Losing a loved one is tough, and it is especially difficult when the loss was caused by the negligence of someone else. When this happens, the surviving family can pursue a wrongful death claim. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim in Florida, there’s important information you need to know.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When someone is negligent and causes the death of a family member, you can file a wrongful death claim. Unlike a homicide case, which is a criminal case, wrongful death claims are filed in civil court. The main reason for a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the deceased’s surviving loved ones for their loss—not to punish the defendant.
Florida has restrictions on when and how a certain family member can file a wrongful death claim, so it is crucial to speak with an attorney to understand the law in these cases. The wrongful death attorney or personal representative (usually named in the estate plan of the deceased or an individual appointed by the court) will present the official claim to the court. Any surviving family members with an interest in the lawsuit should be included on the claim. These usually include the deceased person’s spouse, children, and/or parents.
There is a statute of limitations associated with wrongful death claims, and in almost all cases, Florida residents must file within two years of the death of their family member.
When deciding whether or not to file a wrongful death claim, it is essential to find out if the at-fault party has an insurance policy or access to money. If that person or entity does not have insurance coverage, there may not be any way to get them to pay damages. A wrongful death attorney can provide guidance on this matter.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
Proving negligence in a wrongful death case is not unlike proving negligence in any other personal injury case. The following must be proven to win:
- The defendant owed the victim a reasonable duty of care.
- The defendant breached their duty of care.
- The defendant’s actions caused the victim’s death.
- The death directly caused damages that the lawsuit is attempting to recover.
These points are proven by a strong case and convincing evidence, and some of the evidence may require the testimony of expert witnesses. A wrongful death attorney is essential to build your case around the facts and evidence that are available.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
All types of accidents, especially fatal ones, can mean thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Family members may be compensated for both economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim. These could include:
- Hospitalization and medical expenses incurred before death
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages, earnings, or benefits the decedent could have been expected to make or receive
- Loss of support and services from the decedent, including companionship, guidance, and protection
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering the survivors are experiencing because of the loss
An attorney will also take responsibility for negotiating among the surviving family members on how the recovered money will be divided. The main goal is always to make these decisions fairly, but if family members cannot come to an agreement, there will be a trial in probate court to determine how to distribute the money.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney
Finding an experienced attorney who can handle the details of your case during a difficult time is essential. Attorney Coy H. Browning is a former Florida state trooper who is skilled in gathering the appropriate evidence and asking the right questions to present a strong case. No amount of money will bring back your loved one, but our goal is to help ensure that you don’t have to struggle financially as well as emotionally in the aftermath of a death. Call today to schedule a consultation.