How Does a Wrongful Death Case Work?

First, a legal definition

Although laws regarding wrongful death vary from state to state, the basic definition of wrongful is relatively consistent. In Ohio, a wrongful death is one that’s caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person. If the victim, had they survived, would have been entitled to compensation from a personal injury lawsuit, there’s a very good chance that a wrongful death lawsuit can justifiably be filed on their behalf.

To prove wrongful death, the following must be true:

  • A human being has died
  • That death was caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person
  • As a result of that death, family members have suffered from financial hardship
  • A personal representative of the deceased has been appointed

Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?

Not surprisingly, the answer to this question varies from state to state. In some states, immediate family members, more distant family members, life partners, and non-family members who are affected financially by the death, even the parents of a dead fetus, can legally file suit. Ohio works a little differently. The personal representative, or executor, of the deceased person’s estate is the only person permitted to file a wrongful death claim. That personal representative would be named in a will, if a will exists. Otherwise, a court would appoint someone to serve as executor and that person could file the claim.

Examples of wrongful death cases

The world is an inherently dangerous place, and the list of possible wrongful death situations is endless. Here are a few examples:

  • Vehicle accidents—accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, boats, or even bicycles, or pedestrian accidents
  • Medical malpractice—misdiagnosis, surgical or treatment errors, or failure to diagnose
  • Occupational accidents or illnesses—deaths caused by workplace negligence or dangerous situations
  • Defective products—flawed motor vehicles, dangerous children’s products, toxic food items, poorly designed household goods, unsafe machines, deadly pharmaceuticals
  • Commercial and residential buildings—slip and fall accidents, shoddy construction, etc.

Potential wrongful death damages

The original purpose behind wrongful death suits was to take care of “widows and orphans.” It’s not quite that cut and dried now, but in general, surviving spouses, children, or parents are the recipients of compensation in a successful wrongful death lawsuit. More distant family members such as grandparents or siblings of the deceased, could also be compensated if they are able to prove they were financially affected by the death. Damages can include:

  • Loss of monetary support—This includes the deceased person’s ongoing earnings had they lived. This could also include any inheritance a family member would have been entitled to had that person lived and continued to earn money.
  • Loss of other types of support—this could be services like child care, or less concrete support, such as companionship, advice, etc. Basically, this accounts for the place the deceased person held in a family member’s life.
  • Mental pain and suffering—The anguish caused by a death can be serious and debilitating, and lead to the need for counseling, the inability to hold gainful employment, and drug and/or alcohol dependency.

When hiring a wrongful death lawyer…

Be sure the attorney you contact is well versed in all that wrongful death lawsuits entail, and has the staff and resources necessary to win, and the experience to recover suitable compensatory damages.

If you believe a family member may be the victim of a wrongful death, contact the attorneys at LaSalvia Law. We will fight to win you the compensation you deserve.

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You can expect to hear from Christine 1-2 days after submitting your inquiry.

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Pay nothing up front. No fee until your case is settled or tried to a jury.