If a person or entity harms another, the resulting lawsuit falls under the purview of personal injury law. If the victim dies, however, the case becomes a wrongful death suit. Wrongful death law applies when a defendant (the person being sued) unintentionally causes the death of another person. The plaintiff, or party suing, in such cases is a relative or appointed advocate of the decedent.
The law dictating who may file a wrongful death claim, the window of time after a wrongful death to file a claim, the type of claimable damages, and how much can be claimed or recovered varies from state to state. If your loved one was the victim of a wrongful death, please read the following and consider your situation.
Florida Wrongful Death Law
Wrongful death suits can only be initiated by people with specific relations to the decedent. In the state of Florida, a surviving spouse, child, parent, adoptive sibling, or any other blood relative who can demonstrate full or partial dependence upon the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. Surviving loved ones must also consider the statute of limitations or the time frame in which to file a lawsuit. In Florida, that window is four years from the date of death.
Wrongful death suits are civil actions. In some situations, criminal cases arise from the event in question—but these cases address different aspects of the case than the wrongful death lawsuit.
Compensation From Wrongful Death Claims
Survivors filing a wrongful death claim can pursue several types of damages, not unlike a personal injury lawsuit. The damages may include:
- 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
Winning Your Case
Winning a wrongful death lawsuit largely depends on your attorney’s ability to prove the defendant’s negligence caused the death in question. To prove negligence, three things must be established:
- 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.
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. Reach out to our team for a free consultation in Florida.