Legal Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful Death injuries

Death is inevitable.  Most of us have experienced the loss of a close friend or family member.  We expect that as we age, our bodies will deteriorate and that we will eventually die.  We don’t expect, however, that our lives or the lives of our loved ones will be cut short unnaturally due to the negligence of someone else.  A wrongful death case is a civil action in which damages are sought against a person or entity for causing a death that results from negligence or an intentional act.  It can be extremely devastating to surviving family members when the death of a loved one was caused by someone else’s negligence and could have been prevented. In the context of wrongful death cases, insurance companies often try to take advantage of the survivor’s family members. This is why having an experienced legal team on your side can help bring justice and compensation to loved ones and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. 

If a loved one died due to the negligence or intentional act of someone else, the survivors may have a claim against the person or entity that caused the death. Florida statutes determine who may sue for wrongful death and when that person may sue. If you believe you have a potential wrongful death claim, you should always contact me for a free consultation, especially if you are not sure whether you can pursue a claim. I will investigate the circumstances and let you know if you have a case. My consultations are always free so that you are able to learn if you have a case without spending any money. 

Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The first step you should take if you believe you have a wrongful death lawsuit is to make sure you are entitled to bring the lawsuit or qualify as a “survivor.” Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute defines survivors as:

  1. The decedent’s spouse
  2. Children
  3. Parents
  4. Blood relatives who are dependent on the decedent for support and/or services
  5. Blood relatives
  6. Adopted siblings
  7. Children born out of wedlock only if the decedent is paying support for the children

The personal representative of the decedent’s estate must file the lawsuit on behalf of the survivors. Once you determine that you are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you then need to consider the elements of the lawsuit. 

Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Once the probate court appoints a personal representative or executor of the estate, that person files the wrongful death lawsuit. If you are a survivor but not the personal representative, you may still consult with me regarding the wrongful death. 

Survivors in a wrongful death lawsuit may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value.  The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.   Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors. Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by a survivor who has paid them.

Who May Be Sued for Wrongful Death?

Defendants in a lawsuit could include:

  • The person at fault in an automobile accident, as long as that person’s behavior is negligent. 
  • An employer who doesn’t follow safety regulations. An employer who refuses to provide properly maintained safety equipment to prevent injuries and deaths may be liable in a wrongful death accident.
  • A person who sold alcohol to an already-impaired driver. The owners of the premises where the alcohol was served may also be held liable.
  • A builder or designer of faulty roads and bridges.
  • A doctor whom you are suing for medical malpractice. The doctor’s actions must be negligent. Such actions may include not diagnosing your loved one properly—or at all, or performing surgery in a negligent manner, whether under the influence or without the proper knowledge.  It should be noted that the definition of “survivors” is different in a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from medical malpractice. Survivors in a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit include the surviving spouse of the decedent and children under the age of 25.

What to Do Before You Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer

Before you contact our office, there are some guidelines you should follow. Gather all documents related to the incident. These might include medical records, medical bills, funeral expenses, police reports, and death certificates.  Other than reporting the claim, never discuss the incident with your insurance company. 

Contact Andrew Pickett Law for Help with a Legal Lawsuit

Call my office or visit my website at Andrew Pickett Law to schedule a consultation to discuss your wrongful death case. I can help you determine whether you should file a wrongful death lawsuit and your next steps to take. 

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