What Is Important To Know About Accidental DeathTrusted Content
Legally reviewed by:Erik Abrahamson, J.D. March 13, 2018
It is possible for a person to be the victim of an accidental death. This is when someone dies as a result of an event that was unusual as well as unanticipated. It could have been caused by the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. It is also known as a wrongful death.
The accident and wrongful death attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk provide free case evaluations with no obligation – call 1-800-538-4878 today.
Florida has statutes designed to permit the deceased’s survivors to begin court action to seek damages in the case of a wrongful death. This type of claim is considered a civil legal action. In Florida, the state statute 768.19 covers death resulting from an act of negligence.
There are four elements that must be present for a death to be considered a wrongful death.
- It also must be shown the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. Should the wrongful death involve a medical healthcare provider as the defendant, it must be shown the healthcare provider breached their duty of care by the negligent treatment they provided.
- It must be proven negligence was involved. This means it must be shown how the death was entirely or partially caused by the carelessness, recklessness negligent actions of the defendant in the case.
- A key element to proving a wrongful death is showing how negligence is the direct cause of an individual’s death.
- The death must have resulted in identifiable damages. This could include medical expenses, loss of inheritance, loss of potential income as well as loss of earnings, protection, guidance, funeral as well as burial costs, and more.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In the state of Florida, the law makes it necessary for a personal representative of a deceased individual’s estate to file a claim for the wrongful death. This representative may be identified in a deceased individual’s will or as part of their estate plan. Should there be no such representative mentioned in an estate plan or will, they are to be appointed by a Florida court. All personal representatives are required to list every survivor who is legally recognized to have an interest in the lawsuit.
Legal Definition Of Survivor
The state of Florida considers a deceased individual’s spouse, children as well as parents to be survivors. A survivor could also be any deceased individual’s blood relatives. This could be an adoptive child who was wholly or partially dependent on the deceased individual for their care or financial support and more. It’s also possible for a child conceived from unmarried parents to be legally considered a survivor if their mother dies. If the child’s father is the victim of a wrongful death, they can only be considered a beneficiary if the father legally recognized them as their child and provided support.
It’s important for those filing a wrongful death action to know it’s common for a defendant to investigate the details of the relationship between the survivors and the deceased. Should they be able to find any evidence to contradict a survivor’s claim, they will present these findings in open court. The amount of damages awarded is usually determined by the deceased person’s contribution to those claiming to be survivors. A damage award can be significantly decreased if a defendant can show a decedent spent their income on things other than a survivor. The defendant’s goal will be to prove the survivor did not have a close emotional relationship with the deceased.
Types Of Damages
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the damages sought will fall into three different categories. There are economic, non-economic as well as punitive damages.
This involves compensation for any financial contributions the deceased would have made to the survivor if they had remained alive. This can also include loss of inheritance, medical as well as funeral expenses resulting from the death. The loss of a pension and other financial benefits including the expected earnings of the deceased and more.
Non-economic damages include compensation for a survivor’s pain and suffering, mental anguish. It could also include a loss of consortium from a relationship with the deceased. A survivor could also sue to receive compensation for the loss of companionship, love, and support from the deceased.
These are awards in situations where the defendant’s actions involving the wrongful death were so egregious that financial punishment is necessary. In these cases, the court will permit evidence to be presented showing a defendant’s net worth. Ordinarily, in Florida, the maximum amount of punitive damages survivors can receive is three times the amount of the compensatory damages awarded by the court or $500,000, whichever amount is greater. There are exceptions to this cap for, particularly egregious conduct.
Any survivor who wants to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida needs to understand the many steps that will be involved. This will include researching applicable law, investigating the claim, interviewing witnesses as well as talking to experts and more. During the process, there could be a demand for mediation as well as a settlement offer to be considered. Should the mediation not succeed, a trial by injury may be the only way to resolve the case.
State Government Limitations
It is possible to sue the state of Florida for wrongful death, but there are limitations. A government employee won’t be made personally responsible and each claim must be filed against the part of the government that employs the individual at fault for the wrongful death. The maximum amount that a survivor can be awarded is $300,000 regardless of the number of survivors.
Obtaining the best possible legal representation in a wrongful death case can make a big difference in seeking fair compensation. It’s important to hire a knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorney. Our attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk provide a free case evaluation with no obligation – call us today at 1-800-538-4878