If you have recently lost a loved one in a way you believe could have been prevented, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity responsible. However, although all deaths feel wrong to surviving loved ones, not all deaths can be termed wrongful in terms of the law.
To determine whether you have a valid legal case, it is important to understand the intricacies of wrongful death law. Follow these steps to know if you have a valid wrongful death case in Florida.
Are You Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
The first thing to know is if you have the standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in the first place.
Florida law requires the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file any wrongful death suits.
If the decedent did not have a will or had not named an executor, the court will appoint one. Although the executor is the only person who can file a wrongful death claim, they are not the only party who can benefit.
The decedent’s surviving family members can all be beneficiaries to any settlement achieved from the lawsuit. This typically includes a spouse, children, and any other financial dependents.
Unlike many other states, most family members cannot raise a wrongful death claim in Florida. However, if the case involves the death of a young child, parents may be able to raise a claim. This is not the case for adult children.
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If I Still Want to Sue, How Do I Become the Executor?
A loved one’s death can make you feel powerless and suing can feel like you’re doing something about the matter. Unfortunately, even with a family connection, you still must follow Florida’s laws.
The easy way to gain executorship is to get named in the will prior to your loved one’s death. If someone else is already named, you likely will not be able to get executorship. However, if they died without a will, known as intestate, you may have a chance.
You’ll need to convince the probate court that you wish to take on the responsibility of settling the estate. The best way to do that is to hire a probate attorney to argue on your behalf in front of the court. Alternatively, you could let the court-appointed executor know your wishes, though they don’t have to follow them.
Are You Within the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Case?
For most types of cases, there are laws in place regarding how long you have following an incident to file a lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations. In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years.
If you wait beyond this deadline, you will not be allowed by the court to make a claim. The reasoning is that the accused has a right to a speedy trial. By waiting too long, you deny them that right.
Plus, cases filed too late are harder to win. Memories fade and evidence gets lost. The sooner you can file your case, the better to avoid any unexpected delays and difficulties pursuing your wrongful death case in Florida.
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Was the Death Truly Wrongful?
The last step is to determine who may be held responsible for your loved one’s death. This is where wrongful death cases get the most complicated, as it can be difficult to accurately assign blame depending on the nature of the case.
For example, with an auto accident, your legal team will need to demonstrate that the accident was most likely the result of the other driver’s negligence or impairment and not simply an unfortunate accident.
Other cases, like those involving criminal acts, as in a scenario of someone being hit by a stray bullet from a bank robbery, can be a bit more straightforward. Medical malpractice, defective products, workplace hazards, and negligence are other common causes of wrongful death.
Of course, there are many other instances that could also result in a wrongful death, so don’t immediately discount your case’s potential if you don’t see your type of situation in this list. A wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether your case is valid in Florida.
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What Should I Do If I Think I Have a Valid Claim?
Whether you are confident that you have a strong wrongful death occurrence or still need help determining the validity of your claim, the best route for you to take is to discuss your case with a wrongful death lawyer.
An attorney with experience in these cases can evaluate the details of your situation to give you informed guidance. Be sure to schedule your initial consultation with your attorney well in advance of the statute of limitations running out to ensure you are able to file your case in time if you choose to proceed.
Depending on the circumstances, an insurer may be the one you ultimately sue. They could try to approach you and your lawyer with a settlement instead of going to trial. Your lawyer will study the matter and tell you if it is in your best interest to take it or not.
The Attorneys at Andrew Pickett Law Are Here to Help
When you are ready to take the next step in your wrongful death lawsuit, reach out to the team at Andrew Pickett Law. We would be more than happy to dive deeper into your situation to help determine whether your lawsuit has a chance of a favorable outcome in court.
Your initial consultation is completely free, and there is no obligation after the fact. Contact us today to reserve your appointment to learn more about how we can help you get the resolution you deserve.