If you get into a car accident in Ohio, you can sue the other driver if they were responsible for the accident.
But what happens when a loved one is killed in a car accident that is someone else’s fault? Do you have the right to recover damages, even if you weren’t in the accident? The answer to these questions depends on your relationship with the deceased and the circumstances of the accident.
Who Is Eligible to File a Suit?
Ohio law places strict limits on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. According to state statutes, only the representative of the deceased may file wrongful death claims in Ohio. But what exactly does that mean, and what can you do if you aren’t the representative?
A Representative for the Deceased
The representative for the deceased is the individual designated as such by the will of the deceased. However, not everyone has a will, especially if they are young.
If the deceased didn’t designate someone, a probate court will determine who can act for the deceased’s estate. This person is the only one who can file a wrongful death claim or choose a lawyer to handle the case.
If you aren’t the representative of the deceased, you may still be eligible to join the lawsuit. Any family member may join the case once it has been filed with the court. Even though you won’t guide the case, you should hire a lawyer to look after your interests.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim has four elements, and your Ohio car accident lawyer needs to prove all four.
The first thing your lawyer needs to prove is that the other driver was negligent. This means they were irresponsible in a way that put your loved one in harm’s way.
This element is easy to prove. Your lawyer must show that your loved one died in the car accident.
Next, your lawyer needs to prove that the previously proven negligence resulted in the previously proven death. There is no case if the death wasn’t a result of that negligence.
You can only receive money from a lawsuit if you suffered a meaningful loss. Typically, this is easy to prove when the deceased provided for at least one other person, like children or a spouse.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
You have two years to take legal action after the death of a loved one in Ohio. This statute of limitations is the same length as the statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
While there are a few scenarios that may allow you extra time to file a legal action, they are pretty rare. This means you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after a fatal car accident in Ohio.
Damages You May Be Able to Pursue in Wrongful Death Claims
The types of damages you can receive in a wrongful death claim are similar to the types of damages you can receive from a personal injury lawsuit. You can even get damages for medical bills if your loved one dies despite receiving medical care. Some of the most common damages in these types of cases are:
- Lost potential income (for family members who were supported by that income)
- Funeral costs
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish
Typically, if the deceased could have sued for a loss or expense had they survived, at least one surviving family member can sue for a similar loss or expense. Loss of companionship is mostly unique to wrongful death claims, though.
Can I Join a Wrongful Death Lawsuit if I am Not a Family Member?
Ohio restricts recipients of wrongful death benefits to family members of the deceased. Typically, only family members who count as next of kin can be part of the lawsuit. This includes parents, spouses, and children, though it may include other surviving family members depending on what the will of the deceased says.
Can I Do Anything if I Don’t Like How the Representative of the Estate Is Handling the Case?
The representative of the estate has broad authority to make decisions about how to litigate the case, whether to accept a settlement, and how to distribute money. That said, they still have to act in the best interests of the deceased and the other surviving family members.
If you think they aren’t fulfilling their duties, you can petition for them to be replaced by the court. You can also sue for additional compensation if you believe they didn’t fairly distribute the money. Since the representative is usually a family member, hopefully, this type of dispute can be resolved without involving the court.
Are There Limits to How Much Money I Can Receive?
Yes and no. There are no limits to how much economic compensation (money that recompenses losses or expenses) you can receive. However, you are limited to a maximum of $350,000 in non-economic damages.
Additionally, if there are multiple plaintiffs in your case, all plaintiffs combined can get no more than $500,000 in non-economic damages.
Contact The Moore Law Firm After a Fatal Car Accident in Ohio
Fatal car accidents are one of the worst types of tragedies because they are so unexpected. One moment, you have a spouse or parent, and the next moment, they are gone forever. When this happens, you need the help of caring attorneys who will help you recover from this indescribable loss.
At The Moore Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping people like you. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer who cares.