Everyone has experienced the heartbreak and pain of losing a loved one at a moment in their lives. But one of the worst experiences ever is knowing that your spouse, parent, sibling or child has died as a result of someone else’s negligent conduct. While nothing can ever make things right for you, as a relative of a victim of wrongful death you have the right to receive financial compensation from the at-fault party. At Porter Law Firm you will find an experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorney who will review your case and represent you for negotiating your claim or filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
We understand that the last thing on your mind is putting a dollar value on your loved one’s life and hassling with a defendant and their insurance company over economic and non-economic value. This is why our team of attorneys is ready to take over all the burdensome legal procedures, including the preparation of the wrongful death claim and fighting on your behalf either in negotiations or in court.
What Exactly Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death represents any instance when someone else’s negligence causes a person’s death. It does not have to be a crime (murder) and it does not have to involve criminal charges and end with a criminal case. A wrongful death action is a civil case opened by the victim’s family against the responsible parties with the purpose of recovering the financial expenses and losses caused by the person’s death, such as funeral expenses, loss of household support and loss of income (more on this topic later in this article).
Before we move on to detail some of the most common causes leading to legal action for wrongful death, we will look at how frequently such fatal accidents occur.
Statistics on Wrongful Death in Florida
Unfortunately, the state of Florida has a high rate of fatalities, both on the roads and in the ocean. According to recent statistics:
- 3,185 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2019, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- 79 people lost their lives in boating accidents in 2020, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Also, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injury deaths represent the 3rd most frequent cause of death at national level (52.7 occurrences per 100,000 population).
Unfortunately, these cold statistics say one thing: that anyone may experience the pain and devastation of losing a loved one due to another person’s negligent or reckless behavior. If such a difficult time comes, you should rely on a skilled attorney to prepare your wrongful death claim and negotiate the monetary damages you are entitled to receive from the negligent party.
Most Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths
Our legal team has been involved in countless negotiations and civil lawsuits for wrongful death over the +40 years in practice. Thus, we are able to share some of the most common causes of negligent behavior that lead to a person’s death:
Unfortunately, traffic accidents are among the leading causes of fatalities in the state of Florida. Some of the worst auto accidents involve large commercial vehicles, such as trucks and 18-wheelers. There is a wide range of reasons why car accidents happen:
- drunk driver
- driver fatigue (more common in case of truck accidents)
- distracted driving (texting and driving).
When you go for a medical checkup or to the hospital, you should be safe in the hands of trained and experienced professionals. In reality, many people die as the result of medical negligence by doctors, nurses, admitting staff or first response teams. Unfortunately, medical error is a leading cause of death. It happens in many ways:
- surgical errors
- misdiagnosis of a fatal disease (late finding of cancer)
- defective medical devices
- birth injuries
- errors in prescribing drugs (type and dosage).
One of the biggest challenges in filing a legal claim in case of medical negligence used the fact that the state of Florida has imposed a cap of $1,000,000 for non-economic damages. However, a ruling by the 4th district Court of Appeal determined that such a cap is in violation of the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution. As a result, the cap on financial compensation for non-economic damages are no longer applicable, a decision applauded by all medical malpractice attorneys.
Accidents at the workplace happen more frequently than they should. Employees are usually injured and suffer fatal accidents due to:
- crushing by heavy machinery
- improperly signaled dangerous areas
- lack of adequate personal protective equipment
- exposure to chemicals.
The personal representative of the deceased individual has the right to file a survival action against the at-fault employer and obtain the maximum compensation allowed by the law.
Accidental death can be caused by products which have a design or manufacturing error, making them unsafe for use. For example, malfunctioning brakes that cause motorcycle accidents or commercial truck accidents is the actual cause of the crash and their manufacturer and distributor are vicariously responsible for the deceased person’s untimely death.
This type of wrongful death actions falls under the strict liability law, which does not require proving the elements of a usual personal injury case:
- the existence of a duty of care
- the breach of duty lead to the accident
- the accident caused injury
- financial losses resulted directly from the injury.
A wrongful death victim may lose their life while they are present at a private or public property, due to the owner’s or manager’s negligence to remedy and/or signal unsafe conditions. Some of the most common causes of premises liability related deaths are:
- drowning in a pool
- slip and fall accidents
- dog bites.
Even if the deceased person was a trespasser on the property, there are circumstances in which the family is entitled to collect wrongful death damages from the property owner or manager. An experienced wrongful death lawyer at the Porter Law Firm will analyze your case carefully and explain your options.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
According to Florida Statutes 768.20, any legal action for wrongful death can be filed by the deceased individual’s personal representative (also known as an executor). The personal representative shall act on behalf of the victim’s estate and beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries of any types of damages that can be negotiated or awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit can be:
- surviving spouse, minor children or parents
- dependent blood relatives
- adoptive siblings
- the adult children, where there is no spouse
- parents of minor children.
It is important to note that an unmarried domestic partner is not eligible to receive any wrongful death benefits.
Types of Damages You May Obtain in a Wrongful Death Case
Florida law allows surviving family members to collect the following types of damages:
- economic damages
- non-economic damages
- punitive damages.
Let us explain in detail what each of them covers.
This type of damages reimburses you for all the expenses, costs and financial losses resulting as a direct consequence of your loved one’s death. Examples of such damages are:
- bills for medical care prior to the person’s death
- burial expenses
- lost wages
- loss of inheritance, representing the value of benefits the person would have been reasonably been expected to retain and include in their estate (pension plan, savings account, etc.).
Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the surviving family members for the mental anguish and emotional distress caused by the victim’s death. A wrongful death attorney will include in your claim elements such as:
- loss of companionship
- loss of services and support the deceased person provided to the family
- loss of guidance.
As we explained above, at the present there are no caps on non-economic damages for a medical professional’s error, as a result of a court of appeal ruling earlier this year.
Punitive damages are usually awarded at the end of a wrongful death trial if the plaintiff can prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that the responsible party acted with gross negligence, malice or intentional conduct in causing the victim’s death.
The caps on punitive damages are the greater between:
- three times the compensatory amount awarded to each claimant
Reasons to Hire a Wrongful Death law Firm to Represent You
Filing civil claims in Florida is a complex matter even in simpler circumstances, such as a personal injury claim. When you are dealing with emotional trauma caused by a loved one’s death, you are unable to focus on all the procedures and aspects required by law to file the claim or lawsuit. Insurance adjusters working for the responsible party’s insurance company have no compassion for your loss. They will fight you at every step of the way, trying to dismiss your claim or minimize the financial compensation they have to pay.
It is unfair and painful, but this is the true state of the matters. Any wrongful death attorney in our legal team has experienced these situations and knows how to deal with them. Whenever we file a claim for damages on behalf of our clients, we are strictly focused on getting the maximum compensation and your right to see justice served.
Here are some important reasons to retain a wrongful death attorney, instead of trying to negotiate on your own:
We Can Uncover a Critical Piece of Evidence
Lawyers know where to look for evidence that firmly establishes a person’s responsibility for the death in question. We leave no aspect to chance and look for:
- the police report prepared at the accident scene (if applicable)
- medical records linking the cause of death with the accident
- CCTV recordings
- expert witnesses.
We Will File Your Claim on Time
In the state of Florida, you have a period of time of 2 (two) years after a person’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you exceed this statute of limitations, the court will dismiss your suit without hearing it. We know that time becomes immaterial during the grieving process. And that is why you should let an experienced wrongful death attorney take care of all the legal procedures on your behalf.
We Can Negotiate Out of Court or Take Your Case to Trial
Although many personal injury attorneys are happy to settle for the amount they can obtain during negotiations with the insurance company, we are not happy until we obtain a fair compensation for your pain and loss. If we cannot reach a satisfactory settlement amount by negotiations, we are fully prepared to represent you in a personal injury lawsuit – and win it.
Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer Who Puts You First!
At Porter Law Firm, each client is a real person, not a case number. Our mission is to give a voice to victims who can no longer state their case and secure a financial future for their bereaved families. We take the time to know you and your case personally, and we are always available to discuss with you about the progress we’ve made and what happens next.
If your loved one has lost their life due to somebody else’s negligence, reckless behavior or willful intent, the Porter Law Firm is ready to assist you in your wrongful death claim. Call us now: 888-711-1766!
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