Talk to a Skilled Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer and Get Results
Nothing can bring a loved one back from death, but when a person has suffered fatal injuries through no fault of their own, you may be able to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. At Parker Waichman LLP, our team of Florida wrongful death lawyers understands how difficult it can be to lose a family member, and we know that the financial struggles that can accompany a loss only add to this burden. That’s why we fight hard for Florida families and charge nothing out of pocket for our services. Call us today to see how we can help you secure Florida wrongful death damages to help you in your hour of need.
Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in Florida: The Basics
Wrongful death suits are filed in Florida when personal injuries are fatal and were preventable. Typically, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed as a civil action against the person or entity responsible for the death. An experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer from Parker Waichman can help you by filing and litigating a suit against those whose negligence caused your loved one’s death.
What Is a “Wrongful Death” Under Florida Law?
Under Florida Statute Section 768.19, “wrongful death” is defined as a death “caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another. The term “wrongful death” is a harsh term that speaks for itself: A wrongful death is one that was likely preventable and would not have happened if not for a person or party’s negligent conduct.
Wrongful death cases involve many of the same characteristics as other personal injury lawsuits. These cases may stem from a car accident, an act of nursing home abuse or neglect, medical malpractice, a defective consumer product or medical device or a workplace accident. When a family has lost a loved one because of negligent conduct, surviving family members may have the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate.
To successfully pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, the plaintiff must prove:
- A person or party committed an act that was wrongful, negligent, in default or a breach of contract or warranty.
- The person or party’s act caused the death of another.
- The deceased individual would be entitled to damages for their injuries had a death not ensued.
A deceased individual’s estate can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit for damages if it can be proven that another person or party’s conduct caused the death. For example, if a car accident is caused by a person running a red light, and as a result, one person suffers permanent but not fatal injuries and another suffers fatal injuries, both of these individuals would be entitled to recovery if they can prove that the driver who ran the red light was at fault. With a help of a talented wrongful death attorney, Florida residents can seek justice against those to blame for their losses.
Examples of Situations Leading to Wrongful Death Claims
Examples of accidents and incidents that may result in a wrongful death claim include:
- Traffic accidents (including car, truck, motorcycle, tractor-trailer, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents)
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse and neglect (which may also involve medical malpractice)
- Construction accidents
- Product liability cases (such as defective consumer products and defective pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices)
- Trip and fall accidents
- Dog bites or attacks
- Workplace accidents
Every wrongful death case presents unique facts that must be investigated and evaluated by a qualified Florida wrongful death attorney. Wrongful death cases can vary greatly; a death involving a drunk driving accident will be much different to investigate and litigate than a death involving a defective consumer product or medical device. Similarly, a wrongful death case involving a medical procedure will be much different from a wrongful death case that involves a workplace accident. That’s why it’s so important for anyone who has lost a loved one because of someone else’s actions to enlist the help of an experienced attorney right away. At Parker Waichman, our team of wrongful death lawyers in Florida would be glad to provide a free consultation to evaluate the merits of your case.
Requirements When Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida
Florida law has specific requirements that must be met when pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. First, any wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate. Therefore, before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed, an estate must be set up for the deceased individual. More often than not, the personal representative will be a spouse or adult child. However, if the deceased individual had a will that named someone else as a personal representative, it will likely be this person (so long as the will is valid) who brings a wrongful death lawsuit.
Second, when pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, the designated personal representative is required to name all surviving family members who would be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. The recovery is to be on behalf of all surviving family members eligible to recover damages. Under the wrongful death statute in Florida, surviving family members are spouses, children, parents, and any blood relative or adoptive relative who was financially dependent on the deceased individual. In Florida, a child born to unmarried parents may seek and recover damages if the mother suffers a wrongful death. But if the father suffers a wrongful death, the child may seek and recover damages only if the father has formally recognized the child as his and has provided financial support for the child.
Because the process for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is complex and involves many variables, it’s a good idea to work alongside a skilled Florida wrongful death attorney. At Parker Waichman, we have the skills and the experience to help you through this difficult time and fight for the compensation your family deserves.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
“Damages” is a term that describes the financial harm and losses associated with a personal injury or wrongful death. It can be difficult to determine the value of the damages in a wrongful death case, especially when family members financially rely on a loved one who wrongfully died. An experienced wrongful death attorney in Florida can help calculate the amount of compensation you should seek and fight for every penny you deserve.
The different types of damages associated with a wrongful death lawsuit, as outlined under Florida Statute Section 768.21, include the following:
- The monetary value of the support the deceased victim provided to surviving family members, such as a spouse and children
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection provided by the deceased victim
- Mental/emotional pain and suffering resulting from the loss of a child
- Funeral and medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost “prospective net accumulations” of the deceased individual’s estate, which is the value of the earnings an estate could reasonably have had if the individual had not wrongfully died
The damages in a wrongful death lawsuit will vary from case to case based on the nature of the accident that caused an untimely and tragic death. As such, anyone who has lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions should consult with a Florida wrongful death attorney right away.
Average Wrongful Death Settlements in Florida
Average wrongful death settlements in Florida are at least $500,000, though the amount of a settlement or jury award for any case will depend on the specific details of that case. Some plaintiffs have secured more than $1 million in compensation in Florida wrongful death cases.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Florida?
When filing a wrongful death lawsuit, Florida residents have two years from the date of the death to take legal action under the statute of limitations. Because waiting too long can prevent a person from ever getting compensation on behalf of a deceased loved one, it’s critical to act quickly by speaking with an attorney as soon as possible after a loved one has suffered fatal injuries.
What Is the Process for Pursuing a Wrongful Death Case in Florida?
While the ultimate goal of anyone filing a lawsuit is to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible, it’s normal for the process of filing and litigating a lawsuit to take a year or longer to conclude. The Florida court system has a packed schedule, so a trial date may not even be set until at least a year from the time a case is filed. In some situations, it could take two or more years for a trial to start. Regardless of the type of wrongful death case a person may be pursuing, all potential clients should expect to go through the following process:
- Initial Case Intake/Evaluation: Before an attorney decides whether to pursue a case, they must first evaluate all available facts and determine if there is a link between the conduct in question and a person’s death.
- Case Decision: Once an attorney has evaluated a potential case, they will decide to either accept the case and move forward with legal action or decline the case and provide the potential client with a detailed reason why the case cannot be accepted.
- Filing the Lawsuit: After a decision is made to move forward with a wrongful death case, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate. It’s important to remember that an estate must be set up before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed.
- Discovery/Investigation Stage: Once a lawsuit has been filed, the plaintiff and defendant(s) exchange information to build a case, including medical records, police reports, accident reports, internal documents/memoranda, depositions, and expert reports.
- Possible Settlement: The parties to a lawsuit may begin to discuss a settlement in the discovery stage, but settlement often does not happen until closer to a case’s trial date. A settlement may be discussed between the parties themselves or resolved through arbitration.
- The Trial: If a lawsuit has not been settled by the time of trial, the case goes to trial, and it’s up to a jury to decide whether a person’s wrongful death was caused by another’s conduct. Settlement negotiations may continue throughout the trial, and it’s always possible for a case to settle before the jury makes its decision.
- Appeal: The losing party in a trial typically appeals the decision, and the appeals process can take years.
Because all cases are different, results may vary: One wrongful death case may settle quickly before going to trial, while another case may go all the way to the jury. Whether a case goes to trial is a decision made by the client and their attorney. While a significant number of lawsuits settle out of court, there are times when going to trial may be the best option. A qualified Florida wrongful death attorney can help you decide whether you should accept a settlement, but ultimately, the choice is yours.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Is Wrongful Death a Crime in Florida?
Wrongful death personal injury lawsuits fall under civil law, not criminal law, though a corresponding criminal lawsuit is sometimes filed as well. Any damages will be awarded in civil court.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. A person can designate anyone they want to be the personal representative of their estate, as long as this is clearly conveyed in a valid will.
If a Person Has Died Without a Will, Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If a person dies without a will, wrongful death lawsuits can typically be filed by immediate family, including spouses, parents, children, or siblings. However, whoever files the lawsuit must first be designated as the estate’s personal representative by the court.
Can a Sibling Sue for Wrongful Death?
In most cases, a sibling can sue for wrongful death in Florida, but they must first be designated as the personal representative of the estate.
If it Has Been More Than Two Years Since a Person Has Died, Is There Any Reason to Speak With an Attorney?
Yes. While the majority of wrongful death lawsuits must be filed no later than two years after the individual’s death, there may be an exception that applies to a specific situation that allows for the general two-year statute of limitations to be extended, or “tolled.” An experienced wrongful death attorney can investigate your situation and determine if any exceptions may apply.
What if More Than One Person Caused a Wrongful Death?
If more than one person is found to be at fault for causing another’s wrongful death, the percentage of blame will be split among the at-fault parties based on the proportionality of fault. Many wrongful death cases involve the conduct of more than one person. For example, if a person suffers fatal injuries in a surgery gone wrong and evidence suggests that both a doctor and a nurse contributed to the death, both of these individuals may be named in a lawsuit along with the hospital and/or employer that is responsible for the conduct of the doctor and nurse.
Can Damages Be Awarded for Emotional Distress in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Yes. A wrongful death lawsuit may allege that loved ones of a deceased individual have suffered emotional harm because of the wrongful death. The emotional trauma associated with the death of a close family member can be debilitating and may require medical treatment. A jury may award damages for emotional harm if evidence suggests that the wrongful death did, in fact, cause emotional trauma to loved ones.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Suit in Florida?
Florida’s statutes of limitations for wrongful death can vary, but generally, plaintiffs have two years to sue from the date of the person’s death. Extensions are possible in some circumstances, though, so it’s important to contact a skilled Florida wrongful death lawyer for an evaluation of your case.
Contact Parker Waichman Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you should speak with a Florida wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights. Too many Florida residents suffer needless deaths each year, whether from a car accident, botched medical procedure or construction accident, and at Parker Waichman, our nationally recognized Florida wrongful death attorneys can provide the legal representation you need, whether you’re in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples or Bonita Springs. And for potential Spanish-speaking clients, we also have attorneys, paralegals, and staff members on hand who are fluent in Spanish.
The Florida wrongful death attorneys at Parker Waichman have a reputation for helping personal injury victims fight for what they deserve. Regardless of how our clients have suffered their injuries, our legal team is always ready to help hold the negligent party accountable for causing needless pain and suffering. Our tenacious attorneys have secured more than $2 billion in compensation for our clients, building a reputation for excellence with both clients and peers. We’ve also earned accolades including a 9.8/10 rating from AVVO and a listing in Best Lawyers, which is based on extensive peer review. But these honors aren’t nearly as important to us as the appreciation of our satisfied clients.
While not every case is successful, we work diligently to help our clients receive compensation that matches the severity of the injury. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Florida wrongful death attorneys and see what we can do for you, contact Parker Waichman today by calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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