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The basics of wrongful death law in Ohio

The death of a beloved spouse, parent or child is always devastating. Death is a part of life, but when your family member died because of somebody else’s negligence, your grief may be compounded. Had the person or business acted responsibly, your loved one would still be alive today.

This is the root of wrongful death litigation. Ohio’s personal injury laws recognize that when a victim of negligence dies, they cannot go to court to recover damages. Someone else must step in on their behalf. In Ohio, this person is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, also known as the executor. This might be the deceased’s spouse or one of their children, but it can be virtually anybody the deceased chose in their estate plan.

A wrongful death can happen the in same ways that any other personal injury incident can, such as:

  • A car accident caused by a driver who was drunk, distracted, drowsy, violating traffic laws or otherwise acting negligently
  • Medical malpractice, such as negligent misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or abuse or neglect in a nursing home
  • A fatal fall due to hazardous conditions at a store, office building, public park or other property that the property owner failed to repair or warn visitors about
  • Defective products, including medications and motor vehicles

The only difference is that the victim does not survive their injuries.

Possible damages in wrongful death litigation

Besides the deceased, the executor acts for the exclusive benefit of the deceased’s surviving spouse, children and/or parents, if any. Wrongful death affects these parties differently. Damages that the executor can seek on behalf of the deceased’s estate include:

  • Medical costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

In addition, surviving family members may be directly eligible for these damages:

  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of companionship/consortium with a spouse
  • Loss of guidance of a parent
  • Loss of prospective inheritance based on the deceased’s lost future earning power
  • Mental anguish
  • Funeral costs

The statute of limitations imposes a time limit on taking legal action following a person’s death. The general rule in Ohio is that the personal representative must file suit within two years of the deceased’s death. The principle behind statutes of limitation is that as time passes, evidence can disappear, and witnesses’ memories can fade. If the statute of limitation has expired before you file a lawsuit, the court will dismiss your lawsuit regardless of the merits. No matter how strong your case is, it will be too late to present it.

Time is of the essence

Two years is not a long time when it comes to a wrongful death claim. Complex cases involving matters like medical malpractice take time to prepare. This is something to keep in mind when you believe your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence and are considering making a wrongful death claim.