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It is never easy when a loved one passes, but it can be particularly difficult to make it through the grieving process when a family member or friend dies in an unforeseen or sudden accident. If the accident was avoidable or if malpractice is the cause of their untimely passing, family members may want to seek damages for their personal and emotional loss. Filing a claim against negligence can not only provide support during difficult times but can also help prevent additional deaths or injuries.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit that is brought in front of the court when one party’s negligent conduct causes the death of someone else. Wrongful death is governed by Florida Statute 768.19. It states in relevant part that when a person’s death “is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract” of another person, the estate may bring a lawsuit in civil court in Florida seeking a legal remedy for the death and whatever damages flow from it.
Some instances in which a wrongful death claim may be warranted are:
- Medical malpractice
- Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured or fatally harmed due to medical negligence or error, including misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, and surgical mistakes. Malpractice can also include injuries at birth and neglect in nursing homes or other assisted care facilities. Medical professionals are held to a standard of care, and if a death results from the deviation from that standard, there may be grounds for medical malpractice.
- Accidental poisoning and overdoses
- While these cases are on the rise, not all poisonings and overdoses qualify for a wrongful death claim. However, illegal narcotics and prescription medications can cause fatal harm and, therefore, may have the necessary elements of a claim.
- Workplace accidents or illnesses
- Workplace incidents can be more likely depending on the industry. However, hazardous work environments can lead to severe injuries and even untimely deaths. Fatal injuries resulting from ill-equipped workplaces or negligent safety procedures may result in a wrongful death claim. Any time a deadly accident occurs due to avoidable errors, family members may be entitled to compensation.
- Vehicle accidents
- Injuries frequently occur during multi-car accidents. It is also possible to sustain injuries or even death in a single-vehicle accident resulting from faulty manufacturing, negligence, or other design errors. If a vehicle or any other product contributes to a death, you may have a product liability claim in conjunction with a wrongful death suit.
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- These injuries or deaths occur when a vehicle comes into contact with a cyclist or pedestrian. Particularly if a driver is not obeying the traffic laws and/or maneuvers into pedestrian-designated areas, you may have a valid wrongful death claim.
- Drowning or boating accidents
- These incidents can occur close to home, in a local pool, or across the country while vacationing on the coast. If the body of water was not adequately secured, the property owner could be held responsible for negligence. Additionally, an unlicensed or ill-prepared boat driver may be held liable for not providing proper safety equipment or irresponsibly operating the vehicle.
- Premise liability accidents
- Property owners are required to maintain safe, hazard-free zones with proper boundaries put into place should they be required. If someone is injured or dies due to negligence, or a failure to maintain safety standards, property owners will be held responsible for the accident.
Why should a family consider filing for wrongful death?
Although filing a claim will not bring back a loved one, it can help influence positive change by investigating a flawed safety system. In addition to receiving compensation to assist in covering the sudden financial burden, winning a wrongful death claim may enforce future security measures to ensure someone else is not injured. Negligence in any workplace or community should be addressed so that others will not endure the same level of irresponsibility.
Financially, it is up to the surviving family to make up for the loss of income when a loved one passes. It is for this reason that most wrongful death claims are filed. If a spouse dies suddenly, it can have a drastic impact on a family’s mental well-being as well as their financial stability. Compensation from a winning claim can help offset that financial burden.
Communities are continuously improving their safety procedures and precautions. For this reason, wrongful death claims can help steer significant progress towards a less hazardous living and working environment. Bringing dangerous conditions to the courts’ attention will ensure that measures are put into place to prevent future injuries or untimely deaths.
Who can bring a claim for wrongful death?
Wrongful death claims in the state of Florida are filed by a personal representative of the deceased. This representative is typically named in the will or estate plan. If no personal representative exists, the court will appoint one. This wrongful death claim is filed by the personal representative on behalf of the estate and/or surviving family members.
Every person who is a survivor who has a claim must be named. As far as family members who can make a claim, the deceased person’s husband or wife, their children, and the deceased person’s parents all have a valid claim. In addition, any blood relative or adopted sibling who relied on the decedent for support can also bring a valid claim.
Those who can claim a wrongful death case might include:
- Immediate family members
- Distant family members
- Life partners, including putative spouses
- Financial dependents
- Parents of a deceased fetus
- In Florida, parents may file a claim if there is emotional and financial loss resulting from the death of a child. These cases are only valid if the child was born alive and died shortly after. These claims may also qualify for medical malpractice or injury at birth, depending on the incident.
- All persons who suffer financially
- Some states allow anyone who suffers a sudden financial burden to file a claim, even if they are not related by blood or marriage
Who is sued in the case of a wrongful death claim?
Due to the nature of these cases, anyone who acted with negligence and therefore influenced the fatal accident should be responsible for providing compensation. These parties might include:
- A government agent who fails to provide proper indications of construction hazards
- The vehicle operator accountable for the car accident
- A manufacturer, distributor, or installer of a faulty product included in the make of a vehicle or machinery
- The designer or builder of a poorly constructed roadway
- The owner of the establishment in which a person was illegally or over-served
What do you have to prove in a wrongful death case?
You will have to be able to prove certain things when it comes to a wrongful death claim. You must be able to show that the other party acted in a negligent manner, that the other party caused the death, and that there were damages that resulted. When it comes to the other party’s negligence, you must be able to show that the other party acted outside the realm of what a reasonable person would have done under similar conditions.
The Lopez Law Group is familiar with wrongful death laws in Florida, and a consultation with us can help you understand the standard of proof and whether your claim is likely to succeed under Florida law.
Do you have to bring a wrongful death claim in a certain amount of time?
There are specific time limits you have to follow when bringing a claim for wrongful death. This time limit only allows you to claim a certain amount of time following the death and are known as the statute of limitations. In Florida, the claim for wrongful death must be filed within two years of the death. The timeline can be tolled or extended under select circumstances.
What sort of damages can you recoup in a wrongful death case?
The damages for a wrongful death case, which are outlined in Florida Statutes section 768.21, allow for the surviving family to receive the following:
- The surviving family member can recoup for the value of support and services which the deceased person provided
- The deceased person’s loss of companionship, guidance, and protection
- If the loss was a child, the parents and family could sue for mental and emotional pain and suffering
- You can also sue for recovery of any medical or funeral expenses that were paid on behalf of the deceased
- Loss of future earnings and/or lost wages
Should you get an attorney involved?
At The Lopez Law Group, we understand that a wrongful death claim comes during a time in your life when you are grieving and struggling to cope with an unfathomable loss. Our compassionate team will work diligently to help you understand the process of filing a wrongful death suit with the understanding that no amount of monetary compensation can restore the loss you have suffered.
Wrongful death cases are very complex and can get very confusing very quickly to a layperson. Additionally, wrongful death claims typically operate on the premise of quality over quantity of evidence. The credibility of provided proof is most important, which is why hiring legal representation will increase your chances of ensuring a successful claim. An attorney can make sure that the burden of proof is met and that the fatal accident was due to the defendant’s negligence.
Having an attorney on your side who knows how to file a wrongful death case properly is critical. The attorneys at the Lopez Law Group stand ready and willing to step in and assist if you or someone you know was killed due to someone else’s negligence. We can be reached at 727-933-0015. The longer you wait to file a wrongful death case, the more it could impact your potential claim. Do not wait; call now. Our consultations are always free.