When a loved one is killed in a horrific accident that could have been prevented, the survivors are often left with financial struggles on top of their grief. There are final medical expenses, bills that have to be paid, possibly the loss of a major breadwinner for the household, and funeral expenses to manage.
What legal options do you have, as a survivor, when your loved one is killed due to someone else's negligence?
A Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of the deceased's family members or estate. Exactly who can file a wrongful death claim varies considerably from state to state.
In Ohio, for example, the law assumes that certain family members will have suffered a direct loss due to a loved one's wrongful death and gives those people automatic standing to file a lawsuit. This includes the spouse of the deceased, his or her children, and any surviving parents. A wrongful death lawsuit might be able to be filed by other family members, but only if they can prove to the court that they suffered a direct loss due to their loved one's death.
Wrongful death claims can ask the court to award a variety of damages to the deceased's survivors. These include the value of what the deceased would have earned and contributed to the household in his or her lifetime, the value of his or her lost comfort and companionship toward a parent, the value of the lost guidance and love his or her children from their parent, and funeral and burial costs.
A Survival Action
Survival actions are less well-known than wrongful death claims, although they're closely related. They can be brought against the negligent party whenever the deceased wasn't instantly killed in the accident. Essentially, they are personal injury lawsuits brought on behalf of the deceased by his or her estate. They ask the court to compensate the deceased for his or her final medical bills as doctors tried to save his or her life and the pain and suffering that he or she endured.
For example, imagine that a father of two was passing by a construction site when he was hit on the head by a falling object. He survived the initial blow -- only to die after brain swelling and infection set in several days later at the hospital. In that case, both a survival action and a wrongful death claim would probably be justified. The survival action would address the medical bills and his pain and suffering, while the wrongful death claim would address the financial consequences and emotional losses felt by his spouse and children due to his death.
If you've lost a loved one due to someone's negligent act, don't hesitate to seek more information about your legal rights from a personal injury lawyer, like Jack W Hanemann, P.S.