When a person suddenly dies due to someone else's behavior or actions, their surviving family members can take legal action against the at-fault party to hold them accountable and recover compensation.
However, there are some rules about how much time from the decedent's death their survivors have to file a claim. This is known as "the statute of limitations."
These rules may vary from state to state. Therefore, people planning to take legal action against the individual who caused the accident where their loved one died should seek help from an experienced attorney to build their cases explain what wrongful death in Ohio is.
What People Should Know About Ohio Wrongful Death Claims
When an individual performs a negligent or wrongful act, and it results in the death of another person, these actions would have entitled the deceased person to file a claim against the at-fault party if they had survived.
In these cases, the deceased person's survivors or a legal representative from their estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the person who caused the accident responsible for damages and recover compensation.
This compensation may include funeral and burial costs, the loss of companionship, the loss of prospective inheritance, and more.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death cases include those where a person's death is caused by someone else's negligent conduct or actions. These are the most common examples:
Motor vehicle accidents
Other personal injury accidents
Premises liability, such as slip-and-fall accidents
The Ohio Statute of Limitations
In each state, there's a limit on the amount of time people have from a decedent's death to file these types of claims. As mentioned, it's known as the "statute of limitations."
Under Ohio law, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years. Surviving family members and legal representatives should file the lawsuit within that period. Otherwise, courts may refuse to hear the case.
However, some exceptions extend this limit and allow people to file a wrongful death case after two years.
Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
As mentioned, some exceptions allow people to extend the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case. These are:
The Discovery Rule
Under certain circumstances, the discovery rule can be used to extend the limits that surviving family members have to file a wrongful death case and attempt to hold the other party accountable for their actions.
If this rule is successfully applied, the statute of limitations is tolled until it's proven that the victim's death was directly caused by the other party's intentional or negligent actions.
What Happens When Wrongful Death Claims Involve a Defective Product?
When the decedent's death is caused by a defective product through use or exposure, the Ohio statute of limitations may be tolled until it's determined that that product was the definitive cause of the victim's passing.
However, Ohio laws state that a product liability claim must be filed no later than 10 years after that product was first sold.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases
In Ohio, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice is also different. Victims' survivors can bring legal action against at-fault parties within one year of sustaining the injury.
Additionally, claimants are required to provide a written notice of the medical malpractice claim to the at-fault healthcare provider within that deadline. After that, they have 180 days to file the case.
There's also the statute of repose, which is four years in Ohio. It indicates that no legal action may be brought against a healthcare provider more than four years after victims sustain an injury due to medical negligence.
However, the statute of limitations in these cases can vary under certain circumstances, including when the victim didn't know that they had sustained an injury due to the healthcare provider's negligence or when it's caused by a foreign object that is left inside the body.
Wrongful Death Claims Against the Government
In Ohio, people who want to bring a wrongful death claim against a state employee or officer have two years from the date when the loved one was injured or passed away to file the lawsuit.
An exception may extend this statute of limitations if the case involves injuries or deaths caused by a political subdivision, which may include a county, school district, municipal corporation, and others.
Other Cases Where the Statute of Limitations May Be Tolled
The Ohio statute of limitations may also be tolled until a later date under certain circumstances, including these cases:
The person entitled to bring the legal action is a minor, so this limit is tolled until they turn 18.
A court finds that the only survivors of the victim are mentally unsound, so the limit is tolled until it's determined that they're again of a sound mind.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
More often than not, wrongful death cases can be filed by the decedent's dependents or people who suffer legally compensable losses, including:
The surviving spouse
Siblings and grandparents if they can demonstrate that they suffered losses that are legally compensable
A personal representative
How to Prove Wrongful Death Elements
In order to win a case and recover compensation for a loved one's death, claimants must demonstrate that it was wrongful by proving the following elements:
The defendant's negligent or wrongful actions or lack of care
The at-fault party's breach of the duty to behave reasonably to avoid hurting others
How that breach of duty directly caused the death
The quantifiable damages resulting from death
Plaintiffs, whether the wrongful death lawsuit is filed by a legal representative or by surviving family members, must present strong evidence to substantiate these elements and support their claims.
Do Victims Need Help from a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Wrongful death cases are complex by nature. When sadness, desolation, and anxiety are added to the equation, this unfortunate experience can be much more overwhelming. However, victims' surviving family members can seek help from seasoned attorneys to build their cases and hold at-fault parties accountable for their actions. They can also advise on who can file wrongful death in Ohio.
Experienced wrongful death lawyers know the laws that define the statute of limitations in Ohio and can help people prepare their cases to file a claim for their loved one's death before it expires.
Additionally, experts can help plaintiffs gather evidence to prove the four elements of wrongful death and fight for their rights.
Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!
At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, we understand how difficult a loved one's death can be and are willing to help their surviving family members hold at-fault parties accountable for their negligent actions. Furthermore, we'll go the extra mile to recover fair compensation. Contact us today!