Understanding Wrongful Death Laws


Life can change in an instant, and experiencing the sudden loss of a loved one can be devastating. No one should have to endure the emotional and financial toll when such a tragedy arises from someone else’s negligence or harmful actions. Wrongful death laws aim to provide a pathway for justice and compensation for bereaved families. This guide aims to help you and your family by providing an in-depth understanding of wrongful death lawsuits, the potential damages, and how they can offer support during this challenging time.


What is a Wrongful Death Claim?


A wrongful death claim is a civil action initiated when one person dies due to another’s harmful act, which can be negligence, reckless behavior, or intentional misconduct. Close family members or the estate administrator usually file these claims. The defendants in such cases can be individuals, businesses, or entities accused of causing the death. Each state has laws on wrongful death claims, determining who can sue and the types of recoverable losses. Understanding these laws is key for those thinking about a wrongful death lawsuit.


Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


A successful wrongful death lawsuit will have the following elements established:


  1. Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached this duty through action or inaction.
  3. Causation: The breach directly caused the death.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered measurable damages due to the death.

Common Circumstances for Wrongful Death Claims


Wrongful death claims can arise from various situations, such as:

  • Medical Malpractice: Negligence by healthcare providers.
  • Accidents: Including workplace, aviation, and car accidents.
  • Product Liability: Defective products causing fatal injuries.
  • Criminal Acts: Homicide or manslaughter.
  • Supervised Activities: Deaths occurring under the supervision of another party.


Understanding the Compensation of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


Determining the worth of a wrongful death lawsuit is not straightforward. Unlike other types of personal injury claims, wrongful death cases don’t have a standard settlement amount. The value of each case depends on various specific factors, including:

  • Deceased Person’s Age, Income, and Earning Capacity: Younger individuals with higher earning potentials may receive higher compensation due to the prolonged loss of future income.
  • Plaintiff’s Relationship with the Deceased: The age and nature of the relationship between the plaintiff and the deceased (spouse, child, parent) can significantly influence the compensation.
  • State Laws: Each state has different wrongful death statutes, which dictate who can file a claim and what damages can be recovered.


Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Case


Damages in a wrongful death case are meant to compensate survivors for the losses they’ve incurred due to the death of a loved one. These damages fall into two broad categories: economic and non-economic damages. In certain cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.


Economic Damages


Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses directly resulting from the death of a loved one. They include:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs incurred from the injury or illness that led to the death.
  • Loss of Income and Earnings Capacity: One of the most significant economic damages is the loss of the deceased’s future income and earning capacity. This is calculated considering age, occupation, education, and projected career trajectory.
  • Lost Financial Support: The deceased would have provided financial contributions to family members had they lived.
  • Family Members’ Lost Inheritance: What the deceased would have saved and left to surviving family members.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: Costs associated with the funeral and burial services.

Non-Economic Damages


Non-economic damages are more subjective and difficult to quantify but are equally important:

  • Pain and Suffering: Conscious pain and suffering experienced by the deceased person from the moment of the accident or wrongdoing until their death.
  • Loss of Consortium: Emotional support, companionship, and love lost due to the death, often claimed by a spouse or immediate family members.
  • Loss of Instruction and Guidance: The deceased provides support, advice, and guidance to surviving children.


In some states, certain family members may also receive compensation for their own mental pain and suffering or grief stemming from the loss.

Punitive Damages


In cases where the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the death, punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff but to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.


Ohio Wrongful Death Law


In Ohio, the wrongful death statute sets grounds for legal action. It follows a death caused by another’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default.” The law states that claims are allowed if the deceased, if alive, could have pursued a personal injury claim for compensation from the responsible party (Ohio Revised Code Ch. 2125).

The term “wrongful act” is often linked to deliberate acts of violence, like assault, while “neglect” typically pertains to legal negligence. Negligence occurs when an individual breaches a legal duty of care, leading to fatal consequences. Some common instances of negligence that can trigger wrongful death lawsuits in Ohio include:

  • Drunk driving, aggressive driving, or distracted driving;
  • Medical malpractice, including cases of nursing home abuse in Ohio;
  • Production of defective or hazardous goods;
  • Presence of unsafe conditions on a premises.


Essentially, the law stipulates that if an individual injured in an accident could have sought compensation for personal injuries resulting from negligence, a wrongful death claim is applicable if the individual does not survive.

Ohio Statute of Limitations Wrongful Death


In Ohio, wrongful death claims are subject to a statute of limitations. The Ohio wrongful death statute of limitations imposes a two-year deadline for filing such claims in civil court, starting from either the victim’s date of death or the discovery of the wrongful death. Filing a claim after these two years will likely result in dismissal by the court, extinguishing the family’s right to pursue financial compensation.


Wrongful Death in Michigan


Under Michigan law, a wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another, which would have warranted a personal injury lawsuit if the deceased had survived. Additionally, Michigan law deems it a wrongful death when a negligent act leads to a pregnant woman experiencing a miscarriage (Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 600.2922, 600.2922a (2021)).

Essentially, a wrongful death claim occurs when another person or entity legally bears responsibility for an individual’s death. This can be due to a negligence-based incident (like a car accident), medical malpractice, or an intentional act (including a crime). Successful wrongful death lawsuits result in the court awarding financial compensation (“damages”) to the deceased person’s survivors or estate. A significant difference between criminal prosecution for homicide and a wrongful death civil lawsuit is the burden of proof. Criminal cases must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while civil cases require showing liability “by a preponderance of the evidence.” A single incident can lead to both criminal charges and a wrongful death claim, enabling a civil lawsuit to accompany criminal proceedings for the same death.


Michigan Wrongful Death Statute


In Michigan, there is a statute of limitations that sets a three-year time limit from the date of the person’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805 (2021)). Failing to file within this timeframe will likely result in the case being barred from court.


Who Can Be Awarded Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?


The damages awarded and the family members eligible to receive them vary based on state laws and the specifics of the deceased’s relationships. Typically, the following family members can receive damages:




The surviving spouse usually claims lost companionship, emotional support, and financial impact from the death.



Minor children (and sometimes adult children) may be awarded damages for the lost benefits of their relationship with the deceased parent, including comfort, support, and financial contributions.



Parents who have lost a child can seek damages for emotional trauma and the lost relationship. In some cases, parents of adult children may also claim damages, especially for financial support.


Extended Family


In some cases, extended family members may receive compensation for their loss of companionship or support.


Getting Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim


A wrongful death claim involves navigating complex legal terrain. Professional legal assistance is critical, and hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney is essential. Here’s why:


  • Legal Expertise: Interpreting state-specific wrongful death laws.
  • Evidence Gathering: Assembling necessary proof, including economic and non-economic damages.
  • Advocacy: Representing your interests in negotiations and trials.


Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault: Wrongful Death Attorneys


Facing a wrongful death case can be overwhelming, but understanding aspects like jury awards, expert testimony, punitive damages, and survival actions is empowering. If you suspect negligence in your loved one’s death, consult with an experienced Toledo attorney for guidance and compensation. Contact Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault for legal representation tailored to grieving families.

Call Your Toledo Wrongful Death lawyers at 419-843-6663 to get started, or use our easy online contact form today.

If you reside in or around any of the areas we serve in Ohio and Michigan – MaumeeDefianceFremontFindlayLimaMansfieldToledo, and Monroe – and are searching for an “Ohio wrongful death attorney,” you can count on having the best Toledo wrongful death attorneys at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault to represent you in your wrongful death case.