When English colonists settled in the New World, they brought along many customs, including the common law. When the United States claimed their independence in 1776, they copied many British laws, including the law of torts. The law of torts covers instances where the negligent conduct of one person injures another. One of the oddities of the common law was that it made no provision for recovering damages from someone who caused the death of another person.

In 1932, the Ohio Legislature remedied this omission by passing a statute that allowed the family of a person killed by the wrongful act of another to bring a claim for damages against the person who caused the death. The statute permits such an action whenever the “death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default which would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued. . . .”

Generally, a wrongful death action is commenced by the administrator or executor of the deceased person. Wrongful deaths include accidents related to cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains or airplanes; defective products; prescription drug errors; medical malpractice; fires; and occupational exposure to a hazardous condition or substance. The spouse, children and parents of the deceased are presumed to have suffered a direct loss from the death of a loved one. Other family members may have a claim, but they must prove the element of direct loss in the trial.

Anyone who has lost a loved one in circumstances that appear to have been caused by the negligence of another may wish to have an experienced accident attorney evaluate the evidence and provide an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for emotional pain and suffering, loss of financial support, loss of companionship and potential loss of an inheritance from the deceased.