Chapter 2: The Potential Losses and Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim

Damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim in OhioPerhaps the last thing on your mind when a family member dies is how much you and your family can be compensated for a loved one’s death. In fact, assigning an amount of money to your family member’s life may seem either impossible or distasteful.

The fact remains, however, that you and your family suffered a loss as a result of your loved one’s death and it is imperative to prepare and plan for your future. Oftentimes the only justice that can be achieved under the law for such a tragic loss is an award of monetary compensation.

While the financial award granted in a wrongful death claim will not ease the pain of loss, it can help families move forward in their grieving process and in other aspects of their lives. It can also provide a sense of closure and help you put the past behind you and move on.

A wrongful death claim can be brought in Ohio within two (2) years of the date of death. The aim of Ohio law is to achieve compensation for the survivors, as if the decedent had not died and continued to be there for them providing support and companionship. Compensatory damages are permitted in Ohio, and they can be awarded in the following instances:

  1. Loss of support from the reasonably expected earning capacity of the decedent;
  2. Loss of services of the decedent;
  3. Loss of the society of the decedent, including loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education, suffered by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next-of-kin of the decedent;
  4. Loss of prospective inheritance to the decedent’s heirs at the time of the decedent’s death;
  5. The mental anguish incurred by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents or next of kin of the decedent.

Ohio law states that only certain types of damages may be recoverable in a wrongful death case. Generally, the damages are divided into two categories—economic and non-economic. The damages in both categories can be recovered by the estate of the deceased in Ohio.

Economic damages refer to amounts that are easier to calculate. This includes items such as lost earnings, medical expenses, and other forms of what are referred to as compensatory damages.

Non-economic damages refer to more intangible losses. These are defined as subjective losses and include pain, suffering, grief, mental anguish, and the loss of the relationship with the deceased.

Damages Recoverable by the Estate of the Deceased

Again, the deceased’s estate may recover both economic and non-economic damages.

The following is a list of common types of damages for the estate:

1. Health Care and Funeral Expenses

The cost of medical treatment the deceased received prior to their death can be very high when the person required hospital emergency room care and/or emergency surgery to save his or her life.

These claim amounts are typically offset by the amounts paid by Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance companies.

Funeral expenses are also recoverable under the law. This can include mortuary services, a casket, transportation to the burial site, costs of cremation, the purchase of a grave site, the expense of a headstone, and other similar expenses.

2. Loss of Net Earnings

The future net earnings the deceased was projected to earn over his or her working life can also be recovered. This is calculated by subtracting the amount of money the deceased would have used for personal consumption or personal expenses from the gross projected earnings over his or her lifetime. These sorts of calculations must be made by a recognized professional such as an economist and then reduced to present value.

If the deceased individual died before his or her prime career earning years, they may not have realized their full earning potential prior to their untimely death.

For example, if the deceased was a physician just beginning his or her career there may be a dispute over how much money they could have earned over the course of their career. For someone in the medical field such as a doctor, the amount could be significant.

More often, it is easier to calculate the deceased’s future net earnings when the individual was an adult rather than a child. In the case of a child, there is always speculation regarding how much money he or she may have earned. Sometimes it may be necessary to rely on the financial earning history of the parents and siblings to get a sense of how financially successful the child may or may not have been, had the child survived to a normal life expectancy.

3. Pain and Suffering

If the deceased person experienced pain, or suffered prior to their death, and this can be proved, the estate may claim damages for this type of non-economic loss.

In cases involving instantaneous death, the estate may not recover for pain and suffering. These types of damages are only available if measurable time elapses between injury and death. So how is it possible to know if a deceased person experienced pain before death?

To answer that question witnesses who were present or witnessed the death are utilized. If no witnesses can be produced, professional experts such as medical doctors can offer opinions on whether the deceased likely experienced pain or suffered prior to their death.

Damages Recoverable by the Beneficiaries

Certain designated surviving relatives may recover individual damages for the death of a family member. Here are some common types of damages that may be recovered by a beneficiary of a wrongful death victim:

1. Past and Future Economic Benefits

The surviving family members may recover many types of economic value they would have received from the deceased—from the date of the death through the deceased’s life expectancy including money, goods and services.

For example, if the deceased had minor children at the time of their death and was expected to pay for the children’s school and college education, then this expense may be recoverable.

2. Loss of Consortium

This term refers to the fact that each surviving family member has a claim for the loss of his or her relationship with the deceased. In the case of a surviving spouse the damages are for the loss of the deceased’s company, cooperation, emotional support, love, affection, care, services, and companionship.

Wrongful death cases can be complicated legal matters because of the many different types of potential damages involved.

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