The death of a loved one is always a difficult and trying time. If the death was caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another, it can be even more challenging to cope with. In addition to the emotional toll, there may also be financial burdens associated with the death, such as funeral expenses and lost income.
In Florida, survivors of a deceased person may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party to seek compensation for their losses. If you have recently lost a loved one and believe that someone else’s negligence caused their death, here is what you need to know about filing a wrongful death claim in Florida.
What is Wrongful Death in Florida?
When we examine state law, we can see that a wrongful death occurs when an individual or entity leads to another person’s death due to a “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty…” (Fla. Stat. § 768.19 (2023). Breaking this down into regular terms, a wrongful death will occur when a person loses their life due to a legal fault of another, typically resulting from negligence or intentional actions.
It can be challenging for family members and personal representatives of the deceased individual’s estate to know whether or not they have a wrongful death claim to move forward with. We encourage any person who may think they have a wrongful death claim to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can offer a free consultation and help guide you toward the next steps of your situation.
The Top Causes of Wrongful Deaths
No one wants to think about the wrongful death of a loved one. But sadly, accidents happen. Here are some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims in the United States.
1. Medical Malpractice
One of the most common causes of wrongful death is medical malpractice. This can occur when a doctor or another medical professional makes a mistake that leads to a patient’s death. Examples of medical malpractice include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, failure to properly treat a condition, and birth injuries.
2. Car Accidents
Thousands of people are killed in car accidents every year. While some accidents are caused by factors like weather or road conditions, many are the result of driver error. Common examples of driver error include distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding.
3. Workplace Accidents
Sadly, many people are killed on the job every year. Workplace accidents can occur in any industry, but they’re especially common in construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
4. Fatal Falls
Falls are relatively common, but they can sometimes be deadly—especially for elderly adults. Fatal falls often occur in nursing homes when residents are not adequately supervised or when there are hazards present in the home, like wet floors or loose carpeting.
Proving Liability After a Wrongful Death
Determining liability after a loved one dies is a challenging process. When you work with a wrongful death lawyer in Port St. Lucie, you will have an advocate ready to handle this process for you. Wrongful death claims begin with extensive investigations into the incident. Your lawyer will gather as much evidence as possible to determine fault, which can include video surveillance, photographs, statements from eyewitnesses, documents related to safety and training, and more.
Additionally, your attorney will use your medical records as well as statements from various experts (if needed) to help prove the damages you have sustained. Ultimately, these claims revolve around the four elements of negligence that must be present:
- Duty. It needs to be shown that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. This duty of care will look different depending on how the wrongful death occurred. For example, any licensed driver that gets behind the wheel of a vehicle owes a duty to others around them. This duty includes operating within the confines of Florida traffic law. Property owners of a duty of care to invitees and licensees who have a right to be on the property. This includes fixing any known hazards or warning guests about potential hazards that could cause harm.
- Breach. After establishing that there was a duty of care between the plaintiff and the defendant, it must be shown that the defendant breached their duty in some way. This breach will look different depending on the type of incident that occurred. A driver could breach their duty by operating impaired. Property owners can breach their duty by failing to repair stairs that they know are hazardous.
- Causation. It must be shown that the breach of duty is what caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, an attorney needs to show that the breach more than likely led to the injuries.
- Damages. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they have sustained some sort of monetary loss as a result of the incident.
These four elements of a negligence claim may seem confusing for individuals who have lost a loved one and may be struggling to adjust to their new normal. When you work with GOLDLAW, you will have a team of advocates by your side. Your attorney is responsible for demonstrating these four elements of negligence and moving forward with your claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Port St. Lucie?
In many states around the country, family members are allowed to directly file wrongful death claims in civil court. However, in the state of Florida, a personal representative, often referred to as the executor, of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim.
The personal representative who filed the claim will do so on behalf of the deceased’s estate and any surviving family members. The personal representative is responsible for listing all potential beneficiaries when they file the civil claim.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida
In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. If you do not file within this time frame, you will be barred from doing so.
Failing to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party or parties within this two-year time frame will likely mean the case is dismissed. This will leave family members with no way to recover compensation for their losses.
However, we always caution family members and personal representatives of estates that they need to be aware of any insurance carrier deadlines as well. Often, there are insurance carriers involved with wrongful death claims, and if there are, they will have their own deadlines. Often, these deadlines are much shorter than the overall state statute of limitations for civil actions. We encourage you to speak to your attorney for assistance and guidance when moving forward with your particular claim.
Compensation Available in Florida Wrongful Death Claims
If you are successful in your wrongful death claim, you may be awarded damages. These damages are intended to compensate the survivors for their losses and are divided among them based on their degree of dependency on the deceased.
They may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income and benefits
- Loss of companionship and protection
- Mental anguish and suffering
This is not an exhaustive list but includes some of the most common types of damages awarded in wrongful death claims.
Why You Should Hire GOLDLAW for Your Wrongful Death Claim
Does There Have to be a Criminal Charge?
The defendant in a wrongful death claim does not have to face criminal charges for the death in order to face a civil lawsuit for the same death. There are many cases where a person is found civilly liable for a death but never criminally charged at all. Additionally, even if someone is found not guilty in a criminal court, they can still face a civil wrongful death action.
If a person is facing criminal charges for the death of your loved one, we encourage you to move forward with your civil wrongful death claim as well. Even if a person is found guilty, this does not bring any compensation to the estate or to surviving family members. That needs to be completed through a civil action.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost?
We understand that families may be concerned about how they can afford legal assistance after the loss of a loved one. At GOLDLAW, our team handles these claims on a contingency fee basis. This means a few things for family members. First, the families and estates of deceased individuals will not pay a dime in legal fees until after we successfully recover the compensation they are entitled to. In the event we do not win the claim, the families or the estate will pay absolutely nothing. If we do recover compensation, total legal fees will be an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement or jury verdict amount.
The death of a loved one is always a difficult and traumatic event. If you find yourself in this situation, you need an experienced and compassionate law firm to help you through the process of seeking justice. That’s where GOLDLAW comes in.
At GOLDLAW, we understand the trauma our clients have suffered and are committed to helping them recover. We can even perform the intake and bring contracts to your home or the hospital when necessary. We promise to work tirelessly to build a strong case on your behalf and get you the compensation you deserve.
GOLDLAW has a proven track record of success in wrongful death claims, and we are confident we can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation, or call us at (561) 222-2222.