Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit

The painful and abrupt loss of a loved one can leave families shattered, both emotionally and financially. When another party is responsible for someone’s death through misconduct or negligence, surviving family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

But what exactly does this process entail? Who can make a claim, and how is compensation distributed if the case succeeds?

This guide breaks down the ins and outs of wrongful death lawsuits and settlements in Ohio. We’ll cover who can file suit, how settlement money is allocated, key legal factors, and when consulting a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is crucial.

The Basics of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for a surviving spouse, children, parents, and other close kin who suffered damages due to the decedent’s death.

To recover damages, the plaintiff must conclusively establish the defendant’s willful actions or negligence directly caused their loved one’s death.

Some key legal factors to note in wrongful death cases include:

  • There must be proof that the defendant’s actions or negligence directly caused the death
  • There is a strict statute of limitations – generally two years in Ohio
  • Strong legal representation is helpful to maximize compensation and fairly apportion wrongful death awards and settlements.

Successful wrongful death claims account for economic losses like loss of support from the earnings of the deceased and non-economic damages such as the mental anguish suffered by the surviving spouse and children.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The decedent’s estate files the wrongful death action, and a personal representative is appointed by the court. Beneficiaries to the wrongful death action may include:

  • Surviving spouse
  • ChildrenParents
  • Other next of kin of the deceased

A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can advise you as to who might be appointed the personal representative of the estate and who might benefit from the wrongful death action.

How Wrongful Death Settlements Are Distributed

In general, wrongful death settlements are fairly divided based on how closely related each beneficiary was to the deceased, the nature of the relationships, and the losses sustained by each beneficiary.

The surviving spouse, children, and parents are presumed to have suffered damages. The largest share is normally apportioned to the surviving spouse, followed by children and parents. In addition to the spouse, children, and parents, the decedent’s other next of kin may be beneficiaries of the wrongful death action.

Those other next of kin must provide written notice of a claim to the probate court. They must prove that they suffered damages as a result of the decedent’s death and are not presumed to have suffered damages.

Sometimes, the beneficiaries may adjust the shares among themselves. If agreement is not possible, then the court adjusts the shares in an equitable manner, taking into account the loss to each beneficiary and the age and condition of the beneficiaries.

An experienced personal injury attorney can negotiate maximum settlement amounts and ensure fair percentage distribution to each eligible claimant. Legal guidance can make this difficult process less painful.

What Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Cover?

When a loved one dies due to another party’s actions, the emotional toll on families is immense. While no amount of money can make up for the tragedy, a wrongful death settlement provides critical compensation so survivors can move forward.

In determining the amount of damages to be awarded, the jury or court may consider any pertinent factors existing at the time of the decedent’s death.
A successful wrongful death claim can pay for losses like:

  • Loss of financial support the deceased provided
  • Loss of companionship, caretaking, and guidance
  • Mental anguish and grief of survivors
  • Funeral and burial costs

In addition to the wrongful death case, the decedent’s personal representative may file a survival claim if the decedent suffered any conscious pain or suffering before death (however brief). The survival claim is separate from the wrongful death claim. The purpose of the survival claim is to compensate the decedent’s estate for the decedent’s medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Punitive damages are rare but may be awarded under Ohio law in egregious cases where the defendant acted with malice. Malice is defined as intentional wrongdoing or action with total disregard for the other’s wellbeing. Punitive damages are intended to punish responsible parties and deter similar acts. Malice must be shown with “clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard of proof), whereas the compensatory damages listed need only be shown by a “preponderance of the evidence” (which means “more likely than not”).

An experienced attorney can pursue maximum compensation through wrongful death and survival action claims. Though money can’t undo the tragedy, it affords families a chance to heal and move forward.

Take Action After Losing a Loved One

No amount of money can undo the devastation of losing someone dear. However, holding wrongdoers accountable provides critical compensation so families can move forward. With an attorney’s help, justice and closure become possible.

Connect with the dedicated team at The Jones Firm for a free case review. Our compassionate guidance helps grieving families obtain the maximum settlement under Ohio law. Don’t go it alone during this difficult time. Experienced Columbus personal injury lawyers are ready to help get your family the compensation you deserve.

Author Bio

Geoff Jones is the CEO and Managing Partner of The Jones Firm, a personal injury law firm in Columbus, Ohio. With years of experience in personal injury law, he has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and falls, wrongful death, and other cases.

Geoff received his Juris Doctor from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and is a member of the Columbus Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being selected to Super Lawyers Rising Stars for 2022-2023.

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