Boca Raton Wrongful Death Attorneys
Seeking the Fullest Financial Compensation for Victims of Fatal Accidents and Criminal Acts
When the life of a loved one is taken from you prematurely, the emotional and financial hardships can be devastating. Surviving family members often find it difficult to focus on navigating around insurance company traps and complying with legal procedures and deadlines.
The process of pursuing a wrongful death claim to replace household income might be essential to maintaining a family’s standard of living. While surviving loved ones might be inclined to procrastinate in pursuing a legal claim, the civil litigation process is subject to complex procedural requirements and strict timing requirements. Our Boca Raton wrongful death attorneys protect the interests of our clients while taking on insurance companies seeking to deny damage claims or minimize any recovery.
There are many types of negligent and intentional conduct that can cause fatal injuries. Our Boca Raton wrongful death law firm has been representing accidental death victims and their surviving family members for fifteen (15) years. We have the legal acumen and experience to handle wrongful death claims arising from incidents involving fatigued truckers, drunk drivers, negligent medical providers, or others who fail to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing fatal injuries to another person. Our law firm has recovered millions of dollars for families in wrongful death lawsuits during which we have received many accolades, including the following:
- Highest “Preeminent” Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
- Inclusion in Superlawyers® and Best Lawyers in America®
- Perfect 5-star ratings from dozens of former clients on legal portals and other major websites like Google, Yahoo, and AVVO
- Highest Rating from AVVO of 10.0
- Designated as a “Superb” law firm by AVVO
Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida
Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, there are two categories of plaintiffs that can commence a wrongful death lawsuit. These two classes of claimants represent different types of claims. The estate has a claim for the damages suffered by the decedent, a personal representative of the estate on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. The types of damages that can be recovered by the estate include:
- Decedent’s lost earnings
- Loss of net accumulations
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
The damages of the estate represent what will be passed to a family member through a will, trust or the law of intestate succession if the decedent has no estate planning instrument. Damages recoverable for the estate essentially compensate the deceased’s beneficiaries for losses to the decedent’s estate, including the economic damages the plaintiff could have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit (had the decedent survived) plus memorial and burial expenses.
The second category of plaintiffs who can recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit in Boca Raton referred to as “survivors.” Damages that are available to survivors tend to constitute the most substantial amount of the recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit. Survivors who might be entitled to bring a claim for damages include the following:
- Spouse of the decedent
- Children of the decedent (children under the age of 25 are entitled to a larger amount)
- The parents of the decedent
- Blood relatives which include adoptive sisters and brothers at least partially financially dependent on the decedent
While a plaintiff can be entitled to recover both as a beneficiary of the estate and a survivor, the types and amount of compensation available to survivors are usually much more significant than damages recoverable by the decedent’s estate. Survivor benefits essentially compensate the designated family members for their personal losses suffered because of the death of a loved one. The categories of damages that might be sought by survivors include:
- Mental pain and suffering
- Lost protection and support
- Lost services and support
- Child’s loss of guidance, instruction, and companionship
- Medical bills, funeral costs, and burial expenses (if paid by a survivor)
Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyers in Boca Raton — Standing by Families During Times of Tragedy
At the Shiner Law Group, we recognize the untimely death of a cherished loved is the ultimate tragedy that a family can face. When a fatality occurs because of the negligent or intentional conduct of others, the death is always untimely regardless of the age of the individual who passes away. While our Boca Raton wrongful death lawyers cannot give you back the love of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, we can help families overcome the financial burdens that accompany the extreme grief of a lost loved one. We have compassion for families because we know the last task you ever wanted to undertake was to retain a wrongful death lawyer. Although we cannot give you back your family member, we can pursue justice for your loved one, assist you in reclaiming your financial security, and prevent the wrongdoer from harming others in the future. Our law firm balances the scales of justice for surviving family members in the following ways:
Investigating the Claim: Whether the death of your loved one is the result of a tractor-trailer accident, nursing home neglect, defective product, or medical malpractice, our law firm conducts a thorough investigation of the facts involving our client’s wrongful death claim. Our attorneys investigate claims based on experience garnered representing wrongful death victims during our fifteen (15) years helping families who have had loved ones taken from them.
Dealing with Insurance Companies: Whether you’re injured in an auto collision, semi-truck accident, motorcycle accident, dog bite, or many other types of incidents, the responsible parties’ insurance companies will usually defend the lawsuit. Insurance companies use an array of strategies to undermine legitimate claims. Since a family that loses a breadwinner might face dire cashflow hardships, the insurance company knows that delaying resolution of the claim can create financial pressure for plaintiffs to settle for less than the actual value of their claim. Alternatively, the insurance company might attempt to obtain information from plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit that will provide a defense to liability or reduce the potential recovery. Our law firm conducts all negotiations while handling litigation of the claim, so we shield our clients from insurance company practices and sharp tactics that might compromise a legitimate claim.
Using a Network of Experts: Expert testimony often plays a crucial role in the outcome of wrongful death litigation. For example, a security expert might testify about past crime patterns and offer a professional opinion about the level and type of security that would be appropriate given past crime patterns. If the decedent was the victim of medical negligence, our law firm will have to work with a medical expert to establish the appropriate standard of care and provide an expert opinion about how the medical professional deviated from appropriate medical protocols. Our law firm has handled hundreds of cases involving accidents and intentional injuries, so we have established relationships with highly regarded experts in many areas of knowledge.
Engaging in Effective Client Communication: The number one complaint clients have about attorneys involves a lack of communication regarding their case. Our Boca Raton wrongful death attorneys recognize the importance of keeping our clients updated regarding significant developments in their case, as well as returning telephone calls and emails promptly. Our law firm has a standard practice of responding to client communications the same business day or the next business day where reasonably feasible. We understand that the families of injury victims are dealing with intense grief and loss, and prompt communications can reduce the stress and anxiety associated with our clients’ financial hardships.
Estimating the Value of a Claim: The process of valuing wrongful death claims involves analyzing subjective factors, such as mental pain and suffering, as well as the loss of companionship, instruction, and guidance of a parent. Our law firm handles hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death claims, so we can draw on prior cases and research jury verdicts and settlements in reasonably comparable cases. When calculating more sophisticated elements of economic damages like future lost income reduced to present value, we might enlist the services of an economic expert who has proven effective in the past.
Determining the Appropriate Defendants: While the party to name as a defendant might be obvious if rear-ended at a stop light by another vehicle, the issue of selecting the proper defendants is more complicated in many lawsuits. Alternatively, a distracted driver or another negligent party might be uninsured or underinsured, which makes it important to evaluate the liability of other parties. Third parties that might also share liability for wrongful death arising out of a motor vehicle collision might include vehicle and component manufacturers, vehicle owners, driver’s employers, and even the victim’s uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) carrier. Our accident attorneys analyze crashes carefully to identify all potential defendants while using the discovery process to uncover all potential sources of insurance coverage to pay a settlement or judgment.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims
The categories of wrongful death claims, as well as the individual scenarios that can result in a premature death, are numerous. If you are the surviving family member or beneficiary of the estate of a decedent, you need to be aware that you can gain an advantage by hiring a law firm with a proven track record in wrongful death claims. West Palm Beach wrongful death attorneys must have a thorough knowledge of the Florida wrongful death statute. They also must be thoroughly familiar with the law governing the underlying incident causing injury whether traffic accident laws, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability, or another area of law. Some of the more common types of wrongful death lawsuits we handle include:
- Auto accidents
- Airplane crashes (aviation accidents)
- Construction accidents
- Firearms shootings
- Workplace injuries
- Semi-truck collisions
- Dog attacks
- Defective products (e.g. bad drugs)
- Theme park accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Alcohol and drug impaired driving accidents
- Accidents involving boats, personal watercrafts (PWCs), and cruise ships
- Train and bus accidents
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Injuries on property with hazardous conditions or negligent security
Understanding the Florida Wrongful Death Claim Process
Much of the process involved in a wrongful death lawsuit happens outside the courtroom. Both sides of a wrongful death lawsuit file extensive written argument-based submitted before any trial. These documents must be meticulously researched and skillfully drafted regarding many critical issues. The effectiveness of these documents can determine whether your lawsuit is dismissed or significantly weakened. Because most cases are resolved through a negotiated settlement before trial, a family member in wrongful death cases benefits from understanding the pre-trial process in wrongful death civil lawsuits.
The wrongful death claims process tends to be a long and somewhat daunting ordeal. Although the lawsuit might settle in a year or two, the process can take longer during which your wrongful death lawyer must draft important documents, identify and interview witnesses, and gather and analyze evidence.
Stage 1 Pre-Trial Investigation and Research: When you first retain our law firm, our attorneys initiate an investigation of the facts. This process might include interviewing family members or others who knew the decedent regarding information related to liability and damages. Our legal team frequently works with experts like physicians as a required precursor to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit or an accident reconstructionist to analyze fatal traffic accident cases. If the defendant(s) have insurance coverage, our attorneys will inform the insurance carrier that we represent the estate and survivors and obtain a copy of the policy. Because no two policies are the same, we also carefully review and study the terms of the policies we obtain to analyze coverage issues.
Stage 2 Conducting Legal Research: The question of coverage under a policy can turn on the way prior court decisions have interpreted a single word, phrase, or clause. In some cases, courts may be split on their interpretation making it essential to conduct extensive legal research and detailed analysis. Review of an extensive body of case law might be required at various times throughout litigation process regarding legal issues that impact the outcome of your case. While Florida has a wrongful death statute, this is only the starting place for legal research regarding the relevant law. Judges decide many cases that interpret statutes and affect the meaning and application of the provision. These opinions can be seen in lengthy volumes of books. The process of analyzing these cases entails extensive legal training and experience. Many of these decisions can be up to fifty pages. While the average plaintiff in a wrongful death case might not realize the enormous amount of legal research involved in successful litigation of a wrongful death claim, our law firm frequently prevails because we excel at conducting legal research and building compelling factual and legal arguments.
Stage 3 Pre-Lawsuit Negotiations with Insurance Companies: After our lawyers have confirmed that you have a reasonably viable lawsuit, we assemble a demand package for the insurance carrier(s) to determine coverage. This damage packet commences the negotiation process with the insurance company. This process sometimes lead to an early settlement if liability in the case is relatively clear, such as when a vehicle runs a red light and T-bones another driver with a green light who obeys the speed limit.
Stage 4 Commencement of Wrongful Death Lawsuit: If the case is not settled in the pre-suit phase, our law firm will file a “complaint” with the court that officially commences your lawsuit. The lawsuit should be filed before the statute of limitations runs (expires). Complaints need to be filed within the statute of limitations, the case usually will be barred completely regardless of the merits of the claim. The statute of limitations is strict and unforgiving deadlines. While the wrongful death statute of limitations is two (2) years from the date of death in Florida, legal advice should be obtained promptly. Determining the statute of limitations can be complicated because of exclusions, exceptions, and limits. Once the complaint’s filed, the defendant will have a specified period to file an “answer” or a “motion to dismiss.”
Stage 5 Discovery Process: While television shows often depict the courtroom as a place where the parties suddenly unveil “gotcha” evidence, both sides usually are aware of the lion’s share of evidence and witnesses that will testify long before the trial. This discovery process allows each side to narrow the issues and obtain relevant information from the other side. Our law firm effectively uses the discovery process because it can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of a wrongful death claim. Some of the discovery tools we use include:
- Requests for Admission: This form of discovery involves written requests that the opposing party admit or deny certain facts. Use of this discovery device can reduce litigation costs by narrowing the factual and legal issues.
- Interrogatories: When using this form of discovery, you ask written questions to obtain relevant information, as well as to learn about the legal contentions of the opposing parties.
- Depositions: This process involves asking questions of the opposing party or other witnesses under oath in the presence of a court reporter.
- Requests for Production of Documents: Our lawyers use this discovery device to obtain documents relevant to the claim, such as insurance policies, documents involving safety violations, maintenance records, and more.
The discovery process will often involve many objections to requests and questions that might require the filing of motions to compel to obtain an appropriate response. These motions can carry a vast array of sanctions depending on the nature of the discovery violations.
Handling Motions for Summary Judgment: Defendants in many wrongful death lawsuits will file a “motion for summary judgment”. These motions request that the court make a decisive determination on a particular issue or even the entire case. The legal and factual issues along with the legal grounds and standard for granting summary judgment are extremely complicated, so extensive legal training and experience are required to successfully prevail in litigating a motion for summary judgment.
Trial Preparation: If the lawsuit withstands summary judgment, the settlement value of the case increases because of the unpredictable outcome of the case when left to a jury. The parties will both engage extensive trial preparation, involving both exhaustive legal and factual research. As the trial date approaches, the parties typically will file “motions in limine.” These motions address the issue of whether certain evidence should be admissible at trial.
Complications in Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Florida
While we have attempted to answer many questions about wrongful death lawsuits, there is an expansive scope of complicating factors beyond the scope of this discussion. For example, there are special requirements regarding who can obtain compensation in a wrongful death action. Complex family relationships like adopted children, stepchildren, divorced parents, remarriage, illegitimate children, intent to divorce, and common law marriages are just a sample of the many issues that can affect the intricacy of obtaining a successful outcome in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Speak with a Boca Raton Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you or someone you love has died because of the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another, we welcome you to contact our experienced legal team so that we can evaluate your claim and advise you of your rights and options. We are committed to helping victims recover the compensation they need to move past injuries or loss, so call us 24/7 at 561-777-7700 or online for a free case review to see how we can help. The Shiner Law Group represents fatality victims in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, and throughout the surrounding counties.