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Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida undergoes a complex and emotional process. It mainly comes from tragic circumstances such as medical malpractice, automobile accidents, or criminal actions, leading to miserable consequences for the bereaved.

The pursuit of compensation in these cases does not only lie in the financial relief, but it is a step towards justice for the affected families. However, claimants often face intricate legal challenges, including strict deadlines and the need to establish clear liability during the lawsuit filing process.

This article aims to guide you through how to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, addressing common obstacles and providing a clear path forward in this challenging time.

How to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death refers to cases when an individual's loss of life stems from the negligence or intentional behavior of another party. 

After suffering from such a tragic event, the decedent's family members or legal representatives tend to start the journey of filing a wrongful death lawsuit to claim justice and compensation.

To establish an eligible wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove specific points, such as:

- Showing that the defendant had a legal obligation to maintain the safety or well-being of the deceased, thereby owing them a duty of care.
- Demonstrating that the defendant failed to conduct the duty through negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions.
- Providing evidence that the breach of duty directly caused the death of the individual, resulting in specific damages, such as financial losses, emotional distress, or loss of companionship, that the lawsuit seeks to address.

Wrongful death cases fall under civil law, not criminal law, meaning the plaintiff primarily seeks financial compensation rather than criminal penalties against the defendant.

5 Types of Wrongful Death Cases

1. Medical Malpractice

This wrongful death type occurs when a healthcare professional fails to commit to standard medical practices, which leads to a patient's death. For example, a surgeon causes a patient's death by violating a significant technique error is calculated as medical malpractice.

In such lawsuits, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the healthcare provider deviated from accepted medical standards and this deviation directly caused the death of the patient.

2. Workplace Accident

Workplace accidents leading to wrongful death often happen in industries like construction or manufacturing, where safety hazards are more prevalent. An example could be a construction worker fatally injured due to inadequate safety protocols or equipment failure.

In these cases, plaintiffs need to prove that the employer neglected workplace safety standards or failed to provide necessary safety equipment, directly leading to the wrongful death.

3. Product Liability

This category includes cases where a defective or unsafe product causes death. For example, the plaintiff can request the car manufacturer’s responsibility when its brake system causes a fatal accident.

In this case, the plaintiffs must prove that the product was defective or unreasonably dangerous, which can be the direct cause of the victim's death.

4. Automobile Accident

Car accidents that are due to the negligence of drivers fall under this category. A typical example of this is a fatal collision when a driver intentionally crosses the traffic light.

In such lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove the driver’s negligence directly caused the fatal accidents. It could be fast speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence.

5. Criminal Activity

When victims lose their lives from a murder or assault, it is considered a criminal wrongful death. For example, the bereaved family can claim compensation for the defendant’s illegal action when their relatives are fatally shot during a robbery.

5 Types of Wrongful Death Cases5 Types of Wrongful Death Cases

Florida State's Wrongful Death Statute

According to the Chapter 768 Section 21 of the 2020, The Florida wrongful death statute covers several key points:

- Compensation for Lost Support and Services: Calculated based on the duration from the date of injury to death, and future loss based on the decedent's life expectancy.
- Surviving Spouses: Eligible for compensation covering loss of companionship, protection, and mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
- Children of the Deceased: May receive damages for the loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance.
- Parents of a Deceased Minor: Entitled to compensation for mental pain and suffering.
- Medical and Funeral Expenses: These can be claimed by the family member who has paid these costs.
- Lost Earnings of the Decedent: Covers earnings lost from the time of injury to death and future lost earnings based on expected life span and earning capacity.

Florida State's Wrongful Death StatuteFlorida State's Wrongful Death Statute

How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Before initiating a legal action relating to filing a wrongful death lawsuit Florida, you must understand the prerequisites and things that need proving to ensure success.

Prerequisites Before Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Before navigating to the detailed steps of filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is crucial to address the following prerequisites.  

1. Is It Applicable to Claim a Wrongful Death?

Establishing that the death resulted directly from another party's negligence or intentional act can determine a wrongful death claim’s applicability.

This practice involves examining all aspects surrounding the death to ascertain that the case meets all criteria of wrongful death based on legal definitions in the relevant jurisdiction.

2. Are You Eligible to File a Claim?

Eligibility to file a wrongful death claim typically belongs to close relatives of the deceased, such as spouses, children, or parents, depending on state laws. Verifying your legal standing relating to the deceased is essential to ensure you have the right to initiate this type of lawsuit.

3. Have You Surpassed the Time Limit?

Each jurisdiction exposes a different timeframe for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. To maintain your legal right to seek compensation, you must file the claim before the deadline regulated by legal statutes.

What You Must Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

To grab a higher chance of winning the lawsuit, the plaintiff must clarify the impact of involved individuals on the wrongful death case. 

Proving the Responsibility of The Defendants

It is imperative to demonstrate the defendant’s legal responsibility for the death. This practice involves proving the defendant breached the duty that directly caused the death of the deceased. For example, you need evidence showing the driver's negligence with traffic laws, which is the main reason for the fatal accident.

Proving You Suffered Damages

It is encouraged to gather all the proof of actual damages that supports more chances of winning the claim. Specifically, the evidence can include economic and companionship loss experienced by the family members.

Proving the Defendant's Misconduct Caused Your Damages

Establishing that the direct influence caused your damage is the defendant’s misconduct. For example, the plaintiff needs to prove the patient’s death stemmed from the healthcare provider’s negligence in case of medical malpractice, leading to financial and emotional harm to the surviving relatives. 

What You Must Prove to Win a Wrongful Death LawsuitWhat You Must Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

What Damages Can You Recover?

In a wrongful death lawsuit, various forms of financial compensation can be sought to cover the losses and impacts resulting from the untimely death of a loved one. Here's a breakdown of the specific damages that can be recovered, and how they are typically calculated:

Funeral and Burial Expenses

This category covers all costs associated with the deceased's funeral and burial, including the funeral service, coffin, burial plot, and grave marker, along with transportation and ceremony expenses. The amount claimed is based on actual expenses incurred, substantiated by receipts and invoices.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses include the healthcare costs the deceased incurred due to the injury or illness leading to death, such as hospital bills, surgery costs, medication, and other treatments. These damages are determined by the total sum of medical bills accrued, with documentation from healthcare providers detailing treatment costs.

Lost Financial Support

Lost financial support accounts for the income and benefits the deceased would have provided, including earnings, health insurance, and pension plans. This figure is estimated by considering the deceased's age, occupation, past earnings, and projected career trajectory, often with the aid of economic experts.

Lost Inheritance

Lost inheritance refers to the potential wealth or assets the deceased would have accumulated and left to heirs. Estimations are made based on the deceased's earning potential, savings rate, and expected asset accumulation, factoring in age, health, and financial habits.

Lost Wages

Lost wages encompass the immediate income loss from the deceased's injury or illness until their death, including salary and other compensation forms. This amount is calculated based on the deceased's earnings at the time of injury or illness, using pay stubs and employment contracts for verification.

Wrongful Death Settlements and Payouts

The process of wrong death settlements and payouts requires detailed legal knowledge and strategic planning through the entire steps. As specialized in handling wrongful death and other legal cases, Browning Law Firm offers comprehensive support to navigate the complexities of these claims.  

For those who facing the challenges of filing a wrongful death lawsuit, we can support quantifying damages, ensuring clients receive fair compensation for their emotional and financial losses. Contact us now for a free consultation with our seasoned lawyers.

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