Malpractice by a health care provider in treating a patient can lead to the patient’s death. When this occurs, it may be possible for a personal representative of the decedent to bring a wrongful death action against the provider responsible on behalf of the decedent’s close family members.
Ohio law presumes that certain family members suffer damages from a wrongful death. These include the decedent’s parents and children. If the decedent was married, the law also presumes that the surviving spouse suffers damages. These presumptions are rebuttable, meaning that if the plaintiff can produce evidence that the damages suffered by these family members are less than what they claim, the court can reduce the award or deny it altogether.
Parents can claim damages for the wrongful death of either a minor child or an adult one. In either case, mental anguish over the death or loss of the decedent’s companionship may be grounds for filing the claim. However, the law explicitly states that a parent who abandons a minor child cannot benefit from a civil action related to his or her death.
Minor children who suffer damages because of the loss of a parent can benefit from a wrongful death action. The court can create a trust to hold the damages awarded for any beneficiary under the age of 25. The trustee responsible for managing the trust must first receive the approval of the children’s legal guardian.
A surviving spouse who remarries before the court makes a decision regarding a wrongful death can still benefit from the civil action. However, the court may take the fact of the remarriage into consideration when determining the amount of damages to award.