Families who lose loved ones due to the negligent or reckless acts of someone else have the legal right to file wrongful death insurance claims or civil lawsuits. When a preventable loss of life happens in central Ohio, consulting with an experienced and caring Columbus wrongful death attorney will help grieving family members understand the process. Partnering with a dedicated plaintiff’s lawyer will also increase the chances for achieving the best outcomes in terms of a settlement or jury award.

What Provides Grounds for a Wrongful Death Case?

Under Ohio law, cause for a wrongful death lawsuit exists when the victim would have been entitled to sue had he or she lived.

Working backwards from that basic definition, getting harmed by a negligent or reckless person or organization creates the right to pursue compensation and damages. Since the victim of a wrongful death cannot speak for him or herself, the law and courts allow a family member with a wrongful death lawyer or designated estate executor to serve as the plaintiff.

Succeeding with a wrongful death claim requires proving the following three facts:

  • The person or organization named as the defendant acted negligently or recklessly,
  • The negligence or recklessness directly harmed the person who died, and
  • The person’s death resulted directly from the harm.

What Constitutes Negligence or Recklessness?

Individuals, businesses, and property owner have legal duties to act responsibly and in compliance with the law in order to protect other people from harm. Failing to meet those duties constitutes negligence.

Reckless behavior has a more precise definition under Ohio law. When an action shows “willful or wanton” disregard for the well-being of others, it is deemed reckless.

To conceptualize the difference between negligence and recklessness, think about a motorcycle rider who gets killed by a driver who ran a stop sign. The at-fault driver’s failure to stop and yield right of way counts as negligence. In an example of recklessness, the driver would be intoxicated to the point that he or she could not see or react appropriately to the stop sign, thus killing the motorcycle rider.

Incidents that most often give rise to wrongful death claims include

What Damages Can Be Sought in a Wrongful Death Case?

Generally, plaintiffs in wrongful death cases can seek economic and/or non-economic damages. Economic damages can be thought of as compensation because they cover payments for and replacement of things like medical bills, lost lifetime earnings, and funeral costs, including travel.

Non-economic damages cover emotional and psychological harms suffered by family members. These types of damages are often called “pain and suffering.” They are treated as non-economic because no exact dollar value can be placed on real phenomena like loss of companionship, loss of parental guidance, and distress.

Working with a wrongful death attorney in Columbus, Ohio, will help the survivors of a wrongful death victim calculate economic and non-economic damages. Doing this is essential to recognizing whether a settlement offer is adequate and fair. It is also complicated because a fair amount of documentation and long-term cost estimations based on previous case law and state statutes related to civil lawsuit damage caps are required.

In some cases where a wrongful death resulted from the defendant’s recklessness, a family can seek punitive damages. These are civil, rather than criminal, fines that get assessed as a punishment and as a warning to other potentially reckless parties. Drunk driving deaths are the most common cause for pursuing punitive damages.

If you need advice on or representation in a case, consider reaching out to a Columbus, Ohio, wrongful death lawyer with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. We offer free consultations, and we welcome opportunities to assist families who are struggling with the death of a loved one and holding responsible parties accountable.

You can call us at (614) 678-3318 to set up an appointment, or you can connect with us online by completing this contact form.