Losing a loved one is difficult. But when another person’s negligence or recklessness caused their death, the situation becomes even more devastating.
In Ohio, if someone loses their life as a result of another person or entity’s negligent actions, their loved ones have a right to seek justice. Below, we will explain what a wrongful death lawsuit is, what compensation might be available, how to prove negligence, and why having an Ohio wrongful death attorney is essential in securing a successful outcome.
Ohio Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Per Ohio Revised Code 2125.01 ORC, family members of a deceased individual have the right to seek compensation for their loved one’s death by filing an Ohio wrongful death lawsuit. If a party’s negligent or intentional actions led to someone’s untimely death, they can be held liable for the surviving family members’ losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and funeral and burial expenses.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Ohio
Wrongful death can arise from a wide range of circumstances. Some of the more common causes of Ohio wrongful death include:
Motor vehicle accidents – Accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians are the leading cause of wrongful death. When a driver acts carelessly or recklessly and causes a fatal accident, they can be held liable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Common types of auto accidents include drunk driving, road rage, driver fatigue, and distracted driving.
Medical malpractice – Another leading cause of wrongful death, medical malpractice, occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional fails to provide adequate care to their patient, resulting in their death. Birth injuries, surgical errors, traumatic brain injuries, and medication errors can all lead to a wrongful death action.
Nursing home abuse or neglect – When an elderly nursing home resident dies as a result of abuse or neglect, surviving members can seek compensation. Nursing home abuse or neglect can be perpetrated by staff members, other residents, or visitors of the facility. Slip and fall accidents, malnutrition and dehydration, medication errors, and physical abuse are common causes of Ohio nursing home wrongful death cases.
Product liability – Companies that design, manufacture, distribute, or sell a defective product that results in a person’s death can be held liable for damages in an Ohio wrongful death claim. Faulty products that often lead to wrongful death include but are not limited to medical devices, children and baby products, car parts, power tools, and appliances.
Premises Liability – Property owners and managers have a duty to make their property safe. When they fail to maintain their property or warn others of a dangerous condition and someone dies as a result, they may be held responsible for their negligent actions or inaction. Some examples of premises liability wrongful death claims include swimming pool deaths, slip and fall accidents, and inadequate security resulting in a deadly assault.
Call Slater & Zurz at (888) 534-4850 to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits in Ohio.
Compensation Available in Wrongful Death Cases
A deceased family member’s estate has the right to seek damages from the party or parties responsible for their death under Ohio law. The types of compensation available depend on the circumstances of the case. However, damages that are typically awarded include:
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income of the decedent
- Loss of the deceased’s benefits
- Loss of services provided by the deceased victim, such as childcare and housework
- Loss of future inheritance
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship, guidance, or counsel
- Pain and suffering
In certain circumstances, a judge or jury might feel punitive damages are warranted. Unlike other types of damages that aim to compensate a victim or their family, punitive damages seek to punish the wrongdoer for their actions and deter the at-fault party and others from acting similarly.
These damages are rare but can be awarded when the defendant’s actions are intentional, exceptionally harmful, or egregious. Most states impose a limit on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. However, Ohio does not put a limit or “damages cap” on punitive damages.
Proving Negligence After a Wrongful Death in Ohio
To bring a successful wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney must prove the other party’s negligent or intentional actions caused the death of your loved one. In Ohio, four elements must be proven to show negligence.
- A duty of care – The defendant had an obligation to exercise a reasonable level of care so as to prevent harm or injury. For example, a doctor has a duty to his or her patient to follow the accepted standard of care.
- Breach of duty – The defendant failed to provide a reasonable level of care and therefore breached their duty. If the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol, they failed to exercise reasonable care to the injured victim.
- Causation – The third element of every successful wrongful death claim is causation. To prove causation, your attorney will need to show that your loved one would not have sustained fatal injuries if not for the defendant’s actions. In other words, if the defendant exercised adequate care, your loved one would not have died.
- Damages – The final element is damages. Your attorney must show that you and other family members incurred losses as a result of the actions or inaction of the defendant or party responsible for your loved one’s death.
Although these elements seem pretty straightforward, issues can arise when attempting to prove these in court. For example, the defendant’s attorney might try to claim a preexisting health condition – not the defendant’s actions – ultimately caused your loved one’s death. For this reason, having a capable and diligent Ohio wrongful death lawyer who can show the true cause is critical to the success of your claim.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Ohio
In many states, the deceased’s family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 2125.02 ORC, the executor, sometimes referred to as the estate’s “personal representative,” is the only individual who can bring a wrongful death suit in Ohio.
If there is a will or trust, the deceased party likely named the personal representative within it. However, if the decedent died without a will, referred to as “intestate,” the probate courts will appoint someone to serve as a representative on the decedent’s behalf.
Should the wrongful death suit result in a settlement or award, that award would then be distributed to eligible family members. These individuals typically include the decedent’s parents, surviving spouse, domestic partner, and children.
Ohio’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Each state sets a time limit for initiating a claim against an at-fault party. This time frame, known as a “statute of limitations,” begins on the date of the alleged accident or incident. Under Ohio Revised Code 2125.02 ORC, a deceased victim’s personal representative has two years to take legal action against the responsible party.
Should they fail to act within the two years, the estate will likely forever lose their right to seek compensation on their loved one’s behalf. Therefore, the estate’s representative must act quickly and consult with an Ohio wrongful death attorney right away.
How an Ohio Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Due to the high stakes in these cases, Ohio wrongful death claims are typically some of the most complicated and challenging. That is why it is imperative to have expert legal representation and continued guidance throughout the entire process.
Having an experienced and dedicated wrongful death attorney in Ohio drastically increases the success of your case. Your skilled attorney can assist you by:
- Keeping you and your family members updated throughout the legal process
- Thoroughly investigating the circumstances that led to your loved one’s death
- Compiling evidence proving negligence, such as medical records and evidence from the scene of the accident
- Working with a team of medical and financial experts to accurately assess your damages
- Skillfully negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance to secure full compensation
- If negotiations do not result in a favorable settlement, representing your best interests in court to obtain maximum compensation
To ensure you receive the best outcome possible, we highly recommend choosing an attorney with extensive experience handling wrongful death lawsuits as well as a proven track record of success in securing full and fair compensation for their clients.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys in Ohio
Following a loved one’s death, you and other family members may struggle mentally, emotionally, and financially. Those struggles become even more significant if the loss is unexpectedly caused by someone’s negligent or intentional actions.
The skilled and compassionate team at Slater & Zurz has been helping injured victims, and their families successfully recover damages from at-fault parties. With over 150 years of collective experience representing our clients in wrongful death and other personal injury matters, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to get you the justice you deserve. To learn more about securing compensation after a loved one’s death, we encourage you to reach out to our wrongful death lawyers in Ohio. Call (888) 534-4850 or contact us online to arrange your FREE, no-obligation case review.