Wrongful death claims might seem like personal injury, but there are very important differences between them. The main distinction rest in the fact that in a personal injury case, the victim himself sues or negotiates the settlement on his behalf. In a wrongful death claim, the family or a personal representative of the deceased files the claim against those responsible for the fatality.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death suit is a civil lawsuit brought by survivors or descendants to recover compensation, known as damages, for the death of their family member. This type of claim typically holds a person, or persons, who acted with negligence and caused the decedent’s passing.
The law establishes that survivors are entitled to economic compensation for their losses and harms as a consequence of what happened.
Specifically, in Florida, there is wrongful death when a person’s death is caused by another person or entity’s “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty.” It includes when there are:
● a truck or car accident
● medical malpractice
● exposure to hazardous conditions or substances
● an intentional act, which could be of a criminal nature
● Death during a supervised activity, such as construction accidents
● Dog bites and animal attacks
A wrongful death case can happen anytime a death is caused because of somebody’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Thus, almost anyone can be sued in a wrongful death claim, for example:
● Drivers at fault for collisions
● Companies that fabricate defective products
● Companies who did not warn of the risks of their products
● Government agencies that do not provide warnings about dangerous road hazards
● Medical professionals who committed malpractice
Who can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
In the case of wrongful death lawsuits, Florida’s state law establishes that a personal representative, also known as an executor, who is in charge of the dead person’s estate must be the one to file the wrongful death claim.
Since the personal representative is acting on behalf of the surviving family members, the claim must include the potential beneficiaries, which can include:
● Spouses have a claim because of the lost companionship and the financial impact resulting from their loved one’s death.
● Minor Children could be awarded damages for the lost benefits of the lost relationship, such as comfort and support.
● Parents of a minor child who passed away can receive damages for their emotional trauma and the lost relationship with the child.
Because wrongful death claims might be similar to personal injury but are not the same, the time limits to file such claims differ. The statute of limitations in Florida for wrongful death is two years from the time of death. If the personal representative fails to file during the allotted time, they lose the right to do so. However, if the death resulted from murder or manslaughter, there is no time limit to file the claim.
What are the Damages Awarded in Florida for Wrongful Death Claims?
Under Florida law, potential damages in wrongful death claims have two categories: damages awarded to the family of the person who died and damages awarded to the estate.
The damages paid to the family include financial compensation for:
● Loss of support and services to family members the deceased provided them.
● Loss of companionship and protection
● Pain and suffering
● Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance
● Payment of medical and funeral expenses by the surviving family.
Meanwhile, the person’s estate damages could be:
● Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings during the time between the person’s injury to the time of death.
● Value of earnings and benefits the deceased person could reasonably have retained as savings, in other words, the family’s lost inheritance.
● Payment of medical, funeral, and burial expenses by the estate.
However, there is no general rule dictating the value of a wrongful death claim. As with personal injury cases, the damage value is determined by case-specific elements that usually include how old the person was when he/she died, his/her income at the time of death, what their earning capacity was at the time, their life expectancy, the age of the plaintiff at the moment of the incident, the nature of the relationship between the plaintiff and the deceased, and any specific elements required by Florida Law.
Why Hire a Wrongful Death Claim Lawyer?
Wrongful death cases are a bit more complicated than personal injury cases, which tend to be more straightforward when establishing negligence and fault. Hiring the best wrongful death claim lawyers will help understand Florida’s applicable statute of limitations, which can have tough consequences, but also who should be sued in the claim.
Having the right lawyer at your side will ensure that all the necessary elements to bring the case to fruition are present, those being:
1. Death of a human being
2. Death was caused by another person’s negligence or the person had the intent to do harm
3. As a consequence of the person’s death, surviving family members suffer monetary injury
4. A personal representative is appointed to the decedent’s estate.
For example, a Florida truck driver attorney can file a lawsuit or negotiate a settlement if the truck driver was killed during the accident because of negligent actions by another driver. Meaning that the attorney will work to recover compensation due to the surviving family members and the dead truck driver’s estate because of the medical expenses, the pain, and suffering experienced before death, funeral and burial costs, and the loss of the truck driver’s future income and his companionship.