Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Only certain individuals with specific relationships can be wrongful death beneficiaries. If you were the deceased person’s parent, spouse, or child, you may have a right to compensation. Contact Kisling, Nestico & Redick today to find out what your legal options are.
When you suffer a sudden and preventable loss, your mind may eventually turn to justice. You are now forced to face a future without a loved one, and you may want to hold the person who caused their accident and/or death responsible. You may also experience significant financial issues if the decedent was a part of your household. On top of medical bills related to the accident, you might have to live without that person’s income. This makes obtaining compensation for your loss important.
However, under Ohio law, you are not necessarily entitled to recover compensation under a wrongful death claim just because you are experiencing a tragic loss and its financial ramifications. Only certain individuals with specific relationships to the decedent can be wrongful death beneficiaries. If you were the deceased person’s parent, spouse, or child, you may have a right to compensation. If you are another type of relative, you may have to prove your losses before you can be entitled to a financial recovery.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Ohio Revised Code Section 2125.02 states who is presumed to be injured after an individual’s unexpected death. You are entitled to recover compensation if you are the decedent’s:
- Spouse: You will count as the decedent’s spouse for a wrongful death claim as long as you were legally married at the time of their death, even if you were separated or divorcing at the time. You are not prohibited from recovering compensation if you remarry after your loved one’s death.
- Parent: You must have been the biological or lawful parent of the decedent to recover compensation in a wrongful death claim. Not a step-parent or guardian. If you were an adoptive parent, the adoption must have been finalized prior to the decedent’s death. Additionally, if there is evidence you abandoned the decedent who was a minor child, then you can be prohibited from recovering compensation.
- Child: If you were the biological or fully adopted child of the decedent, you have a right to compensation through a wrongful death claim. You usually do not have a claim to compensation if you are a step or foster child.
When Another Relative May Be a Beneficiary
Typically, anyone who is not a parent, spouse, or child cannot recover compensation from a wrongful death claim. This can be extremely difficult to come to terms with if you were a grandparent, sibling, cousin, or romantic partner who was very close to the decedent or when none of the typical beneficiaries were involved with the decedent during their life.
However, there is a small chance you could successfully argue for a portion of the wrongful death damages. You must be able to show you suffered a compensable loss due to your loved one’s death. For example, if you were the decedent’s long-time partner and you two owned property together, you may be able to show you have suffered a compensable loss now that you do not have your loved one’s financial contributions.
If you are unsure whether you are entitled to be a wrongful death beneficiary or not, contact us as soon as possible. While the law may seem straightforward, we have dealt with a number of gray areas within wrongful death claims. We will review your relationship to the decedent, your losses resulting from their death, and your eligibility for wrongful death damages.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Case
If the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is pursuing compensation on your behalf, then you may be able to recover:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of your family member’s financial support
- Loss of your family member’s services
- Loss of your family member’s society, companionship, and care
- Loss of a prospective inheritance from your family member
- Mental anguish
The financial recovery will depend on a number of factors, including the actual injuries you and the other surviving family members suffered from. The severity of the accident and the circumstances of your loved one’s death can also impact an insurance settlement or jury award.
Distribution of Compensation to Beneficiaries
Once an estate obtains compensation for a wrongful death claim, the court can dictate how the proceeds are to be equitably distributed based on the beneficiaries’ connections to the decedent and their injuries. For instance, if you were the decedent’s spouse, you and your two minor children are the beneficiaries. Therefore, the court may award a majority of the claim to you and smaller portions to your children. However, if you and the other surviving family members were of an equal relation to the decedent, you may share equally in the compensation. There is also the option for you and the other survivors agree to a certain distribution of the proceeds, which you provide to the court for approval.
Let Our Ohio Wrongful Death Lawyers Help You Today
If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another person’s carelessness, recklessness, or intentional misconduct, contact our experienced wrongful death attorneys at Kisling, Nestico & Redick today. We understand you are going through an immensely difficult time, yet we believe it is essential for you to understand your rights and legal options. Once you and your family members understand Ohio wrongful death claims, you can make the best decision as to how you’ll move forward.