When a Close Loved One Dies, There Are Usually Two Different Claims Brought in a Lawsuit to Collect Damages for Their Wrongful Death in Ohio
In Ohio, there is a statute that specifically spells out a cause of action for wrongful death (Ohio Revised Code chapter 2125). Basically, a wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed by a beneficiary of the person who died (most often a close family member like spouse, parent, or child). A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit for damages by the beneficiaries themselves, for things like loss of consortium (loss of being able to communicate and have a relationship with the deceased) and loss of the kind of benefits that would have been expected had there been no death in the family. This means, if the person had never died in an accident, they likely would have made money and contributed to the family. A wrongful death lawsuit allows the close beneficiaries of the deceased to collect for those types of things and emotional pain. Damages for wrongful death claims can often be significant because you calculate how much income the deceased likely would have earned throughout the rest of their lifetime in order to start figuring out what would need to be paid to the beneficiaries in order to compensate them for the loss of this income. There are obviously more damages that are much more severe than the loss of the potential income from the deceased, such as damages for emotional pain relating ot the death of the individual.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit by the beneficiaries of the deceased for their losses caused by the death. A survivorship claim is a lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of the person that died for the pain and suffering and other economic damages. In this way, a survivorship claim is a lawsuit by the person that died, and a wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit by those who were left behind by the death.
Most often these two claims, survivorship and wrongful death, are brought together in the same lawsuit in Ohio. The amount of the potential claim really is determined by the facts and circumstances of each case.
How Much Money Can You Get From a Wrongful Death or Survivorship Claim in Ohio?
Each wrongful death and survivorship claim in Ohio is unique and the damages (monetary award) can vary dramatically from case to case. The kinds of things that affect the monetary amount a jury might award will depend on a few things.
For a survivorship claim, this is a claim by the estate of the deceased person for their pain and suffering and expenses leading up to death. For this reason, if an individual is hurt in an accident, and then God forbid, suffers excruciating pain before they die, then after they passed away, their estate would have a serious claim for high dollar pain and suffering damages because of all the pain they went through before they passed away. On the other hand, if an individual died instantaneously in an accident, or suffered little to no pain before they died, then the estate would not have a very high monetary claim for pain and suffering but would be more limited to things like reimbursement for medical expenses.
For a wrongful death claim, a large part of the potential claim is the income that is lost to the surviving spouse and children after the tragic death of the individual. For this reason, a person who was making $200,000 per year before they died would leave a higher wrongful death claim than someone who made $20,000 per year, because the beneficiaries would have expected to receive much more income as a result of the higher earnings. On the other hand, no matter how much income the deceased person made before they died, the damage award for the beneficiaries for emotional and other non-income related losses are not easily measurable and are more dependent on how tragic or traumatic the death of the individual was for the survivors.
How Much Have Ohio Juries Awarded for Wrongful Death and Survivorship Claims?
Due to the nature of a wrongful death and survivorship lawsuit, jury awards around Ohio can be very high.
- In Roginski v. Shelly Co., 31 N.E.3d 724 (Ohio Ct. Com. Pl. 2014), an inspector for ODOT was inspecting a road construction project for Shelly Co. when he was struck and killed by a passing motorist. The jury awarded $19,000,000 to the beneficiaries in the wrongful death lawsuit and $20,000,000 in punitive damages (the Judge later reduced the punitive damages).
- In Estate of Beavers v. Knapp, 175 Ohio App.3d 758, 889 N.E. 181 (2000), the jury awarded compensatory damages of $787,600 and $750,000 in punitive damages against the employer and the employee who caused the victims auto accident death.
- In Freudeman v. The Landing of Canton, 702 F.3d 318 (6th Cir. 2012), the jury awarded $400,000 on the survivorship claim, $280,000 on the wrongful death claim, and punitive damages of $1,250,000. (The 6th Circuit later reduced the punitive damages to $800,000).
Many wrongful death and survivorship cases arise due to a tragic accident at a construction site, plane crash, train crash, auto accident, or work place accidents. If this has happened to a close loved one, then the close family members of the deceased may be entitled to compensation.
If a Close Loved One has Died as the Result of the Negligence of Another, You Need to Find a Wrongful Death Attorney
You've got enough to worry about after the death of a close loved one, you need a wrongful death attorney to handle the legal complexities of your case so that you can focus on your family and on getting better. Evan T. Engler is an attorney and partner at the Columbus, Ohio based law firm of Harris & Engler. You can give him a call to discuss your wrongful death case at (614) 610-9988. Harris & Engler helps clients all over Ohio.