Wrongful Death FAQs

Q: How do civil cases against someone who caused a wrongful death differ from criminal cases?

A: Government attorneys bring criminal cases and their purpose is to punish the wrongdoer and exact justice for someone's wrongful death. Criminal cases usually seek to impose prison time or probation upon the wrongdoer. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is high.

A civil wrongful death claim is not brought by prosecutors; it's brought by a deceased's representative, with the primary goal being recovery of compensation. Like criminal cases, civil death cases also hold wrongdoers accountable, but instead of imposing criminal punishment, they seek to take money from the wrongdoer and award it to the victim's estate. The Ohio civil standard of proof in wrongful death cases is lower than in criminal proceedings, so a civil wrongful death claim may prevail even when criminal prosecution is unsuccessful.

Q: What if an unborn child dies?

A: Ohio law treats viable fetuses as "persons" for lawsuit purposes. If an unborn child could survive outside the womb, then the parents may bring a wrongful death claim. If a nonviable fetus dies because of someone's wrongdoing, a wrongful death claim cannot proceed under Ohio law, but there may still be an opportunity for the parents to recover damages.

Q: Are punitive damages recoverable in Ohio wrongful death suits?

A: Yes. Punitive damages are often recoverable when a plaintiff can prove abhorrent conduct on the part of the defendant. To learn more, visit our page on monetary damages in wrongful death cases.

Q: What happens if someone dies before filing a personal injury lawsuit?

A: In Ohio, if someone's wrongdoing causes death, then the decedent's representative can file a wrongful death claim on his or her behalf. It doesn't matter if the now-deceased victim filed an injury lawsuit before dying.

Q: Can I bring a wrongful death action based on the death of a child or an elderly person?

A: The deceased's personal representative can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of anyone who has died, regardless of age. To learn more, visit our page on the death of a child or elderly person.

Q: Is there a time limit for bringing a wrongful death claim in Ohio?

A: Yes. There is a time limit for bringing a wrongful death suit, known as the statute of limitations. For more information, visit our page on the wrongful death statute of limitations.