It is heartbreaking to lose a loved one. But it can be even more painful if that loved one was taken due to an event that seemingly could have been avoided. When this occurs, it is considered a wrongful death.
There is no way to bring your loved one back after a wrongful death occurs. But going after the guilty party for compensation in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit can provide you with the closure you need.
The Eltringham Law Group can provide you with a Florida wrongful death lawyer that will help you get the coverage you deserve and the peace of mind you require. Read on to find out how we can help.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a claim that is brought when a person dies due to the negligence or fault of another party. It is a civil lawsuit typically brought by a member of the deceased’s family. It seeks monetary damages to compensate for lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, and other losses.
There is a difference between criminal prosecution and a civil wrongful death claim. For example, a person may kill another person in a drunk driving accident. The defendant would be prosecuted in a criminal case for drinking and driving, and they would also be facing a civil wrongful death claim from the family.
You will have to show several things to establish your case as a wrongful death lawsuit. Your Florida wrongful death attorney will help you prove the following:
- Breach of Duty of Care: The case will have to show that the guilty party had a duty of care to the victim that was violated. For example, in a car accident, a driver has a duty of care to adhere to traffic rules and keep other drivers safe. Something like speeding would show a violation of duty of care, helping to establish blame.
- Cause: Your Florida wrongful death lawyer will help you establish that the at-fault person’s actions were a direct cause of your loved one’s death.
- Damages: The loss of the deceased must have resulted in a combination of economic and non-economic damages, including a loss of wages, pain and suffering, and more.
What are Some Examples of Wrongful Death Incidents?
There are many types of incidents that can lead to a wrongful death. These include the following:
- Car accidents
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and falls
- Pharmaceutical accidents
- Accidents in the workplace
- Construction accidents
- Intentional criminal acts
- Premises liability accidents
- Nursing home accidents
- Birth injuries
- Childcare accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
Who May Be Held Liable for the Death of Loved One?
The person or entity liable for a wrongful death will be the one who is responsible for the incident. Here are some examples.
- Wrongful death car accidents: If the death was caused by a car accident, the at-fault driver will be liable for damages. Car accidents can also be caused by faulty equipment, obstructions in the road, and more. If this is the case, a construction company, the city, car manufacturer, or mechanic may be liable.
- Medical malpractice resulting in wrongful death: The healthcare provider will be responsible for a medical malpractice case.
- Wrongful death from pharmaceutical accidents: Wrongful deaths can be due to pharmaceutical accidents. In these instances, the manufacturer or packaging company may be to blame. The manufacturer would be at fault if the product was unsafe. The packaging company would be to blame if the product wasn’t properly labeled to indicate safe usage.
- Deadly premises liability accidents: If a wrongful death occurs on a property, the property owner will be to blame if they failed to provide proper maintenance, leading to an unsafe situation.
- Workplace accidents resulting in death: Several people may be held accountable for a workplace accident. For example, employers may be responsible if they encourage employees to engage in unsafe activities. If the workplace itself was unsafe, the property owner may be to blame.
Can the Deceased Be Responsible for the Accident?
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that the victim may be partially responsible for damages in a wrongful death accident. For example, if the victim was speeding and got cut off by another driver, the driver will be responsible for cutting them off, but the deceased will be at fault for speeding.
In these circumstances, the deceased will still be entitled to compensation. But this will be reduced by the percentage they were responsible for the accident.
So if total damages were $100,000 and the deceased was found to be 50% liable for the accident, the family may only be entitled to 50% of damages or $50,000.
Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death?
In some instances, the at-fault party won’t be responsible for covering all the damages of a wrongful death claim. This will, at least in part, be covered by their insurance company.
For example, a driver may be partially covered by their auto insurance policy. A doctor or other medical provider may have medical malpractice insurance to protect them in a malpractice Florida wrongful death lawsuit. A property owner may have homeowners or property insurance to cover them in a premises liability case.
Insurance companies don’t like to pay out large sums of money. They may get a statement from the deceased’s family or third-party witnesses and twist their words, making it seem like their policyholder wasn’t really to blame, so they can reduce or eliminate the payout amount.
It’s advisable never to talk to an insurance company in a wrongful death claim without consulting with your Florida wrongful death law firm first. The Florida wrongful death attorney will advise you what to say so your words will never be taken out of context.
What Types of Damages and Compensation is Available in a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There are several types of damages that can be collected in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. These include the following:
- Loss of income due to the deceased no longer being able to contribute to the family financially
- Loss of consortium which applies to the love and affection the person provided to the family, including sexual relations
- Emotional damage for the surviving family members
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Medical expenses incurred at the time of the accident, including the payment of care for any attempts to keep the person alive after the accident occurred
- Childcare/Elderly care, if the deceased was responsible for caring for a child or an elderly family member, the guilty party may have to provide compensation to cover the cost of care for that person.
- House Care and Maintenance, if the deceased was responsible for household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and mowing the lawn, the liable party may have to provide compensation to pay for those services.
What is Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
Every lawsuit comes with a statute of limitations. This means that the plaintiff has a certain amount of time to file the case to get compensation.
Florida’s wrongful death statute of limitations is two years. This typically means that the plaintiff has two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file a lawsuit. However, there are a few exceptions as follows:
- Medical malpractice: With a medical malpractice case, relatives have two years from the date when the cause of death is discovered to file a claim, rather than the date of death.
- Murder: When a murder occurs, the statute of limitations will kick in the day the defendant is identified or apprehended.
- A wrongful death lawsuit against a government entity: Any claim brought against a government entity comes with a four-year statute of limitations. That’s because cutting through the bureaucratic red tape takes more time.
If you wait too long to bring your case, the evidence will become harder to obtain. It’s advisable to start the process immediately before witnesses forget the details and evidence becomes harder to collect. Two years may seem like a long time, but it’s always better to act sooner rather than later.
Who Can File a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
While there are many people who may have been hurt by the loss of the victim, Florida court allows only one person to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the spouse, the children, the parents, or anyone else who counted on the deceased for emotional or financial support.
In most instances, the spouse will be the one filing the claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the children will file the claim. If the deceased did not have a spouse or children, the parents will file the claim.
If none of the above are available, another relative that counted on the deceased for support may bring the lawsuit. Barring that, the claim may brought by the deceased’s estate.
How Do You File a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The steps to take in filing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit are as follows:
- Open an estate on the deceased’s behalf.
- Appoint a personal representative to oversee the estate.
- File the claim. The claim will typically be filed against the person or entity responsible for the wrongful death.
The personal representative will typically be identified based on the victim’s will or estate planning documents. They must file a claim against the at-fault party naming all beneficiaries who stand to be compensated for the death.
The representative will also be responsible for distributing damages to all beneficiaries, including spouses, children, other family members, and those to whom the deceased owed a debt. They must determine a fair way to divide the damages to the relevant parties.
Court approval may be necessary in the distribution process if a party objects to the distribution, if a minor is involved, or if one of the beneficiaries is considered incompetent. The personal representative may also request court approval even if it is not necessary. This will ensure that the distribution won’t be challenged at some point in the process.
How Long Does it Take to Resolve a Florida Wrongful Death Claim?
The amount of time it takes to get a resolution for a Florida wrongful death lawsuit will vary depending on several factors. Here are the steps involved that can add time to the case:
- Appointing a personal representative
- Determining the beneficiaries
- Waiting on the results of the autopsy
- Filing the claim
- Negotiating a settlement or taking the case to court (note, taking the case to court will prolong the claim)
- Discovery will be necessary if the case goes to court. It involves obtaining documents relevant to the case and conducting witness depositions.
- A mediation conference involves negotiating a resolution in a formal setting
- Waiting for the court date
- Appealing the decision if necessary
Is a Wrongful Death Claim the Same as a Survival Action?
No, a survival action is not the same as a wrongful death claim. However, they are similar.
A survival action can be filed if a legal claim was proceeding when the death occurred. For example, let’s say the victim was involved in a car accident and died of their injuries while the court case for the accident was going on. The case would then turn into a survival action.
This differs from a wrongful death claim which involves the victim dying before the claim is filed.
How a Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You Win Your Claim
Losing a loved one in a wrongful death lawsuit is extremely painful. If a close relative died in an accident, you need a reliable lawyer by your side. A lawyer will help you build a strong case and see to it that you get the compensation you deserve.
Eltringham Law Group has years of experience dealing with personal injury cases. We are known for our excellent service and winning results. We will fight relentlessly to see to it that justice is done.
A wrongful death can be devastating to family members. Contact Eltringham Law Group to get compensated for your damages. We guarantee to get you a fair outcome for your Florida wrongful death lawsuit claim.