Wrongful Death Laws in Ohio

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Following the death of a loved one, the surviving family members of the decedent often struggle with the emotional aspect of the situation, such as overcoming grief and despair. The surviving family members must also deal with the economic aspect of the situation. For instance, the surviving family members may be left scrambling to figure out how future bills and expenses will be covered.

In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action that are brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because individual state law sets the guidelines and boundaries of wrongful death claims, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.

If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Ohio?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim typically brought by a surviving family member, or family members, of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. If successful, a wrongful death claim can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.

Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may result in a wrongful death claim. The State of Ohio defines wrongful death as one that is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another.

Ohio law essentially treats a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that the decedent would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the decedent to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the decedent will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.

Sometimes the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant. Yet it is important to note that a pending criminal case does not necessarily preclude a civil wrongful death action from being pursued in civil court. However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal questions, it is worth discussing your options with a wrongful death attorney.

Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Ohio?

Ohio law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. A personal representative is a person often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses, adult children, or adult siblings of the decedent. If the designated individual cannot or will not serve as a personal representative of the decedent’s estate, or if no estate plan exists, the court will appoint a personal representative.

Although the personal representative is responsible for filing a wrongful death claim, any damages awarded as a result of a successful claim are “for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the decedent” and “for the exclusive benefit of the other next of kin of the decedent.”

What Damages are Available in a Ohio Wrongful Death Claim?

Ohio law allows for different types of compensatory damages following a successful claim of wrongful death. Such damages include:

  • 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; and
  • The mental anguish incurred by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin of the decedent

As mentioned above, any awarded damages following a successful wrongful death claim will be distributed to the surviving family members of the decedent. The precise details of how the damages will be distributed is governed by Ohio’s inheritance laws.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Ohio?

Ohio law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than two years after the date of the deceased’s death are effectively barred from being litigated in court. However, some circumstances may “toll” or pause this two-year time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with a attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding Ohio’s statute of limitations.

ASK ZINDA

At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.

If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.
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