David Chester Ohio Wrongful Death Lawyer and founder of Chester Law Group
Wrongful death lawyers have a difficult job. Proving a wrongful death case takes experience, knowledge and a clear understanding of negligence and liability.
However, there are other factors that must also be taken into consideration and sometimes that is where the really difficult part of the job begins.
A wrongful death attorney must have charisma. If you do not feel it, then how will a jury. After all, you are part of the general jury pool in Ohio, aren’t you? If your lawyer does not have both the technical expertise and personality traits necessary to persuade a jury, then he or she may be the wrong attorney for you.
Lawyers dealing with a wrongful death claim must establish the elements of negligence and proving fault. They must also identify all persons or entities that were responsible for the victim’s death. There are four elements and if any one of them is not present, there is no case for wrongful death.
The four elements of negligence in a wrongful death case are:
1. Duty of Care
Wrongful death lawyers must show that the deceased was owed a duty of care by another party. This means that there was a legal obligation to adhere to a standard of reasonable care when performing an act that could possibly harm others. For example, a driver of a motor vehicle has a duty of care to operate it in a safe manner that doesn’t harm others. A doctor has a duty of care to provide medical care equal to or better than the standard of care of similar doctors in that geographic area.
2. A Breach of Duty
Wrongful death attorneys must show that there was a breach of that duty to care. This means that the lawyers must show that the other party was careless. Put another way, the party at fault did not perform his fulfill his duty to act in a non-negligent manner. An example of the breach of duty of care would be causing a traffic accident that resulted in someone’s death where the other party failed to fulfill his duty to drive under the speed limit.
3. The Defendant Caused the Plaintiff’s Death
A wrongful death law firm must show that the careless actions of the defendant caused the death of the victim. This can sometimes be the most difficult element to establish, especially if there are multiple defendants. While an attorney does not have to show that the defendant’s actions were the only cause of the victim’s death, the cause does have to be established for each defendant. If the person would have died even if the careless party had not been careless, then the case has problems. For example, if a person has a massive heart attack and dies, and the doctor did not give the correct drug to treat the heart attack, but the person clearly could not have survived even with the right drug, the case may fail.
4. There Are Damages
Wrongful death attorneys must show that there are damages, but this is usually evident with the death of a loved one. Damages can be awarded by a judge or jury once negligence or liability has been established. However, determining the amount of damages is quite complex.
The courts award damages for wrongful death, but the way the courts come up with that amount can vary from state to state. A pecuniary loss means that the plaintiff is awarded damages for the money that the victim would have provided if he or she lived. This amount might include income, pensions, or other sources of income.
Compensation may also be given for the loss of love and companionship. This type of compensation is very relevant for a child who has lost a parent.
Depending on the state in which you live, punitive damages against the defendant may also be awarded if the party at fault acted not just carelessly, but recklessly, maliciously, or intentionally.
The factors used to determine damages vary with each case. Some of those factors include the victim’s age, health and how dependant the plaintiff was on the deceased.
It can be extremely complex because the court (or jury) must attempt to put a price tag on the emotional loss that was suffered.
Future earnings are an important element in wrongful death cases. In most cases, the victim’s earnings at the time of death are multiplied by the number of years remaining until retirement and brought back to a present value. Experts are hired by your experienced wrongful death law firm who will handle this calculation.
Preparing a Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death lawyers will usually spend several weeks or even months preparing a case for trial. It’s really important that the law firm has all the information available about the victim that may help in the case.
Preserving evidence is vital to a successful wrongful death case. This might include photos of an accident scene, medical reports, and financial records.
Wrongful death attorneys will investigate the case, including interviewing witnesses or contacting experts for their testimony.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death
Wrongful death lawyers must file the case with the court before the statute of limitations has expired. This time limit varies from state to state. In Ohio, the wrongful death statute of limitations is generally two years but may be shorter.
Because of the statute of limitations in wrongful death cases, it is important that you contact legal representation as soon as possible. It takes time to put together a successful case.
Sometimes, even identifying all of the responsible parties can be time consuming. The sooner you contact the wrongful death lawyers who will handle your case, the better chance there is of putting together a case that will get you the damages you and your family deserve.
The distribution of the settlement can vary. If the suit was filed on the behalf of a child, the court may put the money into a trust for the minor until he or she reaches an age set by court. If there are multiple plaintiffs, then the court may determine how the disbursement should proceed.
Final Thoughts by Attorney Chester
Wrongful death lawyers do not have any easy job. Not only are these cases emotionally-charged, it can often take a long time to put together a successful case and can cost tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to take to a jury trial.
You should choose an experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death law firm who has staff that has had trial experience and a successful track record. It is not a choice that should be made lightly. You also want to know if the wrongful death lawyers at the firm have access to experts who can testify at trial, if needed. Above all else, the law firm should protect the rights of their clients and work diligently to get them the compensation that they deserve.
Chester Law Group Co., LPA are very experienced and knowledgeable in wrongful death cases. They have 16 offices in Ohio and have the resources to handle long drawn out and complicated wrongful death claims.