parties sustain losses when their loved one dies, and will therefore automatically receive a portion of the wrongful death settlement. These parties are the surviving:
- Children, including natural children, adopted children, and children that were conceived prior to the deceased’s death
Other parties, such as siblings and grandparents, may be entitled to compensation as well — but only if they can prove to the courts that they sustained compensable losses.
In the event that there are multiple survivors, there is no set percentage of the settlement that each survivor gets. Rather, the personal representative or the court will “adjust the share of each beneficiary in a manner that is equitable, having due regard for the injury and loss to each beneficiary resulting from the death and for the age and condition of the beneficiaries.”
What types of damages can wrongful death survivors recover?
After reviewing all the facts of the case and the evidence presented, the courts will determine a fair settlement award. In determining damages, judge will “consider all factors existing at the time of the decedent’s death that are relevant to a determination of the damages suffered by reason of the wrongful death.”
In additional to funeral and burial costs, ORC § 2125.02(3)(B) provides that there are five types of damages that are compensable in an Ohio wrongful death claim:
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of services
- “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
- The mental anguish suffered by the spouse, children, parents, etc.
It is a good idea to have a wrongful death attorney review your case and correctly calculate the value of your claim. Feel free to contact us for help appraising your case. Our firm often uses forensic economists and other financial experts to help us valuate future damages so that you can be sure you and your family receive appropriate compensation.
Is there a cap on wrongful death settlement award?
Each state sets its own standards regarding limits to damages for wrongful death actions. In Ohio, there is no limit to the amount of compensatory damages you can receive. Compensatory damages are for losses you actually sustained, like bills and loss of income. There is a cap, however, on the amount of non-compensatory or emotional damages the judge can award you. The state limits these types of damages to $250,000.
It is important to note that there is also a limit on the amount of time the personal representative has to file a wrongful death claim, which is generally two years from the date of death. Failure to file on time will nullify your rights to benefits.
Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death in 2014 for individuals age 11 and also for ages 16 through 24. If it was your loved one affected, please seek the help of a wrongful death lawyer. For help getting compensation for damages you sustained after losing a loved one, call Levy Law Offices for a free consultation: 513-587-1323.