Recently, our Columbus injury lawyers reported that the Ohio DOT was ordered to pay millions in damages due to an accident caused by bad road maintenance. This wrongful death payout, it turns out, was one in a long line of many. In fact, according to the Columbus Dispatch, the state of Ohio has paid out almost $13.9 million in non-medical wrongful death cases heard by the Ohio Court of Claims from 2003 to present.
These wrongful death cases allow family members of those killed due to government negligence to obtain compensation for their losses. The cases have arisen from a variety of different legal matters including traffic deaths caused by poor road maintenance as well as a broken elevator on the campus of Ohio State University that crushed a freshman to death. In every wrongful death claim against the state, however, there is a special procedure in place that must be followed by those seeking justice.
Taking Legal Action Against the Government
Normally, when someone hurts you, you can file a personal injury lawsuit in a court in the relevant jurisdiction (area where the accident happened and/or where those involved live). The court will hear the evidence in the case and a judge or jury will determine the outcome if the case doesn't settle before the trial ends.
Suing the government, however, is not quite so simple. The United States borrowed the doctrine of sovereign immunity from England in the creation of our laws. Sovereign immunity rules mandated that the king could not be sued. While we don't have a king in this country, the doctrine of sovereign immunity has survived to the extent that governments and government employees enjoy certain protections from legal action.
In Ohio, for example, lawsuits against state agencies, institutions and universities are handled by the Ohio Court of Claims as opposed to by a regular court. In the Ohio Court of Claims, the state receives certain protections that defendants in regular personal injury cases normally don't enjoy. For instance, all claims have to be filed within two years of the time that the injured victim is killed. The award that is given to the family is also reduced by the amount of monetary compensation that the family obtains from other sources, which is the opposite of how things work in most personal injury claims where the "collateral source" rule prohibits considering evidence that a plaintiff is going to be compensated from another source (such as a health insurer) when deciding how much a defendant should pay in damages.
Finally, the law limits pain and suffering damages against public universities to a maximum of $250,000.
While these special rules clearly place limitations on the rights of injured plaintiffs to be fully compensated after an accident and injury happens due to a government agent, victims are still able to successfully make a claim for damages. In fact, the approximately $13.9 million that has been paid out by the state for non-medical wrongful death cases before the Ohio Court of Claims shows that many surviving family members are at least receiving damage payments after death, which can hopefully offer them some small measure of comfort by providing essential financial protections.
If you lost a loved one to wrongful death, call the Smith Law office today at 800-930-SCOTT to schedule a free consultation.