Dealing with a loved one’s death is never a simple or straightforward experience. The grieving process will vary from person to person, based on their deep relationship and the manner of death. It’s even more stressful when the person didn’t pass away due to natural causes.
Not everyone becomes aware of how fragile life is until they experience a sudden death in the family. This can come from different causes, either a surgery has gone wrong or a car collision crash on the road. During these scenarios, it can be easy to fall into the trap of accepting an accident as simply an accident. In reality, death isn’t as simple as that.
Wrongful death cases occur when a person dies under the negligence or intentional acts of another party. This can be due to mistreatment for a medical procedure or a car manufacturer’s factory defect. If there’s enough evidence that supports a case of wrongful death, the decedent’s representative can demand compensation due to the losses and damages they experienced.
Taking Action Against Wrongful Death Cases
Keep in mind that state definitions on particular cases and legal procedures will vary. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act states that a person can file a lawsuit against people if a wrongful act causes death. This considers any form of negligence, default act, or breach of contract between two individuals or parties. Additionally, it includes wrongful death through intentional acts like physical assault leading to fatal injuries. Since there are many potential overlaps in this definition’s grey areas, your attorney needs to establish several case-specific elements. Otherwise, the court can dismiss your case.
First, your case must reveal conduct that amounts to a wrongful act, a form of negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty. Additionally, the behavior most has caused the death of a decedent. Unless a prior act leads to the untimely death of the individual, like a compromised immune system, finally, the lawsuit’s basis must be under the intention of recovering damages if the person in question had not died.
Although the elements above are straightforward, different judicial opinions can interpret them based on the presented facts of a wrongful death case. If you enter a court without the right defense attorney, it will be almost impossible to establish the elements’ validity to your claim. The key to defending your stance is by having a solid definition of the elements supported with impertinent facts to prove them. It’s an excellent way to prevent dismissal on your case and win over a jury trial later on.
Differentiating Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death case begins with defining the decedent’s manner of death. There are different manners and ways that a person can suffer an untimely passing. For the Florida court’s benefit, these are assigned under five categories of death due to:
- Product liability or mislabeling
- Medical malpractice
- Auto accident fatality
- Workplace hazards
- And international criminal acts
The last two in this category are relatively easier to defend in court, especially if there’s enough evidence to support the claim. However, the first three can be a lot more complex.
- Product liability or mislabeling: A death caused by product liability is generally similar to a workplace hazard. If a piece of machinery leads to accidental death, a potential cause could be the wrongful indication of proper handling and treatment of the equipment. Thus, it can fall under the manufacturer to be the recipient of a wrongful death claim. Besides heavy machinery, it can also apply to every product that consumers use, from shampoo to alcohol solutions. With enough evidence about a person’s death due to a manufacturer’s negligence, the decedent’s representatives may file a wrongful death claim.
- Medical malpractice: Medical malpractice claims are pretty standard, especially with mid-level healthcare providers. Wrongful death can occur when these professionals provide medication without adequately diagnosing a patient’s condition. The deceased’s representative is eligible to file a wrongful death claim on the individual physician or the medical provider for allowing medical malpractice on their part. Improper diagnosis typically occurs during birth-related injuries or fatalities since the baby or mother usually suffers from missing out on critical symptoms. Rewards in these scenarios can range from receiving compensation for medical expenses to emotional damages.
- Auto accident fatality: Car accidents aren’t uncommon in the US. Most car collisions occur due to a driver’s negligence instead of external factors. Reckless driving, distracted drivers, and speeding are just some of the causes of car collision accidents independent of environmental factors. However, some cases point to wrongful death due to roadway conditions or vehicle defects. An accident reconstructionist helps the legal team point to the exact mechanism of the injury that resulted in the person’s death. They will analyze the car wreck and identify if outside variables contribute to the deceased’s untimely death.
Understanding the Damages That Can be Recovered With a Wrongful Death Claim
Florida law sets specific categories of damages that concerned parties can recover under the Wrongful Death Statute. Both surviving members and the estate are liable to recover particular forms of damages. For example, the immediate family members and financially dependent blood relatives can receive the value of support provided for the deceased person. Other forms of damages include mental and emotional pain and compensation for medical expenses.
On the other hand, the deceased’s estate can also claim damages in benefits, lost wages, and other earnings. This also accounts for potential revenue paid for by the estate, especially if the deceased person has an estate plan.
Spouses can typically have claims for lost companionship and emotional trauma from the death of the deceased. In line with this, the decedent’s minor children can be rewarded for the lost benefits of their relationship with their parent’s passing, including comfort and support. Interestingly, parents of adult children generally do not win over many cases for this clause.
If the manner of death involves intentional or malicious conduct, the decedent’s representative may also file for punitive damages to be rewarded to surviving family members. However, there’s a limit to the amount that can be recovered in this way.
Noting Your Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim
In line with the Florida Wrongful Death Act, the decedent’s representatives are the only ones eligible to file a wrongful death suit for the deceased’s benefit. Generally, the chosen personal representative will depend on the deceased’s official documents, like a will or estate plan. The court of the person’s registered locality would appoint one for them if the decedent died without a will. Since these lawsuits are filed on behalf of the person’s surviving family members and the estate, the immediate family is usually appointed.
Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, a deceased’s spouse, child, parent, dependent blood relatives can file a wrongful death claim. Coincidentally, the people entitled to receive reparations through compensation are the individuals mentioned above.
In the event of a settlement before trial, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to conduct a special court hearing. This may be necessary on behalf of minor children’s claim for a settlement. During these scenarios, parties representing the defendants and plaintiffs must still attend the special court hearing.
Setting the Time Frame of Filing for a Wrongful Death Claim
Besides the eligible individuals who can file a claim, Florida law also indicates the statute of limitations when these lawsuits need to be filed. Since the statute will vary from state to state, it’s necessary to be mindful of these differences in local courts. In Florida, filing needs to be set within four years after the person’s death date. Any attempts at litigation past this timeframe will be dismissed.
The Value of Getting a Quality Legal Defense
Like any legal battle, a wrongful death claim will be difficult to handle without having attorneys who specialize in the state’s particular rulings. Additionally, cases involving a loved one’s death will always be much harder for personal representatives. This is why hiring a lawyer specializing in wrongful can be beneficial for your purposes. Listed below are six benefits of hiring a quality legal defense for a wrongful death claim.
1. Keeps you aware of all the necessary deadlines
Remember that claims for wrongful death cases have a limited time frame of 4 years on a person’s death. This means you must know all the paperwork you need to file and have a plotted calendar to ensure that they’re properly handled. Doing all this yourself will be a considerable obstacle, especially if it’s your first time dealing with legal matters. Lawyers with a deep understanding of wrongful death cases have a thorough knowledge of the ins and out of your procedures and required documents. In particular, they know the important dates and deadlines you need to observe to keep your case active.
2. Allows you to submit documents properly and orderly
The complexity of accomplishing legal processes also has the added difficulty of having a time limit. Besides keeping on time with your legal requirement, expert lawyers can save you time and money preparing and filing these documents yourself. Without the right experience and expertise in facing these cases alone, you’ll have a slim chance of winning in court.
3. Gives you a fighting chance in court
Some wrongful death cases don’t even make it to trial, with quiet settlements being the optimal option for the affected parties. However, you may need to bring your case to trial to present to a court, judge, and jury. Having concrete evidence isn’t enough to convince people with subjective opinions. This is why it’s necessary to have a wrongful death attorney with experience defending trial cases. Having a legal expert on your team will increase your chances of getting the rightful compensation you deserve.
4. Connects you with the right industry experts
Every wrongful death case needs a detailed professional analysis to present a clear picture for your defense. For example, a medical malpractice claim requires you to have a medical expert to refute or defend the evidence you have. With an attorney’s help, you can get connected with professionals that will match your specific case.
5. Computes the value of your claim
Part of filing a wrongful death claim estimates the correct value you should receive as compensation from the responsible individuals. It’s a matter that’s not as simple as you might think. Although you can break down medical and funeral expenses, other forms of damages like loss of earnings and emotional losses will be harder to compute yourself. An experienced attorney has enough experience and technical skill in evaluating your case and assigning the appropriate value; you’ll receive a reward for winning the case.
6. Lets you time to grieve
Above all, a professional attorney allows you to focus on what matters most: giving yourself time to grieve. The untimely passing of a loved one isn’t something you should take lightly. Preparing for the funeral and handling the wills and estate plans they left behind is a whole different matter requiring you to stay calm and collected. With all these legal and logistical procedures you have to face, you may not have enough time to process your pain. Having a capable legal partner to handle your wrongful death claim is a load off your mind, which everyone needs when facing these difficult situations.
When To Seek A Wrongful Death Attorney
Death is an inevitable aspect of living. However, that doesn’t mean that a person’s untimely passing should be considered natural, especially if there are parties liable for it. Filing a wrongful death claim for your dead family member is your responsibility and obligation to uphold their right. It would be best to deliver this, even when they can no longer represent themselves in court. Thankfully, you don’t have to be alone when going through this kind of legal dilemma. By seeking help from a legal expert, you allow yourself a greater chance of defending your claim against professional individuals or entire business entities.
At Shiner Law Group, our two decades of industry experience can give you the best legal representation for your case. If you need a wrongful death lawyer, Contact us today at (561) 777-7700 for more information on our services.