The death of a loved one is one of the most traumatic events you can go through, especially if another person or entity caused the wrongful death. Other than the emotional toll of losing a family member, a wrongful death can have a devastating effect on a family’s finances.
Most wrongful deaths happen so quickly, leaving families of the deceased with no time to process the events. Ranging from pedestrian accidents and medical malpractice to serious automobile crashes, there are various incidents that can lead to fatalities.
Although no amount of money can compensate for loss of life, economic damages awarded in a civil suit might help mitigate some of the financial hardships that result from that loss. If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence of another party, an experienced personal injury lawyer in Florida can help you seek compensation.
Read on to learn essential tips about wrongful death claims in Florida.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when one person’s careless or reckless behavior directly results in another person’s death. One key difference between wrongful death and a murder allegation is that wrongful death suits are civil lawsuits.
A family member can sue the responsible parties and hold them accountable for their negligence through a wrongful death claim. Florida law states that wrongful death claims must meet the following criteria:
- Negligent conduct, wrongful acts or breach of contract
- The conduct must have caused the death of the decedent
- The action or conduct must have entitled the deceased to recovering damages
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
According to local state law, the decedent’s Personal Representative, or the person designated by the will, can bring the case before a Florida court. In the absence of a valid will, the court will appoint a Personal Representative to represent the deceased estate.
A wrongful death claim must mention the decedent’s estate, all the beneficiaries, and the person taking any action on behalf of the estate. This includes anyone who relied on the deceased for financial or emotional assistance during their lifetime, such as a spouse, biological or adopted children, and parents.
What Damages Can You Recover?
Florida law allows the surviving family and deceased estate to recover damages. Surviving family members can seek compensation for the economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Loss of potential earnings
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of protection
The court will examine evidence and decide how much to award as damages. The amount of damages will depend on factors like how close the surviving person was to the deceased and the sum that can be reasonably expected to be accessible to the survivor from the deceased’s net income. Courts also consider the deceased’s life expectancy and the number of years the surviving children will be minors.
If the negligent party’s actions were intentional, highly negligent, or reckless, a Florida court may elect to award punitive damages to the survivors. Punitive damages aim to punish the negligent party while also discouraging similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages usually get awarded in addition to compensatory damages.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Cases
The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Florida is two years from the date of death. Failing to file a claim within the time limit may prevent you from recovering compensation for your loved one’s death. However, some circumstances may allow surviving family members to pursue a wrongful death claim after the expiry of the statute of limitations.
The Legal Process of a Wrongful Death Claim
Your lawyer will issue a demand for damages against the defendant after filing a claim and obtaining relevant information. If the claim isn’t settled, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf. A mediation meeting will be held to see if the case can be settled before trial. The court will then set a trial date if the parties cannot reach an agreement during mediation.
Having a seasoned wrongful death attorney on your side will help increase your chances of a successful claim. Call us today at (561) 279-3911 to schedule a free initial consultation.