How much a wrongful death claim is worth in Ohio depends on several factors, including the person’s age, whether they were a source of financial support, and the emotional effects on the family.
Compensatory Damages for Wrongful Death in Ohio
The laws of our state allow a successful wrongful death action to result in an award of these damages, depending on what is appropriate in the individual fact pattern:
- Loss of support, to replace the amount that one could reasonably expect that the decedent could have earned but for the untimely death. These are also known as lost earnings.
- Loss of the decedent’s services.
- Loss of society of the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin, which can include no longer having things like the companionship, attention, assistance, consortium, guidance, instruction, education, counsel, training, and protection of the decedent.
- Loss of potential inheritance to people who were heirs of the decedent at the time of the wrongful death.
- The surviving spouse’s, dependent children’s, parents’, or next of kin’s mental anguish over the loss of the decedent.
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs. The verdict of the jury or court must set forth these items separately.
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Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Ohio
A wrongful death lawsuit allows the family members of someone who died in an accident to recover compensation for their losses.
The personal representative will bring the action for the benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the decedent. Our state’s laws create a rebuttable presumption that the surviving spouse, children, and parents suffered losses because of the wrongful death.
A rebuttable presumption means that the judge will start with the assumption that these survivors sustained losses, but the defense can bring up evidence to try to refute or disprove the accuracy of that assumption. For example, if a child dies from a wrongful act and the personal representative recovers compensation for the survivors, a parent who abandoned the child will not get any of those money damages.
Distribution of Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Settlement Proceeds
The distribution of proceeds is the same, whether there is a verdict from the court, or the personal representative settles the wrongful death matter. At the end of the case, the court will either reimburse the person who paid the funeral and burial costs or will distribute those designated funds to the personal representative to pay those expenses.
The personal representative will then distribute the proceeds according to the shares that the court identified for the eligible beneficiaries. Sometimes each beneficiary will receive an equal amount of damages. In other situations, the court will adjust the shares equitably. The court can allow the recipients to decide on how they want to distribute the proceeds among themselves.
The court can set up a trust for any beneficiary who is younger than 25. The beneficiary will receive the proceeds at age 25.
How Claims of Parental Abandonment Impact Distribution of Compensation
If the personal representative knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a parent who is seeking compensation for the wrongful death of a child abandoned that minor child, the personal representative can ask the court to deny that parent money damages in the lawsuit or claim. The personal representative can file a motion with the court asking the court to issue an order that does these two things:
- Officially states that the parent abandoned the minor child, and
- As such, the parent is not eligible to profit from the child’s death by receiving compensation in the lawsuit or claim.
The court will hold a hearing on the issue of abandonment. If the evidence convinces the court, the court will issue an order granting the motion and making the above findings. For purposes of wrongful death lawsuits, parental abandonment means that a parent of a minor, without good justification, did not:
- Communicate with;
- Provide care for; and
- Pay court-ordered or administratively-required funds for the support or maintenance of the minor child for at least one year right before the child’s death.
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Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Ohio
You usually only have two years to file a lawsuit to go after money damages for the wrongful death of your close relative. It is crucial that you talk with an Ohio wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible so that you do not miss this deadline. Once the statute of limitations passes, Ohio law can bar you from ever seeking compensation for your losses.
Getting Legal Help for an Ohio Wrongful Death Claim
At Bressman Law, our passion is to help people who have suffered harm at the hands of others. We understand that you have experienced a tremendous loss. We will treat you with respect and compassion. Call us today at (614) 538-1116, to set up your free consultation.