In the event of wrongful death, the last thing that survivors should have to worry about is funeral expenses and other unexpected costs. For such a serious matter, it is vital to have the support of a Florida wrongful death lawyer who knows what you are entitled to and how to get it.
Wrongful death litigation can be complicated, with insurance companies, the fault party or negligent party, and beneficiaries for losses all working against each other. Your legal team can help you recover burial expenses, medical costs (including medical bills prior to death, in some cases), loss of income, and a fair settlement resulting from a wrongful death incident. This can include mental pain and suffering as well as loss of companionship.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is when the personal representative of a deceased person’s estate sues the party who is legally responsible for their untimely death. Wrongful death claims are civil actions, meaning the suit is for monetary damages.
Wrongful death claims are often handled by a law firm with personal injury attorneys. These lawyers specialize in cases where a client is injured (sometimes with fatal injuries) due to the legal fault of other liable parties.
Legal fault includes:
- Negligence: When a party violates basic safety rules leading to the death of another. For example, a driver who runs a red light causing a fatal accident.
- Recklessness: This is a step above negligence, where a party violated basic safety rules but did so with complete and willful disregard for the safety of others. An example could be drunk driving. These claims can give rise to punitive damages.
- Intentional: The most serious level is when the actions are deliberate, such as murder. This situation will almost always have criminal prosecutions in addition to civil lawsuits.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim and Get Compensation?
In Florida, the personal representative of the estate of the decedent can bring a claim.
The deceased may have named their representative in their estate planning documents, such as a will. The court must appoint a personal representative if there is no estate plan.
The personal representative will file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the decedent and on behalf of the survivors.
Who Can Recover in Wrongful Death Cases?
Florida law explicitly states who is considered a survivor in wrongful death lawsuits. They include:
- The deceased person’s spouse, children (including minor children and adult children), and parents;
- Any blood relatives or adoptive relatives dependent on the decedent in whole or part for support or services. Dependent relatives can include adoptive children.
The law recognizes that these people are closest to the accident victim, and the loss may threaten their financial security. Just as importantly, these people are likely to have severe pain and suffering over the loss.
Common Wrongful Death Scenarios in Florida
Some common wrongful death scenarios:
- Medical negligence or malpractice: Often due to a failure to diagnose, unsafe surgical procedure, or inappropriate medical prescription. This can include nursing home abuse.
- Workplace accidents: While often covered under workers’ compensation, the gross negligence of a company can lead to a wrongful death action. Common examples include construction accidents, auto collisions (commercial vehicle accidents), and premises liability. Insurance companies may be involved in a workplace incident, which a wrongful death attorney can assist with
- Transportation accidents: These can include passengers aboard an airplane, boat, motorcycle, or automobile, often due to an operator’s negligence or manufacturer’s failure to ensure product safety. Common examples include motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, 18-wheeler accidents, bus accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, boating accidents, cruise ship passenger injuries, aviation accidents, distracted drivers, drunk drivers, motor vehicle collision, and other types of accidents.
- Attack by animals: This could be the result of a pet that is not properly kept.
- Criminal or malicious motive: Such as murder or assault leading to death from intentional actions.
Types of Damages Awarded
If the plaintiff in a wrongful death case can prove the defendant’s responsibility and wrongdoing, the court can award economic, non-economic, and in some cases, punitive damages as part of a reasonable settlement of the legal action.
- See “How Much Is My Case Worth” to Learn How Damages Are Calculated in Injury Claims
Economic damages constitute the financial loss the plaintiffs incur by the death of their loved
one. These monetary damages can include:
• Medical expenses include any medical costs incurred as a result of the event leading to loss of life. If the cause of the decedent’s death was medical malpractice, it might also include those expenses.
• Loss of future income: In the case where survivors were dependent on the deceased
for financial stability, be they spouses, children, or parents, they are entitled to monetary
• Funeral expenses: The money spent on organizing and financing the deceased’s funeral or cremation expenses also constitutes financial damages that can be compensated for in wrongful death lawsuits.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify as they don’t have an obvious monetary value. These can include:
• Emotional suffering: The death of a loved one can cause untold emotional trauma and mental suffering. Complainants can seek monetary compensation for the endured trauma and loss of companionship and parental guidance, which can be substantial.
•Loss of enjoyment of life: The loss of a family member can dampen one’s enjoyment of life and limit their opportunities. This is commonly called “loss of consortium” for spouses whose quality of life suffers as the result of wrongful death.
Punitive damages are an additional penalty sometimes added to a settlement where the court finds an extra level of punishment is appropriate. This is relatively uncommon for wrongful death cases, which are serious matters to begin with, but can apply in some cases.
Time Limits and Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
The wrongful death statute of limitations in Florida is two years (see section 95.11). Note that this is measured from the date of death, not necessarily the incident leading to death. Generally, a legal claim for wrongful death damages should be pursued well before this point with the help of accident attorneys. You can likely get an initial consultation on a contingency basis.
In order to have a strong claim, the plaintiff and wrongful death attorney should be able to prove that through negligence, breach of contract, or intent, the at-fault party was responsible for premature death.
This can be obvious in a case of intent, such as murder or assault. Claims of negligence can be trickier. You must be able to prove that the defendant had a legal obligation that they failed to meet and, through action or inaction, were responsible for preventable death.
It is also essential to demonstrate that survivors of the deceased depended on them for financial care or that the death has caused mental pain or emotional suffering significant enough to warrant compensation.
Why Hire Florida Wrongful Death Attorney at Denmon Pearlman
Grieving the unexpected death of a loved one is unthinkable, especially knowing that it may have been preventable. Our law firm can help you get the restitution you deserve for negligence or misconduct on behalf of the responsible parties. We have personal injury lawyers who specialize in wrongful death and can assist you through the legal process.
We will help you:
- Understand the legal options you have
- Collect evidence to prove your loved one’s death was caused by the guilty party
- Present a compelling case for the financial damages and mental pain you suffered
- Negotiate any out-of-court settlements the defense might offer
Our dedicated team is experienced and well-equipped to handle your Florida wrongful death case. We have wrongful death lawyers who are familiar with the state’s laws that deal with personal injury and untimely death. Contact us today if you are an accidental death victim and allow us to help you get justice for your loved one’s preventable death. We have offices in St. Petersburg, Tampa, New Port Richey and Brooksville.
What is the average wrongful death settlement in Florida?
On average, you can expect a wrongful death settlement in Florida to fall between half a million and one million dollars. Many factors can affect this, such as the circumstances of the event, applicable insurance coverage, and even the ability of the defendant to pay the awarded amount.
Can you sue for wrongful death in Florida?
Yes. If loss of life was caused directly or indirectly by someone’s actions or negligence, there might be a case for wrongful death in Florida. A Florida wrongful death lawyer can help you determine if you have a good case and help you understand any legal issues.
We have your back. Whatever you might be suffering from, accidents, injuries or medical malpractice, we have you covered throughout Florida