Losing someone you love is devastating regardless of the circumstance. Dealing with the untimely death of a loved one is never easy, especially when it is caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. The healing process is made even more difficult when coupled with managing financial responsibilities such as the cost of funeral arrangements or coping with a sudden loss of income and support. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can investigate the circumstances that lead to your loved one’s death and assist you in holding those responsible financially accountable.
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act provides a mechanism for those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another to recover monetary compensation. The act sets forth the following with regard to filing a wrongful death claim in Florida:
- Who can bring a wrongful death claim
- The parties involved in a wrongful death claim
- The requirements for a wrongful death claim
- The amount of compensation available under a wrongful death claim
The purpose of Florida’s Wrongful Death Act is to shift the costs associated with the wrongful death of a family member from the victim’s heirs to the person who caused the death.
Common Causes Of Wrongful Death
Though wrongful death claims may involve intentional acts like manslaughter or murder, most are the result of accidents and negligence. Here are the most common causes of wrongful death:
- Motor vehicle accidents – including auto accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, rideshare accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents.
- Workplace accidents – if an employer fails to provide proper training or the necessary safety equipment for their workers to do their jobs and someone loses their life, they could be held accountable.
- Medical errors – the third leading cause of death in the United States, medical errors happen when a medical professional is negligent in their duty to provide a patient with a high level of care.
- Product liability – thousands of dangerous products are recalled every year because they pose a danger to consumers because of a design defect, manufacturing defect, or improper labeling.
Wrongful Death FAQs
How Long does it take to resolve a wrongful death claim?
The duration of your wrongful death claim will primarily depend on the following two factors:
- The types and extent of your damages; and
- The length of time it takes to fully evaluate and place a value on all of your damages, so that the insurance company can make a reasonable offer to settle the case.
Generally, however, it takes a Florida wrongful death case 1 to 2 years from the date it is filed before it is tried successfully before the court.
How much will a wrongful death claim cost me?
Our law firm takes wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you can retain the services of an experienced attorney to investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and assist you with pursuing a claim for compensation, without having to advance any of your own money. We will advance all of the costs and fees necessary to conduct the investigation and pursue the claim and will be reimbursed from the money you are awarded if we are successful in obtaining a settlement or judgment on your behalf.
How much is my wrongful death claim worth?
Wrongful death claims are incredibly complex and there is no mathematical formula to compute the value of a claim. However, there are a number of factors that will help your attorney (and the insurance adjuster) determine the value of your wrongful death claim:
- Your losses and the types of damages available to you under the law;
- The strength of family members’ testimony
- The jury’s perception of the decedent and the life he or she led
- The amount of insurance available to pay a claim
- The identity of the wrongdoer and the severity of the negligent conduct that caused the death; and
- The skill, ability, and reputation of your attorney
What Must Be Proven In A Wrongful Death Case?
Winning a wrongful death lawsuit largely depends on your attorney’s ability to prove the defendant’s negligence caused the death in question.
Proving the defendant’s negligence requires establishing the following:
- The defendant had a duty to the decedent to act with reasonable care. For example, motorists must operate their vehicles with care.
- The defendant violated or breached this duty by some action, or in some cases, inaction. Following the previous example, if a motorist operates his or her vehicle under the influence of alcohol and strikes and kills your loved one, the motorist breached his or her duty to act with reasonable care.
- This breach directly resulted in the death in question.
Thus, you have a wrongful death case when these three things are established.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
In Florida, both the decedent’s estate and the decedent’s survivors are entitled to file a wrongful death claim. The decedent’s personal representative may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate. In addition, the survivors of the decedent’s estate, including the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, dependent blood relatives, and adoptive brothers and sisters, may also file a claim for wrongful death.
What Is The Difference Between A Personal Injury Claim And A Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone dies as the result of a wrongful act, the lawsuit procedures are a little bit different than in other personal injury cases. Instead of the claim being brought by the plaintiff, who obviously can’t bring a claim him or herself, a wrongful death claim is usually brought by the plaintiff’s personal representative and/or the executor or administrator of plaintiff’s estate, who will make all of the litigation decisions as though he or she was the plaintiff. What’s more, there are often two parts to wrongful death case––the wrongful death claim filed by the decedent’s survivors to recover pecuniary damages and the survival action filed by the decedent’s estate.
Wrongful Death Damages
Under a wrongful death action, the decedent’s dependents may recover the following “pecuniary damages”:
- Medical expenses directly related to the decedent’s final illness or injury
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering experienced by the decedent between the time of the final injury or illness and the time of death
- Loss of guidance, companionship, love, and attention from the deceased
- The financial support provided by the decedent
- Reasonably estimated future earning potential of the deceased
- Lost wages from time spent out of work between the time of the final injury or illness and the time of death
- Estimated earnings the decedent’s estate could have reasonably collected
How Long Do I Have To Bring A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Statute of Limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, with very few exceptions, is two years from the date of the death. This means that if a wrongful death lawsuit is not filed within two years, you will likely be forever barred from filing a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for the losses sustained as a result of the death of your loved one.
If you believe that there is a wrongful death, you should contact an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney as soon as possible, so that you can get the help to ensure that you don’t lose the opportunity to file a claim and recover compensation.
How Are The Damages Determined In A Wrongful Death Case?
The amount of damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim will vary depending upon the nature and relationship of the deceased person and his or her surviving family members. Essentially, however, there are to components to the damages available in Florida wrongful death claim––an economic component and a non-economic component.
The economic component involves a present award for what the decedent would have earned in the future. The non-economic component measures the value of the life lost from the perspective of the decedent’s surviving family members in terms of grief, sorrow, and pain and suffering––a figure that is hard to express in monetary terms and that must often be determined by a jury.
Totaling the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit may also require the testimony of expert witnesses. Such witnesses may include medical professionals who can attest to the severity of the decedent’s final illness or injury and pain and suffering. Witnesses may also include financial experts who can establish the decedent’s potential lifetime earnings through work and other sources of income.
Wrongful death lawsuits can quickly grow in complexity, and it’s important to retain the services of an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney to ensure that you don’t overlook possible avenues of compensation.
At SteinLaw, our primary goal is to maximize our client’s recovery. We know that it’s impossible to assign a dollar value to a human life, but we also recognize that compensation can make a difficult situation much easier to manage.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, call or text SteinLaw to find out how we can help you hold those responsible accountable for your loved one’s death and be compensated for your family’s loss. Call us at 844.STEIN.99 or fill out our contact form to arrange a free and confidential consultation.