Knowing what to do in such situations can be confusing. Likewise, knowing your rights as a surviving family member might not be clear. That's why it's critical that you talk to a wrongful death attorney right away with extensive experience handling such complex cases.
An attorney at the Law Offices of Brent C. Miller, P.A. in Central Florida can help you every step of the way. We know how the legal system works here and what it takes to build a compelling legal case.
What is wrongful death?
Under Florida law, wrongful death is any death that "is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract" of another person or some other entity. For instance, a doctor may fail to provide a patient with the proper diagnosis, resulting in avoidable death by medical malpractice. A construction company’s failure to provide clear, visible warning signs may cause an individual to experience a deadly fall. A landlord may fail to remedy mold within a home that he or she is renting, resulting in someone’s deadly asthma attack. A reckless driver may cause a deadly auto accident. The estate of a person who dies due to negligence can pursue financial compensation from the negligent party through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Is wrongful death a civil or criminal case?
A wrongful death claim is a civil matter, separate and distinct from any criminal charges that might be brought by the State of Florida in connection with the same death. The standard of proof in civil court (preponderance of the evidence) is lower than the standard in criminal court (guilt beyond a reasonable doubt), so you may be able to win your wrongful death case even if the responsible person is acquitted or has charges dismissed in criminal court.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In Florida, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. The claim is brought not only on behalf of the estate, but also any surviving family members; the personal representative must list every survivor who has an interest in the claim, including the spouse, children, parents, and any blood relative or adopted sibling who was dependent on the deceased person for support or services.
What can be recovered in a wrongful death claim?
There are two categories of damages (financial compensation) that are covered by successful wrongful death claims. The first category of covered damages, which are paid to the estate, includes the value of lost wages, benefits, and other earnings that the estate could have accumulated if the deceased person had lived, as well as any medical and funeral expenses paid by the estate. The second category is compensation for the deceased person’s family, such as funeral and burial expenses paid by family members, loss of support and services the decedent provided, mental and emotional pain and suffering, and loss of care and companionship.
What happens if someone was partially responsible for their own death?
Florida is a modified comparative negligence state with a 51% bar rule. This means a claimant who is 50% or less at fault can recover damages, but the recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault. For example, if the deceased person was 20% responsible for the accident that led to their death, the recovery will be reduced by 20%.
Determining eligibility for damages
Many factors determine the damages that may be covered after filing a wrongful death claim. In most cases, it comes down to the standard of proof. The more evidence that is provided to support that an individual experienced a wrongful death because of the negligent behavior of others, the more likely a family may receive additional coverage for damages.
In other cases, eligibility requirements for damages depend on the number of surviving family members; the age, education level, and skills of those surviving family members; the employment and financial state of the individual before their death; and the timeframe of the death.
For example, if the death is immediate, most individuals will only be responsible for affording the aftermath by providing monetary contributions to the surviving family. If the death is slow, however, the estate may be required to pay for all the expenses leading up to the individual's death.
When filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to consult with an experienced Central Florida wrongful death attorney who understands Florida's laws. You want to be sure that you are compiling a strong case, which can only be done with legal guidance and expertise. You will need to indicate how your family has been impacted by a wrongful death and prove that another individual's negligence resulted in fatal harm. This is not an easy task, but the process is more straightforward with an experienced wrongful death lawyer from our firm on your side.
Do you suspect wrongful death?
If you suspect a wrongful death has occurred in your family, it is best to take action as soon as possible. Once a decedent's estate is divided, it may be challenging to prove that a family has experienced financial loss from a loved one's death, primarily since the decedent's assets will likely be distributed among the family.
Distribution of a deceased's assets can give the illusion that the family is not in need. Therefore, it is crucial that you contact a wrongful death lawyer so that you can get the help you need to file an effective claim, conduct an investigation, and gather compelling evidence and testimony support. Most importantly, a lawyer can ensure that the person responsible for your loved one's death provides some financial compensation for your losses.
Wrongful death attorneys in Central Florida
If the negligence of an individual or entity results in the death of another individual, it is a wrongful death. If you are the personal representative of a decedent’s estate and suspect their death resulted from another's negligence, you may file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death attorney in Florida can help you determine which steps to take.
There are many Florida wrongful death law firms. But for many of them, it's just a job. For us, it's our passion. We empathize with you. We take the time to find out exactly what happened. We're compassionate to your needs. We're there for you every step of the way.
Find out what our legal team can do for your family. Contact us today for your free initial consultation.