Few things are more difficult than losing someone you love to an untimely death. The tragedy is further compounded when the loss was predicated by the reckless or negligent actions of someone else.
The experienced wrongful death lawyers at Freeman Injury Law understand those left behind are struggling not only with emotional trauma, but also the harsh financial realities. There are medical bills. The funeral expenses. The property loss. In cases where the loved one was a primary contributor to household income, loved ones are left struggling to avoid debt and bankruptcy.
This is why people initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. We seek to assist grieving loved ones in regaining their financial stability. We also endeavor to help them seek accountability and justice. In so doing, we recognize it will not bring the decedent back, but perhaps we help make such instances less likely to occur in the future.
Wrongful death can arise from virtually any action that can predicate a personal injury lawsuit. These may include deaths caused by:
- Car accidents
- Drunk driving crashes
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Birth injuries
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Construction accidents
- Work-related injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Swimming pool accidents
- Use of a defective product
- Premises liability
The burden of proof often depends on the kind of injuries alleged. For example, in the use of a defective product, it may be enough to present a case based on strict liability – i.e., the product was defective and caused the injury, regardless of the manufacturer’s knowledge or intent of the defect. Meanwhile, a case rooted in premises liability would require plaintiff to prove the property owner/manager had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger and failed to remedy it in a reasonable amount of time. And in wrongful death stemming from medical malpractice, plaintiff would have to show not only a poor medical outcome, but that the doctor or health care provider deviated from the acceptable standard of care for his or her specialty.
These cases require a legal team with a wide breadth of knowledge and a wealth of experience in each of these areas of law.
Florida Wrongful Death Act
In Florida, Florida Statutes 768.16-26 defines who may bring the lawsuit, when there is a right of action and what type of damages may be awarded.
Before a wrongful death lawsuit can even be filed in Florida, there must be an established estate for the decedent, with a named personal representative. In some cases, such person is established in a will. If no representative is named, it will be up to the court to name one upon request, with preference typically given to surviving spouses. Otherwise, parents or children might be named.
A personal representative may file the lawsuit on behalf of himself or herself, as well as other dependent survivors. Survivors may include decedent’s:
- Children (under 25)
- Blood relatives or adoptive siblings dependent on decedent for support
If a personal injury action filed by decedent was still pending at the time of his death, that action must be abated and a wrongful death lawsuit filed.
Exact damages available in Florida wrongful death lawsuits will vary significantly depending on the identity of the defendant and the type of negligence alleged. For example, lawsuits against government agencies and agents may only net a maximum $300,000 in compensation. Those pursuing workers’ compensation death benefits, meanwhile, will find the maximum award is $150,000, plus $7,500 in funeral expenses. Medical malpractice wrongful death cases used to be capped as well, but the Florida Supreme Court did away with damage caps in those cases in 2014 under some circumstances.
For those whose claims are not statutorily capped, it’s possible for damages to exceed six figures or more, but a court will weigh a host of factors in deciding damages. Those may include the egregiousness of the negligence, any alleged contributory negligence on behalf of decedent and the degree to which decedent supported survivors.
Statute of Limitations on Florida Wrongful Death Claims
In every lawsuit , there is a certain period of time in which a claim must be filed. If that date is missed, more than likely plaintiff has forever lost the opportunity to pursue a claim. This is known as a statute of limitations.
In Florida, the statute of limitations on wrongful death actions is just two years from the date of death. This may seem fairly straightforward, but it could be a complicated matter in some situations. In some instances, a claim for wrongful death could be brought within four years of the underlying injury (if the person did not die immediately). However, if a negligence claim would have been time-barred, so too would the wrongful death action.
And in wrongful death stemming from medical malpractice, it gets even more confusing. The law requires claims be brought within two years of the time the incident is discovered or should have been discovered or, in some rare instances, up to four years from the date of the incident.
In some instances, it’s not enough to simply file a lawsuit. One must meet certain notice requirements prior to filing the case, and those notices often must be initiated within a short period of time after the incident – ultimately shortening the time you have to take action in these matters.
The bottom line is if you think you may have cause for wrongful death, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Freeman Injury Law at (800) 561-7777 for a free consultation and review of your claim. You may also email attorney Dean Freeman at [email protected].