Wrongful Death Has Many Definitions

wrongful death has many definitionsThere is no singular definition for wrongful death as the term appears in Ohio wrongful death claims or lawsuits. Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) Section 2125 defines many aspects of wrongful death which can be a very complex area of law. And, as always, death can be an extremely difficult matter to discuss.

Some people reading this article may not be familiar with the words “wrongful death.” What could legally be considered a “wrongful death” may have never occurred in their family.

Other people may have dealt with “wrongful death” in a context that affected them or their family or both. But, in any event, those words—“wrongful death” speak very, very strongly. . . They say someone has died.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim are Complex

Wrongful death is NOT a subject that can be oversimplified.

1. The death of a human being

As just stated, to have wrongful death in the legal sense, a human being must die. That is the first thing that must happen. In many cases, the death is obvious, but it is possible the unfortunate victim may not die in the early stages after the alleged negligence, omitted act, or harm has occurred.

The amount of pain and suffering the deceased underwent before their death may be difficult or almost impossible to measure. Death can be very difficult to discuss even with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

2. Caused by another’s negligence, OR (caused by a person or entity)

This element of wrongful death in Ohio and many other states could fill several books and one still would not have explained all of the ways a death could be considered legally “wrongful.”

Additionally, “wrongful death” may have been caused by other than another human being. It may have been caused by a faulty product, the actions of a small company or a large corporation that owns a nursing home in which a patient (or patients) has been abused, and in virtually a myriad of other ways.

In the United States, a wrongful death lawsuit is the only way an individual has to address a wrongful death action(s) that may have been committed by an organization or company, (legally, a non-person).

3. With intent to harm

One can go to separate courts as the defendant in the same wrongful death(s) lawsuit. One of the most prominent examples of the latter is probably the O. J. Simpson case in the state of California in the 1990’s which is getting much attention these days in the media. In one of the longest criminal trials in history, the National Football League (NFL) running back (O.J.) was tried for double-murder, first in criminal court. He was later tried for wrongful death in civil court.

In 1995, “O. J.” was acquitted of charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, one June evening in 1994 at Nicole’s Simpson’s residence, despite much evidence introduced in court which indicated otherwise. When the jury announced its not guilty verdict, the response was nationwide for the popular football player.

After the criminal trial ended, the survivors of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman joined together and brought O. J. Simpson to trial in civil court in California on wrongful death charges. “O.J.” was found guilty in the civil trial and was ordered to pay $35 million in damages to the Goldman family and to his ex-wife’s family. (This case is perhaps also a good example of, no one goes to jail in a civil trial, but what takes place in a civil trial could have considerable impact on later events.)

In civil court, defendants may be ordered to pay significant monetary damages. But, of course, being ordered to pay and paying can be two different things, as the families have said O. J. has not paid civil damages.

4. The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate

The fourth element of a wrongful death case is actually the first thing that may be done in the typical estate case– The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate. (In Ohio, if a personal representative has not been appointed in the will of the deceased, or the person who has died does not have a will and is “intestate,” the probate court may appoint an “administrator.”) In either case, the person named as executor or administrator of an estate is approved by the probate court. In some cases, the attorney for the estate, can file a wrongful death action/claim, but usually the personal representative files the wrongful death action.

Wrongful death claims are filed on behalf of the survivors of the deceased—survivors in the family who are found to be able to seek an award or compensation from those who are responsible for what happened.

Where can you find someone to help you?

Filing and pursuing a wrongful death claim can be extremely complicated and cumbersome. Attorneys who handle these types of cases must have a thorough understanding of many types of Ohio law. In addition, the expense associated with a wrongful death case can be significant.

The cases can require in-depth investigations and testimony from various types of experts. But do not make the decision about whether you need an attorney by yourself.

You may want to read about the subject in our book entitled, A Wrongful Death in Ohio: Actions Families Can Take After The Wrongful Death of a Loved One.  The book covers many topics in about 80 pages and may have many chapters of interest for those who are facing a possible wrongful death action OR for those who are curious about the meaning of wrongful death in the state of Ohio.

Please contact us to request a free copy of our book and if you would like to speak with one of our Ohio wrongful death attorneys, we offer free and private consultations. Please call us at 1-888-459-0765, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send us a website message.

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