Who and When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim in Court?

June 15, 2016 | Crandall & Pera Law
Who and When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim in Court?

A wrongful death claim is one that alleges a person has died because of the intentional or negligent actions (or inactions) of another person or entity. They are civil lawsuits, meaning a person can file a claim even there was a criminal trial about the death and the person was found innocent of a crime; the O.J. Simpson case is, perhaps, the most well-known example of a successful civil claim in the wake of a not guilty verdict in criminal court.

The laws and statutes governing wrongful death claims change from state to state. We practice in both Ohio and Kentucky, and the laws are similar but not exactly the same.

Kentucky’s rules and regulations

In Kentucky, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by a personal representative of the victim’s estate. If the claim is successful, the damages awarded will pay off any debts or liens against the estate, and the remainder will be divided among the surviving family members:

  • Spouses

  • Children

  • Parents (if there are no surviving children or spouses)

  • Beneficiaries or heirs named in a will (if there are no surviving spouses, children or parents)

You must file your claim within one year from the appointment of a personal representative for the estate, but not to exceed two years from the death. In the claim, you may seek compensation for lost wages, any costs associated with the funeral or administration of the estate, and a loss of consortium. In cases where the wrongful death was the result of gross negligence or an intentional or willful act, you may also be able to claim punitive damages from the other party.

Ohio’s rules and regulations

Wrongful death claims in Ohio are a bit different. You have two years from the date of death to file a claim. Like in Kentucky, Ohio also requires a personal representative to file a claim, and immediate family members – spouses, children and parents – may be entitled to recover losses. If a non-immediate member of the family, such as an aunt or a grandparent, can prove that he or she sustained losses because of the death of the victim, then he or she may also be eligible for compensation as well.

Ohio allows claimants to pursue damages for:

  • Loss of income and future income

  • Funeral and medical costs

  • Loss of consortium

  • Loss of services provided by the deceased

  • Mental anguish, pain and suffering

  • Loss of future inheritances

A few final thoughts

We have met with countless clients over the years who have mixed feelings about filing a wrongful death claim. Some people are angry and want the guilty party to pay. Some people feel as though they are trying to profit off of the death of their loved one. We understand how emotions can run high, and how the idea of a lawsuit can seem difficult to comprehend so soon after your loss. But you are well within your legal rights to file such a claim. Death is, among other things, very expensive. An award can help you pay off the medical bills you accrued, or help ensure that your children won’t lose their home so soon after they lost a parent. It’s about holding people and companies accountable for their actions, so that you do not have bear the brunt of those actions while also trying to piece your life back together. It’s about seeking justice through a system designed to do just that.

These types of claims should be handled with care by a skilled wrongful death attorney. At Crandall & Pera Law, we have substantial experience protecting families and their futures after someone else’s negligence led to a tragic loss. To find out more, please contact one of our wrongful death attorneys in Ohio by calling 877.686.8879, in Kentucky by calling 877.651.7764, or by filling out our contact form.