If you have experienced the death of a loved one in the wake of an accident, suing may not be the first thing on your mind. Even during this difficult time, it is important to understand the legal options before you, including the possibility of a wrongful death action.
At this point, you are probably still in shock. You may not yet know all the facts, including whether someone's negligence caused the accident or the full extent of the resulting damages. Speaking with an attorney can help you get the information you need to decide how to proceed next.
Damages for next of kin
Typically, an Ohio wrongful death case may include two types of actions. One of them aims to compensate close family members for the financial and emotional losses they sustain from the decedent's passing away. Damages may include financial support the decedent would have otherwise provided, loss of companionship, guidance and services as well as the emotional pain of the next of kin.
Damages suffered by decedent
The other, called a survival action, consists of the action the decedent could have filed had he or she survived. It focuses on the damages the decedent sustained, such as pain and suffering and medical bills that occurred prior to the death.
Who can file the lawsuit
The personal representative of the decedent's estate files the wrongful death suit. This is usually the executor or the administrator of the estate. As the one to manage the estate, the representative also manages the distribution of any settlement or damages award, including the payment of burial costs from these funds.
How the proceeds are distributed
Proceeds from a wrongful death action generally go to the heirs. This distribution does not relate to any provision in the will. Because this type of action focuses on damages to the next of kin, the proceeds do not form part of the estate. Ohio law provides that such proceeds should be divided equitably; the beneficiaries can do so themselves, or the court can step in if they cannot agree.
In a survival action, which focuses on damages to the decedent, the award or settlement forms part of the estate. As such, these proceeds will be distributed according to the will or by Ohio's intestacy provisions.