Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Learning the Basics
Was your family member’s death the direct result of someone else’s negligence? You’re not alone.
Motor vehicle accidents and unsafe premises (including workplaces) take a staggering number of loved ones away from their family members every year.
If your family member died and someone else was responsible, you may be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit. While legal action can’t bring your loved one back, it is a remedy to seek justice and damages.
Keep reading to learn whether a wrongful death lawsuit is right for you. If you have any questions, reach out to SteinLaw Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.
Wrongful Death: What Is It?
Every state has some form of wrongful death law on its books. The creation of these laws dates to the nineteenth century to allow survivors to sue in the event their family member was killed as the result of negligence or an intentional act.
When Is Wrongful Death Applicable?
Wrongful death requires two parts: a death and a legal liability by another party.
The party may be an individual or organization. In the case of a death in a car accident, the deceased’s survivors may sue the other driver if they were negligent and directly caused the death. If the car accident was the fault of the auto manufacturer or another party, the family might sue the car maker.
Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit begins when a representative files the lawsuit on behalf of the survivors (family or estate) of the deceased. The person or persons are the “real parties of interest.”
People who qualify as “real parties of interest” differ according to state. Depending on state and local law, it may include:
- Immediate family
- Life partners
- Financial dependents
- Distant family members
- Parents of a deceased fetus
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act law defines survivors as:
- Decedent’s spouse, children, and parents
- Blood and adoptive relatives partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services
- Children born out of wedlock to a mother but not to the father unless child support is paid
(Minor children are those under 25 years of age.)
If you qualify as a survivor, the wrongful death statute of limitations in Florida is two years after the day of the deceased’s death.
The Proof Required for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Proving wrongful death requires proving negligence. Four elements are involved in negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
Duty of Care
“Duty of care” is the at-fault party’s legal duty to act reasonably to prevent your loved one from being in an accident that could cause injury. (For example, a driver’s “duty of care” is to drive safely, obeying all traffic laws, signs, and signals.) “Duty of care” is determined by a judge or jury when compared to how a reasonable person would behave in the same situation.
Breach of Duty
The breach exists when the at-fault party defies the “duty of care.” (For example, drivers breach “duty of care” when they fail to obey traffic laws, signs, or signals.)
You must prove that a breach of “duty of care” caused and led to the death of your loved one. The accident report, medical records, and other documentation of the incident provide evidence regarding how your loved one died and can connect his or her death with a breach of “duty of care.”
It must be proven by evidence your loved one’s death caused damage to you or your family. Damages can include funeral costs, medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain, and suffering, or emotional trauma.
Each of these elements must be shown by evidence sufficient to prove the negligence and deliberate actions of someone who caused the death of your loved one.
An experienced SteinLaw wrongful death lawyer can help gather the necessary evidence and prove negligence.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims in Florida
Here are common accidents that result in wrongful death (but not limited to):
1. Car Accidents
Because of the number of drivers and the frequency of driving, car accidents are the most common fatalities resulting in wrongful death cases. In 2021, an estimated 42,915 individuals lost their lives in car accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 3,757 people died in car accidents in Florida in 2021. Many of these fatalities are the result of the negligence of one or more drivers and include speeding, distracted driving, driving under the influence, driving while sleepy, or other roadway issues.
2. Commercial Truck Accidents
Although counted among the auto accident statistics, commercial truck accidents are considerably different from passenger car accidents.
Commercial trucks are heavier, larger, and more likely to be involved in a traffic fatality.
If you lost your loved one in a commercial trucking accident, your lawyer will seek to determine the cause of the accident, which may include mechanical failure, improperly secured or oversized loads, driver error, driving under the influence, or the improper maintenance of the vehicle. Once determined, your lawyer will help you understand which party (or parties) involved are liable in your wrongful death lawsuit.
3. Pedestrians, Motorcycles, and Bicycle Accidents
In these incidents, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists have less protection than those in the involved vehicles, and so are more likely to be killed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 5,579 motorcyclists, along with 6,516 pedestrians and 938 bicyclists were killed in fatal crashes in 2020, many resulting from driver negligence.
4. Workplace Accidents
Deaths in the workplace are often the result of dangerous jobs but can occur in any occupation which requires work done in hazardous conditions. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), there were 4,764 fatal workplace accidents in 2020. Work-related accidents resulting in employee deaths are most often caused by falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, or being caught between structures, machines, or materials.
5. Defective products
Defective or dangerous products include items like flawed vehicles/parts, defective drugs, toxic food, flawed children’s products, and lethal containers. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe for consumer use, and if not, they can be held liable for deaths associated with their products.
6. Negligent Security
Business and property owners have a duty to provide adequate security for their guests, residents, visitors, shoppers, renters, or the general public. They must do what they can to protect people from the foreseeable intentional criminal conduct of others. If negligent security led to your loved one being killed, you may be able to get compensation from the property owner or manager.
Between swimming pools, lakes, canals, and the state’s 1,350 miles of coastline, Florida sadly has many ways for people to drown to death. While many drownings are accidental and unpreventable, property and business owners do have a responsibility to keep people safe. If you aren’t sure whether your loved one’s drowning could be considered a wrongful death, contact the experienced lawyers at SteinLaw for a free consultation.
Was Your Loved One the Victim of a Wrongful Death?
Nothing can bring your loved one back, but a wrongful death lawsuit may ease the financial burden associated with a loss of income, unplanned funerals, and moving forward with life.