A brief overview of wrongful death suits

It is always difficult when loved ones pass away, especially when someone else's negligence or misconduct caused the death. In these cases, it is possible for the families of the deceased to pursue damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when someone dies because of the negligence or misconduct of a third party. The third party could be another person, a company or other entity. Wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate. Personal representatives can only bring wrongful death lawsuits against a third party if the decedent has surviving family members who can receive the award and who have suffered an economic loss due to the death of a loved one. Lastly, wrongful death lawsuits require the personal representative of the deceased's estate to prove that a wrongful action or negligence caused an incident that led to the death.

Wrongful death lawsuits arise out of a variety of situations. Families can recover damages from a wrongful death caused by medical malpractice, a motor vehicle or plane accident, criminal acts and exposure to fatal hazards at work. Families may also recover damages when a death occurs during a supervised activity, like football or swim practice.

How Long Do Families Have To File Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

Most states impose a statute of limitations on how long families can wait to pursue damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. After the statute of limitations runs out, the courts assume the family has waived its right to sue. In Ohio in most cases, families must file wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of a deceased loved one within two years of his or her death.

What Damages Can Families Recover In Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

There are several types of damages families may recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. They may sue for loss of financial support and services, the lost prospect of inheritance and compensation for medical and funeral expenses.

Juries consider a variety of factors when determining wrongful death awards. They may consider the loss of income for the family if the wage-earner has died or the loss of parental guidance if the decedent leaves children behind. Juries may also use the lost loved one's age, earning capacity, health and life expectancy to help guide their decisions.

Courts may reduce the amount a jury awarded if the decedent squandered his or her income while living or had low or no earnings, since a wrongful death lawsuit is meant to compensate for the monetary injury family members suffered as a result of the death. If earnings were low prior to the death, it is possible an award may be reduced to reflect that reality.

Families may also sue for damages that occurred while the decedent was still alive. These may include medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering.

When you lose a loved one due to someone's negligence or misconduct, you may be able to pursue compensation for financial losses in a wrongful death lawsuit. To learn more about how to file a wrongful death lawsuit, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.