If you lost a loved one due to a motor vehicle crash, you’re likely facing not just grief and a loss of companionship, but also confronted with funeral and burial arrangements as well as lost income.
The first thing to know is that you’re not alone. Nearly 40,000 people per year have been killed in traffic crashes in recent years, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), leaving many families with questions about what to do next.
If the wreck was caused by a negligent driver, a skilled attorney may be able to help you recover the financial security you and other survivors need to move forward with your lives. In this post, the Cincinnati injury attorneys at Young, Reverman & Mazzei discuss how a wrongful death claim allows certain surviving loved ones to seek compensation.
Traffic Accidents and Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that allows particular family members and other survivors to seek compensation when the decedent’s death was caused by another’s negligent or deliberately harmful act.
Traffic accidents are common sources of wrongful death cases. Negligence in fatal car crashes comes in many forms, including:
- Distracted driving/texting while driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Speeding/driving too fast for the conditions at hand
- Driving while drowsy
- Running a stop sign or red light
In wrongful death cases, damages are typically awarded to the spouse and/or immediate family members of the deceased. However, the regulations regarding who can file a wrongful death claim and recover compensation varies by state.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Every state has statutes that outline the right to recovery after a wrongful death, but the particular individuals permitted to file the wrongful death lawsuit varies widely from state to state. In many cases, you must be an immediate family member of the deceased, such as a spouse, child or parent, in order to be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In some cases, a personal representative assigned to the estate could also file the suit on behalf of the decedent’s family members.
The laws for filing a wrongful death suit in the tri-state area include:
- In Ohio, the personal representative of the estate, or an individual who has been appointed by the deceased’s will or the probate court, has to be the one to file the wrongful death lawsuit. These individuals can be the surviving spouse of the decedent or any surviving children, including adopted children. The surviving parents of the deceased are also eligible to represent the estate.
- Indiana requires that the personal representative of the decedent’s estate files the wrongful death lawsuit. This person may be a spouse, adult child, parent or sibling of the deceased. In a wrongful death suit involving the death of a child, the case must be filed by one or both of the child’s parents, depending on who had custody of the child at the time of death.
- Kentucky requires an individual to be appointed as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate by the probate court, and that person must be the one to bring a wrongful death claim.
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The wrongful death of a loved one due to an avoidable car accident can lead to significant financial repercussions and emotional distress for the surviving family members of the deceased.
The types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death case vary based on the state where the death occurred and the circumstances surrounding the death, as well as other factors. Damages in a wrongful death case may include but are not limited to:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical costs incurred by the decedent prior to death
- Pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to death
- Loss of earned income
- Loss of benefits, such as health care or retirement
Other damages may include the loss of companionship and loss of household services, such as child care.
In Ohio, these damages are distributed to the surviving family members as governed by Ohio’s inheritance laws, occasionally splitting any damages rewarded equally among those who share relation equally. If surviving family members are related to the deceased person by different degrees, the court will determine how to split the damages that are awarded in the case.
Indiana limits which types of damages may be obtained in a wrongful death case, and what amounts can be rewarded. The damages that may be awarded to survivors of the deceased include funeral and burial expenses, medical and hospital-related costs, lost wages, benefits the deceased would likely have earned if he or she had lived, and costs of pursuing the wrongful death claim. Unlike other states, Indiana does not allow damages to be paid in a wrongful death suit based on emotional distress or pain and suffering. Damages in an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit are not allowed to exceed $300,000.
Kentucky allows the estate to receive funeral and burial expenses, as well as monetary compensation for the costs of pursuing the wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving family members of the deceased can also receive damages based on pain and suffering or for the loss of companionship and support the deceased would have provided.
How an Attorney Can Help
Wrongful death cases must be filed within a specific time period, which makes it vital to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
The accomplished lawyers at Young, Reverman & Mazzei have decades of experience helping injury victims and those who have lost loved ones due to someone else’s negligence. We offer free consultations to help survivors understand the legal process of a wrongful death suit and to determine how to best to pursue a family’s claim. Our attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless we successfully resolve your case.
Call us today at 800-721-1678 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation. We represent clients from the greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, areas. We also serve clients from Campbell County, Boone County and Kenton County in Kentucky, and Dearborn County in Indiana.
Please see our locations page for a complete list of our offices and directions.