Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Settlements Information
All personal injuries can be debilitating with lasting consequences, but when injuries turn fatal, the aftermath can be much worse. After all, a loved one has been lost, and there is nothing that can be done to bring that person back. When a person has suffered fatal injuries through no fault of his or her own, compensation is the only thing available to help family members mourning the loss of a parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or another close relative. There are many ways in which a person can suffer fatal injuries, whether in an auto accident, from a medical procedure, or from a slip and fall accident, among others.
At Parker Waichman LLP, our team of Florida Wrongful Death Lawyers represents clients from throughout Florida and the rest of the United States. We represent clients who have suffered debilitating personal injuries as well as clients who have lost loved ones because of fatal injuries. We understand how an accident or injury can turn a family upside down in more ways than one. The loss of a loved one is painful enough, but the consequences flowing from a wrongful death can make life significantly more difficult for surviving family members, both emotionally and financially.
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, but it is also a term that speaks for itself. If a person’s death is caused by wrongful or negligent conduct, the death was one which was likely preventable and would not have happened but for a person or party’s conduct.
Wrongful death cases involve many of the same characteristics as personal injury lawsuits as the reasons for why a person has wrongfully died are often similar to the reasons why a person has suffered debilitating, but not fatal, injuries. Such cases may involve a car accident, act of nursing home abuse or neglect, medical malpractice, a defective consumer product or medical device, and a workplace accident, among others. When a family has lost a loved one because of negligent conduct, surviving family members, such as a spouse, child, or parent 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 certain elements, which include the following:
- 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; and
- The deceased individual would be entitled to damages for his or her injuries had a death not ensured.
What this all means is that a deceased individual’s estate (by way of a representative) can pursue a wrongful lawsuit for damages if it can be proven that another person or party’s conduct was the proximate cause of the death. For example, if a car accident is caused by a person running a red light, and one person suffers permanent but not fatal injuries, and another person suffers fatal injuries, both of these injured individuals would be entitled to recovery if they can prove the driver who ran the red light was at fault.
Examples of Wrongful Death Claims
In addition to car accidents, there are other ways in which a person can suffer a wrongful death because of fatal injuries. Examples of accidents and incidences which may result in a wrongful death claim include, among others, the following:
- 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; and
- Workplace accidents.
Every wrongful death case will present unique facts that must be investigated and evaluated by a qualified Florida Wrongful Death Attorney. Wrongful death cases can vary greatly as a death involving a drunk driving accident will be much different than a death involving a defective consumer product or medical device. Similarly, a wrongful death case involving a medical procedure will be much different than a wrongful death case that involves a workplace accident. As such, anyone who has lost a loved one because of wrongful death—regardless of how the death happened—should act quickly by contacting an attorney who handles wrongful death cases on a regular basis.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida
Florida law has specific requirements for 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 of a deceased individual’s estate will be a spouse or adult child. However, if the deceased individual had a will that named a particular person as a personal representative, it would likely be this person (so long as the will is valid) who would be the person representing the estate and bringing 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 damages (i.e., compensation) through a wrongful death claim. It is not only the personal representative who will recover damages on behalf of the deceased individual, but the recovery is to be on behalf of all surviving family members eligible to recover damages. Under Florida law, 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, the same is not true for the father. 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 that child. Because the process for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is complex and involves many variables, it is a good idea to work alongside a skilled Florida Wrongful Death Attorney.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
“Damages” is a word that describes the harm and loss associated with any personal injury or wrongful death. Because injuries, whether fatal or not, cannot be undone, the only way to help victims of wrongful death or catastrophic personal injuries is to compensate them in the form of money. It can be difficult to determine the value of particular damages in a wrongful death case, especially when family members financially rely on a loved one who wrongfully died.
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; and
- 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 from what is believed to be a wrongful death should consult with a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney right away.
The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Florida
Every state creates its own laws for establishing time-limitations on how much time a person or party has to file a lawsuit. Additionally, because there are many different types of lawsuits, the time-limitations may be different based on the type of lawsuit. For example, under Florida law, a person wishing to file a personal injury lawsuit for injuries suffered in a car accident has four years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. A person wishing to file a product liability lawsuit also has four years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit.
However, if a person wishes to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one, he or she has two years from the date of the loved one’s death to file a lawsuit. The two-year time limitation also applies to medical malpractice claims. While there are some situations where exceptions apply, and the period for filing a lawsuit may be extended, it is very difficult to extend or “toll” the statute of limitation in wrongful death cases. When a person suffers fatal injuries, it is usually quite clear that a particular accident or incident caused the death.
As such, Florida is strict when evaluating whether a person has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on time. Because waiting too long can prevent a person from ever filing a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one, it is 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?
All lawsuits have the potential to take a very long time to complete from start to finish. While the ultimate goal of anyone filing a lawsuit is to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible, it is normal for a lawsuit to take well over one year or longer to conclude. The Florida court system has a packed schedule, so a trial date may not be set until at least one 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, he or she must first evaluate all available facts and determine if there is a link between certain conduct and a person’s death.
- Case Decision – Once an attorney has evaluated a potential case, he or she 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 as to why the case cannot be accepted.
- Pre-suit Demand? This is not required, but we do it in most cases.
- 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 is very important to remember that, as discussed earlier on this page, 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, which includes the exchange of medical records, police reports, accident reports, internal documents/memoranda, taking depositions and exchanging expert reports.
- Possible Settlement – The parties to a lawsuit may begin to discuss settlement throughout 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 through negotiation or by participating in In some cases, a matter is resolved through arbitration.
- The Trial – If a lawsuit has not settled by the time of trial, the case goes to trial, and it is 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 is always possible for a case to settle before the jury makes the ultimate decision.
- Appeal – The losing party in a trial typically appeals the decision, and the overall appeals process can take years. As such, many clients choose to settle a case before trial given the risks of losing or receiving less compensation than may be received through a settlement.
Because all cases are different, the results of each case may vary. For example, 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 that is thoroughly discussed alongside an 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 will provide the client with a variety of options and reasons why one option may be better than another.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If a person has died without a will, who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Florida has strict rules for who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a loved one’s estate. A person can designate anyone he or she wants to be a personal representative of the estate so long as it is clearly written in a valid will. However, if a person dies without a will, there are only certain individuals who can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased individual’s estate. While there may be exceptions, wrongful death lawsuits are commonly filed by spouses, parents, children, and siblings.
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 one situation that allows for the general two-year statute of limitation to be extended or “tolled.” An attorney can investigate the situation and determine if any exceptions may apply.
What if more than one person caused a wrongful death?
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 both a doctor and 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. 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 proportionality of fault.
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. As such, if a lawsuit does not settle before going to trial, a jury may award damages for emotional harm if evidence suggests that the wrongful death did, in fact, cause emotional trauma to loved ones.
Parker Waichman LLP – Obtaining More than $2 Billion in Compensation for Injured Clients
As nationally-recognized trial attorneys, the Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys of Parker Waichman LLP have a reputation for dedicating their practice to helping injured victims fight for what they deserve. In addition to representing individuals who have lost a loved one from fatal injuries, our attorneys represent individuals injured in car accidents, workplace accidents, construction accidents, and because of medical malpractice, among other accidents. 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 team of legal professionals has recovered more than $2 billion in compensation collectively for its clients in settlements and verdicts at trial. While not every case is successful, we work diligently to help our clients receive compensation that matches the severity of the injury. Our law firm has received numerous honors and designations for helping clients recover from personal injuries, including, among others, the following:
- 9.8/10 Rating by AVVO (Rating Every Attorney in the U.S.);
- “Preeminent Lawyers” AV Peer Review Rating (Martindale-Hubbell®);
- Highest Ranking of “5 Dragons” Based on Peer Review by Lawdragon; and
- Listing in Best Lawyers Publication Determined by Extensive Peer Review.
While we are proud to be recognized positively, we believe it is essential for all potential clients to ask our legal team about how our firm has been able to help so many injured and deceased clients from across the country.
Contact Parker Waichman LLP Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation
If you have lost a loved one from what you believe to be wrongful death, you should act quickly by speaking with a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney as soon as possible. Too many Florida residents suffer needless deaths each year, whether from a car accident, botched medical procedure, or construction accident, among other situations.
At Parker Waichman LLP, our nationally-recognized Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys provide legal representation to individuals from all throughout Florida with many clients being from in and around Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Bonita Springs, Immokalee and Marco Island.
To schedule your free consultation to discuss legal options with one of our Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys, contact Parker Waichman LLP today by calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529). We have a team of Spanish-speaking attorneys, paralegals, and staff members to assist our Spanish-speaking clients.
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