There are few things in life that are as overwhelming and tragic as unexpectedly losing a loved one.
Unfortunately, at such times, grief over their passing is not the only pain you may experience. Inevitably, families must deal with both the emotional and financial fallout of the death of a family member.
This is particularly true when the decedent was the breadwinner or caretaker of their family. Suddenly, loved ones must scramble to fill a void they never saw coming.
If the decedent financially supported others, their dependents must quickly find a way to pay the bills—which may now include medical bills accumulated while the decedent fought to stay alive.
But when the carelessness, negligence, or intentional misconduct of another causes the death of a loved one, the survivors’ confusion and emotional turmoil ratchets up to an entirely new level. Fortunately, Florida law has remedies that may help ease your burden. The Florida wrongful death lawyers at Grossman Attorneys at Law want to help you get your life back as soon as possible after such a tragedy. When someone wrongfully takes a life, there are financial consequences. And while no amount of money can bring back your loved one, it can certainly help pay medical bills, cover funeral expenses, and fill in for the loss of the deceased’s income. Our goal is to stand in the gap for you. We will protect your legal rights and pursue the maximum compensation possible for your Florida wrongful death claim.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act is found in Florida Statutes Section 768.16-768.26. The cause of action is codified in section 768.19. Which survivors qualify to file a wrongful death claim is codified in section 768.20. But the essential basics are as follows.
Whenever someone causes injury to another by acting negligently, recklessly, or with wrongful intent, the injured party can file a personal injury action. Personal injury claims demand that the wrongful party pay money damages to the victim. The goal of monetary damages is to make the victim whole again—or as whole as possible under the circumstances. However, what happens when the victim dies? This is the situation covered by Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.
When an injured victim dies, wrongful death lawyers in Florida can file a claim for the survivors’ benefit. In other words, if you cause someone injury, they have the right to file a personal injury claim. If they die from that injury, the survivors can essentially convert that personal injury claim to a wrongful death claim. In this way, the law allows survivors to recover money damages for the harm caused by the wrongful conduct.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Florida?
A personal representative must file a wrongful death claim in Florida.
Personal representatives are generally people who do not have an interest in the case and do not stand to inherit or benefit from the proceeds of the estate. When people make a will or estate plan, they often name a personal representative. This representative takes charge of administering the estate after the person making the will dies. The representative can be a trusted friend or an unbiased professional like an attorney.
If the decedent failed to name a personal representative, then a judge must appoint one.
After a personal representative is appointed, they can move forward with a wrongful death claim on behalf of qualified survivors.
The following people can benefit from a Florida wrongful death claim:
- Blood relatives, and
- Adopted, dependent children.
When unmarried parents have a child, things are a bit different.
If the father dies, a child born out of wedlock can claim benefits from a wrongful death claim only if:
- The father officially recognized the child as his biological child; and
- The father supported the child, whether ordered by the court or voluntarily.
An experienced wrongful death attorney in Florida can answer any questions you have about whether you can benefit from a wrongful death suit.
Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
For most personal injury cases in Florida, a living victim has four years within which to file a lawsuit. But for wrongful death cases, the law allows only two years.
So it is very important to contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Florida as soon as possible.
There are many steps involved in these cases, and any step along the way can create a snag and take extra time to resolve before the case can progress.
So don’t wait. A judge can dismiss your case if you delay, so schedule an appointment as soon as possible. At your initial consultation, our Florida wrongful death lawyers can assess your case and get you started on the road to financial recovery.
What Must Wrongful Death Lawyers in Florida Prove?
For your case to succeed, your lawyer must present evidence that proves the elements of a wrongful death claim. They will prepare evidence that shows all essential elements and present it to the insurance company and the court if necessary.
These are the elements of wrongful death:
- The defendant’s actions caused the victim’s death;
- The defendant actions that caused death were negligent, reckless, or intentionally wrongful;
- The victim’s death harmed survivors; and
- The survivors suffered monetary losses because of the death.
Your Florida wrongful death lawyer must show that these elements are met under the facts of the case. The first element above is referred to as “causation.” It means that the actions of the defendant must be the cause of death. If the death did not result from the wrongful conduct, then causation is not satisfied.
The second element involves establishing negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.
Let’s look at each one of these in turn.
You prove negligence by establishing that the defendant had a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances and that they did not fulfill that duty. Furthermore, you must prove that the irresponsible behavior caused or substantially contributed to the death of the victim.
Reckless behavior is defined as behavior that is so egregious that it rises to the level of conscious disregard for the well-being and safety of others.
Finally, intentional misconduct happens when the defendant knows that a course of action is wrong and will likely harm someone. But despite this knowledge, they willfully forge ahead with behavior that threatens the safety of others. Any of these three levels of culpability will suffice to establish a case for wrongful death.
Common Accidents That Result in Wrongful Death
We have established that whenever a person or business entity owes a duty of care that is breached, and that breach results in a victim’s death, a wrongful death case may arise.
But there are many types of accidents and injuries that can result in a wrongful death claim, so let’s look at a few.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
These accidents involve cars, motorcycles, trucks, or almost any type of motorized vehicle. Cars can crash with one another, with motorcycles, trucks, bicycles, or pedestrians. These accidents happen every day all over the country. Some are simple fender-benders, some are fatal, and many fall in between these two extremes. When one driver kills someone through negligence or wrongful conduct, the survivors may have grounds for a wrongful death case.
There are as many types of workplace accidents as there are different types of workplaces. From an office worker who falls down a flight of stairs because of a spill to a construction worker who falls to his death from 10th story scaffolding, fatal workplace accidents can result in wrongful death.
In many cases, you may be barred from bringing a wrongful death claim against the deceased person’s employer. However, you could be entitled to death benefits under workers’ compensation. Additionally, you can bring a lawsuit against certain third parties who caused or contributed to the workplace accident. A wrongful death attorney can help you identify the responsible parties and understand your options.
Whenever a landowner invites people onto their property, the law requires them to take reasonable measures to ensure that their property is safe from hazards. Owners or renters have a legal duty to keep their property hazard-free or to at least warn invitees about potential hazards. If they fail in that duty, they may be liable for the resulting harm or death.
Product manufacturers owe a duty of care to consumers. They are strictly responsible to ensure the safety of the products they put into the marketplace or to adequately warn of any dangers. If a product is so defective that it kills someone, the company may be liable for damages.
Doctors, nurses, and most medical professionals have standards of care that they must meet or exceed when treating people. When medical personnel make careless mistakes that cause death, liability may attach.
Examples of other less common accidents that can result in wrongful death claims are boating accidents, accidental drownings in an unsecured pool, airplane accidents, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and violent crimes. Your Florida wrongful death lawyer can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.
What Types of Damages Can I Recover?
The short answer is that a qualified survivor can recover money lost because of the wrongful conduct of another that resulted in the victim’s death. But let’s get a bit more specific.
There are two categories of damages in wrongful death cases: survivor damages and estate damages.
As the name implies, these are damages that survivors can claim. Under Florida Statute Section 768.21, survivors can recover for the following items.
Loss of support
If a survivor received monetary support from the decedent, they can recover the value of that support. The amount can be tricky to calculate. But your wrongful death lawyer in Florida knows how to determine the appropriate number. And yes, these damages include lost future support.
Loss of services
The daily services of the decedent have value as well. Although no one likely paid the decedent to cut the grass, fix the house, or cart children to and from school, these services are valuable. Survivors can seek the value of these services in a wrongful death suit.
Loss of parental companionship, guidance, and protection
These damages are mostly granted to children under the age of 25. Clearly, when a child loses a parent, they lose much more than financial support. The guidance and wisdom of a parent can make a huge impact on a child’s life. Accordingly, surviving children can recover monetary damages in an attempt to compensate for this loss.
Mental and emotional pain and suffering
The spouse and/or children of the decedent typically receive these types of awards. Obviously, a person’s mental and emotional health can take a big hit when a spouse or parent dies. While it can be difficult to translate pain and suffering into a monetary figure, it can be done. But each case is highly unique, and a professional must assess the circumstances to determine an appropriate amount.
Medical and funeral costs
If survivors paid associated medical or burial expenses, they can recover that in a wrongful death action.
These relate to property that was bequeathed to beneficiaries in a will and include the following:
- Loss of prospective accumulations of the estate;
- Loss of decedent’s income that would have accrued between the time of the accident and the time of death; and
- Medical bills and funeral expenses paid by the estate for the decedent.
Essentially, these damages include any value that the decedent’s estate lost out on due to the accident. If a survivor is the beneficiary of the estate, they can recover those lost amounts.
Florida Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
Wrongful death cases can be complex.
Each case is highly unique and involves a proper assessment by a seasoned professional. The attorneys at Grossman Attorneys at Law are highly trained and experienced in this field.
They can determine if you have a proper case. And if you do, they can take the legal burden off of you while getting you the maximum compensation allowed by law. So let us help you get the compensation you need to move on with your life.
We work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee or costs that you have to pay unless we successfully resolve your wrongful death case.