If someone’s careless or intentional act caused the death of your spouse or close relative, a wrongful death lawyer can help the estate’s personal representative pursue compensation on behalf of the decedent’s legal beneficiaries. Bressman Law wrongful death lawyers serving Powell, Ohio handle cases in Powell and in nearby communities.
Find Out if You Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Ohio law allows only the person whom the court appoints as the personal representative (PR) of the decedent to file a wrongful death action on behalf of the legal beneficiaries. The PR can settle the wrongful death claim, but the court has to approve the terms of the settlement and the proposed distribution of proceeds.
The PR can settle the claim without having to file a lawsuit. The PR can also settle the wrongful death claim even if there is a pending case with the court.
How Much Time You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Ohio
The statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death action in Ohio is generally two years, but several factors can impact the amount of time the law will allow. Be sure to talk with us right away so that you do not miss the deadline.
Who Can Get Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
State law in Ohio will automatically assume that the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the person who died suffered damages as a result of the wrongful death. This is a rebuttable presumption. This means that the court will consider evidence to the contrary, such as in the event of child abandonment.
The law will not automatically assume that the siblings of the deceased person experienced losses because of the death. This assumption can be refuted by evidence that a disabled sibling was financially dependent on the decedent, for example.
The PR can ask the judge to make a separate award for the reasonable funeral and burial costs. The court can either reimburse the expenses (if someone has already paid them) or instruct the PR to pay these bills with the funds allocated for that purpose.
The Essential Elements of a Wrongful Death Case in Ohio
The equation for a successful wrongful death claim in our state is:
Fault + Decedent Had Right to Sue = Award of Money Damages
The person we sue in the wrongful death action must have done something wrong, whether intentionally or accidentally, that caused the decedent’s death. Let’s say that a drunk driver caused a fatal car accident. The PR of the person who died in the crash can sue the drunk driver on behalf of the legal beneficiaries of the decedent.
Decedent Had a Right to Sue
The person who died must have had a right to sue the defendant if the decedent had survived the injuries. For example, the person killed in the drunk driving collision would have had a right to sue the impaired driver if his injuries had not taken his life.
The fact that a crime caused the death does not affect the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Ohio law allows wrongful death actions in situations involving negligence, carelessness, wrongful acts, manslaughter, murder, and aggravated murder.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
The judge or jury can award these damages in a successful wrongful death lawsuit, or the parties can agree to a settlement that includes any of these damages:
- Loss of support. This item is the amount that the decedent likely would have earned if the defendant had not ended their life.
- Loss of the services of the decedent. Many things that people do have value to the family, even if the activities do not bring home a paycheck. Making meals, doing laundry or dishes, cleaning the house, and tending the yard are examples of services that can be part of the total damages. Now that the decedent is not there to perform these services to the household, the family has suffered a loss.
- People who were the heirs of the decedent can sustain a loss of potential inheritance.
- The surviving spouse, children, and parents of the decedent can receive compensation for their mental anguish from the loss of their loved one.
- The surviving spouse, children, and parents will miss out on experiences because the decedent is gone. The deceased person will not be there for birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of grandchildren. Also, the survivors will lose the everyday moments with the deceased, including companionship, guidance, attention, and other aspects of the loss of society with the decedent. All of these may be factored into the recoverable damages.
How the Court Distributes Wrongful Death Claim Awards or Settlements
Going to trial does not change the way that Ohio law handles the distribution of proceeds in a wrongful death claim. The judge or jury will handle the funeral and burial costs and then address how to apportion the remaining funds.
Usually, survivors with the same degree of relationship to the deceased will get approximately the same share of the proceeds. For example, if the decedent had four surviving children, they will likely get about the same amount. The court has the authority to adjust the shares to make things equitable.
The court will look at the age and condition of the beneficiaries and the injury and loss to each beneficiary. If one surviving child is a neurosurgeon and another cannot work because of a developmental disability, the court will assess the greater need of the disabled child. Also, a young child might have greater support and education costs than a child who is financially independent and self-supporting.
How Remarriage Affects Distribution
Sometimes a surviving spouse gets married again before the wrongful death case settles or the court reaches a verdict. In these situations, the remarried surviving spouse can still get some compensation, but the court has the option of reducing the spousal share.
If the claim or lawsuit centers on the wrongful death of a minor child, Ohio law allows the PR to ask the judge not to distribute proceeds to a parent who abandoned the child. The court can find that a parent abandoned the child if, without valid reasons, the parent failed to do these things for a year or more right before the child’s death:
- Communicate with the child,
- Provide care for the child, and
- Pay for the maintenance or support of the minor child as ordered by a court or administrative agency.
Wrongful Death Lawyers Serving Powell, Ohio, Can Help You
You deserve compassion and respect when you have experienced the loss of a close loved one. Wrongful death lawyers serving Powell, Ohio, and the surrounding communities can help you and your family pursue the compensation you deserve.