No amount of money can ever make the loss of a loved one OK. Nothing can restore your life to what it was before someone’s negligence or wrongdoing took that life from you.
While nothing can bring someone back to life, a wrongful death lawsuit can ease the financial burden that so often comes with a death in the family.
My Price Lawyers is here to connect you with an experienced and affordable wrongful death attorney, in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area, who will stand by you during this difficult time and fight for justice for you and your family.
You do not have to face this alone. Please contact us today.
Why A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death applies when someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing or if their death was caused by a defective product. The same conditions that are necessary for a personal injury lawsuit are necessary for a wrongful death claim.
Through a wrongful death lawsuit, you can recover monetary compensation from the party who was liable for your loved one’s death. It is a civil case, not a criminal case. Wrongful death is not designed to punish. There does not have to be a crime involved. Negligence is all that is necessary. No one goes to jail as a result of a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, wrongful death lawsuits can also be brought in cases where a crime was committed. And, you can recover compensation even if the defendant is not convicted through a criminal trial. The standard of proof required for a criminal conviction is very high, as it should be, because a criminal defendant is in jeopardy of losing his freedom and in some cases his life. In a civil suit, the only thing that can be taken from the defendant is money. For that reason, the level of proof required to win a wrongful death claim is lower. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.
But still the question, why go through it all when you are grieving the loss of someone dear and nothing can ever bring them back or fill that horrible void in your life? The answer is twofold:
- Wrongful death compensation can help you and your family in a very real and tangible way. The loss of the loved one often comes at a great financial cost. If you relied on your loved one for support, you are probably very frightened about what the future may hold.
Wrongful death compensation can take that uncertainty out of the picture for you. For children, the loss of a parent can mean losing the chance to go to college or engage in other life-enriching and financially enriching experiences that the lost parent would have helped pay for. The financial compensation from a wrongful death settlement can restore those opportunities. It can mean the ability to continue growing up in their home and community and maintain the standard of living they are accustomed to, in spite of the financial blow to the family caused by the parent’s death.
- The second reason is less tangible, but often more meaningful to those who have lost someone needlessly. Wrongful death gives you the chance to pursue justice for your loved one’s death in cases where the criminal justice system offers nothing.
When someone causes a death through their negligence, it is called an “accident” and rarely rises to the level of negligence that leads to criminal prosecution.
Doctors and other medical professionals who kill people with their negligence, do not face criminal charges and may not even face a reprimand without action on the parts of loved ones like you.
And corporations? Forget it. When big companies cause deaths, even knowingly, it is almost always to increase their bottom line. They are rarely held accountable and are allowed to continue causing more injuries and deaths for their own profit. A wrongful death lawsuit not only holds them accountable to you, it can give them the bad press that they desperately try to escape. The amount of money they may have to pay to you is small change compared to their profits, but bringing their disregard for human life or the flaws in their products to light can make a big impact.
Accidents and injuries Leading to a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Any type of accident or injury that would have given your loved one the right to file a personal injury lawsuit, had they survived, can also be the basis for a wrongful death suit. If your loved one was pursuing a personal injury lawsuit when they passed away, that lawsuit terminated upon their death, but you can still pursue wrongful death. Of course, you can sue for wrongful death whether or not your deceased loved one sought compensation for their injuries.
Examples of the types of accidents and injuries that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Auto accidents
- Accidents involving commercial trucks
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall
- Dog Bites and Animal Attacks
- Negligent and overzealous security
- Swimming pool accidents
- Product liability
- Defective Drugs
- Defective Medical Products
- Medical Malpractice
- Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
- Sports-related accidents
Who Can Receive Wrongful Death Compensation
Each state has different rules for who is eligible to receive wrongful death compensation.
The following can recover wrongful death damages in Florida:
- Surviving spouse
- Minor children – under the age of 25
- Adult children
- Parents of minor and adult children
- Blood relatives and adopted siblings who are dependent on the deceased
- The estate
The law is not always fair or kind. Fiancés are not eligible as survivors. Neither are boyfriends or girlfriends, even those who have lived together for decades or have children together. Children of deceased fathers, who were born out of wedlock, are only eligible if the father acknowledged financial responsibility while alive.
One of the cruelest scenarios is the surviving “spouse” who discovers they were never considered a spouse under Florida law. Common law marriage cannot be formed in the state of Florida, no matter how long you live together or how you represented yourselves as a couple. The only common law marriages that are recognized by the courts in Florida are those that were formed in the state before January 2, 1968 and those that were formed legally in the few states that allow it.
Florida Wrongful Death Damages
Florida wrongful death law specifies what types of damages are available and who is entitled to which types of damages. Your relationship to the deceased and the existence or lack of other survivors can play a role in determining what type of damages you can receive.
Damages available to all survivors include:
- Lost financial support, from the date of injury forward
- Replacement value of lost services, from the date of injury forward
- Medical and funeral expenses that have been paid by the survivor
Services are the tasks your loved one performed for you and your family. This can include childcare, caring for an ill or disabled family member, home maintenance, shopping, and many other tasks. Lost services falls under economic damages, because you can calculate a dollar amount it would cost to hire someone to perform them. Lost services acknowledges the economic impact of the loss of a loved one whose contribution was not made in cash earned at a job, but through the hard work they did for you and your family.
Additionally, a surviving spouse can recover:
- Loss of companionship and protection
- Pain and suffering
For the purposes of a Florida wrongful death claim, a minor child is defined as a child who is under 25 years old. Minor children are entitled to compensation for:
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance
- Pain and suffering
If there is no surviving spouse, adult children are also entitled to damages specifically designated for minor children, unless the wrongful death claim stems from medical negligence.
Parents of a deceased minor child can recover damages for pain and suffering. Parents of a deceased adult child can also recover damages for pain and suffering if there are no other survivors and if death was not the result of medical negligence.
Damages that go to the estate include:
- Medical and funeral expenses that were paid by the estate
- Lost income of the deceased minus lost support awarded to survivors
- Contribution the deceased would have made to the estate had they survived
The time limit for filing a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations. In Florida the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death, but there are some factors that can affect how much time you really have. Some factors give you more time to file a claim and some shorten the amount of time.
If you believe that you may have a wrongful death claim, please talk to an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney right away to make sure that your legal right to pursue compensation is protected. The attorneys at My Price Lawyers will need to begin the investigation as soon as possible so we can file a claim before the statute of limitations expires.
The “discovery rule” extends the amount of time that you have to file by delaying the date on which the clock starts running. Instead of starting on the date of death, it starts on the day that you discovered or should have discovered that the death was the result of negligence, wrongdoing or a defective product.
In Florida medical malpractice cases the discovery rule holds less weight. The discovery rule still only gives you four years to file, even if the malpractice was discovered more than two years after your loved one’s death, unless the malpractice was intentionally hidden. Then you have two years from the date of discovery but still only up to seven years after your loved one’s death.
Florida has done away with the statute of limitations for wrongful death in cases of murder and manslaughter with the Jeffery Klee Memorial Act, passed in 2010. The exception applies even if no criminal charges are filed.