Blog / Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death Claims Hold People Accountable

December 10, 2019 / Chip Cooper

The premature death of a loved one is devastating. It disrupts lives, and it can destroy relationships. If we had the power to turn back the hands of the clock, we would do so in a heartbeat. What we can do is use the legal system to get to the bottom of why someone died and hold the people who are responsible accountable.

A wrongful death is the loss of life that results from someone else’s actions, whether they are intentional or due to negligence. In the legal system, a wrongful death is a civil action, not a criminal one. The state can bring criminal charges, such as involuntary manslaughter, against the person accused of causing the death. The families, heirs, or other beneficiaries of the deceased have the option of filing a wrongful death civil action. It’s not unusual for the accused to face both.

How Do You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The first step in filing a wrongful death lawsuit is speaking with an attorney. Many people who come to our office have a strong desire to find out why their loved one died. A lot of law offices gloss over this point, but at Cooper Elliott, the “why” is our starting point.

A woman came to our office to find out why her husband, an experienced rider, died when his motorcycle wiped out on an exit ramp. Our investigation found that shortly before he took the exit, a semi-truck with a punctured fuel tank had spilled diesel onto the road. The truck driver did not follow proper safety protocol, which led to the accident. Once our client understood why her husband died, she was able to grieve the loss and begin to heal.

After we find the “why,” our clients can decide what they want to do next. We take each case in stages, and we take them as far as they want to go.

What Is the Average Settlement for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Connecting a dollar figure to the loss of a loved one can feel strange, but it has nothing to do with someone’s value as a person. It’s an effort to provide for the family in a way the deceased would have wanted. Most wrongful death settlements consider certain factors to determine an appropriate amount: the age and health of the person who died, their earning capacity, and whether they had dependents who counted on them financially and emotionally.

Finding the average wrongful death settlement is tricky because the term covers so many situations—a doctor who overdoses a patient, a semi-truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel, a defective car seat that doesn’t restrain a baby. Another issue is that many wrongful death settlements include a confidentiality clause, so the dollar figure remains private.

Cooper Elliott has obtained more than $350 million for clients in wrongful death settlements. If you scroll down our wrongful death webpage, you’ll see a dozen examples of how we get results.

Settlements Can Bring About Change

The word “settle” may sound like you are getting something less than you would otherwise, but a wrongful death settlement can be a more satisfying way to resolve an action. When a judge decides a case, they can only award what the law allows them to, such as only monetary damages and only up to a certain amount.

Settlements can be structured in creative ways that go beyond financial compensation. It can require a manufacturer to change the way they make a product or how they test it for safety, such as when a ride at the Ohio State Fair broke apart, killing two people and injuring five others.

Our firm structured a settlement for an Ohio family who lived in a slum apartment. One day, their curious 4-year-old pulled on the stove, and it fell on top of him. The landlord hadn’t installed the required anti-tip bracket, and it cost this little boy his life. The family was devastated and didn’t want anyone else to have to experience the pain they felt. As part of their wrongful death settlement, we required the landlord to publish announcements warning of the risks of not using anti-tip brackets.

At Cooper Elliott, we feel it is both humbling and an honor to work with people who have the courage to step forward and trust us to find the answers. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help.

Connect with us—we’re here to help.

The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.

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