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What must you prove in a wrongful death case?

When your loved one dies in Ohio because of someone's negligence or misconduct, you have the right to sue that person for your loved one's wrongful death. Bear in mind that a wrongful death suit is a civil suit, not a criminal prosecution conducted by the state. What this means is that if you believe someone's misconduct, such as allegedly committing assault or murder, caused your loved one's death, the state need not convict that person of the alleged crime for you to be able to sue him or her for wrongful death.

As explained by FindLaw, people such as doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, allegedly drunk drivers and/or allegedly negligent property owners represent the typical defendants in a wrongful death action. Surviving spouses, parents and/or children represent the typical plaintiffs.

Elements of proof

In order to win your wrongful death suit, you must be able to prove the following four things in court by clear and convincing evidence:

  1. That the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one
  2. That (s)he somehow breached this duty by something (s)he did or failed to do
  3. That his or her breach of duty caused the death of your loved one
  4. That your loved one's death caused you economic damages

Types of damages

You can recover two kinds of monetary damages in your wrongful death suit: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages represent those on which you can place an exact dollar figure, such as your loved one's medical and funeral expenses. Noneconomic damages represent those on which neither you nor anyone else can place a precise dollar figure and that therefore the jury will award you the amounts they feel are just in the circumstances.

Your noneconomic damages may, for instance, include such things as the following:

  • Your loved one's pain and suffering from the time (s)he suffered his or her injury to the time (s)he died
  • Your loss of your loved one's financial support
  • Your loss of your loved one's services, such as his or her love, companionship, guidance, etc.
  • Your loss of your loved one's prospective inheritance

If the jury determines that the defendant's actions or failure to act were particularly egregious, it may award you punitive damages over and above your actual economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant.

This is educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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