The death of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences to go through. This pain is only multiplied when their death could have been prevented had someone acted in a manner that they are legally expected to. Due to this pain, it is important to allow yourself time to heal. This is difficult, however, when you need to find justice and compensation through a legal battle. Therefore, it is essential that you are aware of the necessary elements to winning wrongful death lawsuits and how those elements can be fulfilled so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.
If you need legal advice in bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, then contact The Law Place today. We can put you in contact with a dedicated wrongful death attorney who can provide you with a free consultation in order to help you understand how to make a successful wrongful death claim. Our dedicated team, with over 75 years of combined experience, prioritize the attorney-client relationship and wants to help you achieve justice.
Tell us about your case today in a free consultation at (941) 444-4444.
What Is Wrongful Death?
The definition of wrongful death can be found in Florida Statute 768.19, and is defined as when a death is caused by the “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person,” as long as the person injured could have recovered damages if the death had not happened.
This definition can be broken down into three main requirements for a wrongful death claim:
- The death of the victim must have been directly caused by the conduct of the defendant.
- The defendant’s conduct must have been a wrongful act, negligence, a default, or a breach of contract or warranty of any person.
- If the conduct had not caused death, then the victim would have been entitled to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.
In order to win a wrongful death case, it is important to ensure that you can prove that these elements occurred within the experience of the deceased.
What Are the Different Types of Wrongful Death?
There are several situations where wrongful death can occur. Examples of such situations include:
- Automobile accident – This category of incident involves someone acting negligently while driving a vehicle and causing death as a result.
- Workplace incident – The workplace of the deceased can be held liable for wrongful death due to the duty of care they have for their employees.
- Product liability – This can come as a result of the mislabeling of a product or the malfunctioning of a product, which causes wrongful death.
- Medical malpractice – If a hospital or individual physician has acted against their duty of care in looking after a patient and has caused death as a result, then a wrongful death action can be brought against them.
- Nursing home neglect/abuse – If a staff member or nursing home has caused the death of a resident by acting below a reasonable standard of care, then the nursing home may be liable for a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Is Negligence?
The general definition of negligence is a failure to meet the expected level of care when compared to a reasonable person in the same situation. It has been expanded upon in case law to the point where there are now four necessary aspects that need to be identified in order to find a defendant to be negligent:
- A duty of care – A legal responsibility to protect someone from harm.
- A breach of duty of care – The duty spoken of above must have been breached.
- Causation – The breach must be proven as having been a direct consequence of the defendant’s conduct.
- Damage – The breach must have caused damage (injury or loss) to the victim (in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit, the damage needing to be proved is death).
The burden of proof for negligence is placed on the plaintiff. This means that if you are bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is your responsibility to prove that there was a duty of care that was directly caused by the defendant’s conduct which then caused damage.
What Is a Duty of Care?
At its most basic, the duty of care is a legal responsibility to provide a reasonable standard of care to another person. It is quite a broad concept, ranging from the duty of care that an employer owes an employee to the duty of care that a person driving a car owes other road users.
How Is Causation Proven?
To prove negligence, you must prove causation. This means that the breach of the duty of care must have been caused directly by the defendant’s conduct. This is summarised in the Florida Standard Jury Instruction 401.12(a), which states that causation can be found as long as the defendant’s conduct “directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such injury, so that it can reasonably be said that, but for the negligence, the injury would not have occurred.”
The most simple way to understand if causation is present in your case is to apply the “but for” test – “but for” the defendant’s conduct, would the wrongful death have occurred? If the answer is no, then you have found causation and have satisfied an element of negligence.
How do You Prove Damage?
As the burden of proof is placed upon the plaintiff to prove negligence, physical evidence must be provided by you to prove damage. This damage can be physical, mental, or financial (or any combination of the three).
It is important to highlight all damage that was incurred, in addition to the wrongful death, as a result of the negligence so that you can achieve suitable compensation and receive justice.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed by a personal representative on behalf of the deceased, as is provided for in The Florida Wrongful Death Act. The identity of the personal representative is usually determined by the will of the victim or, failing a will or estate plan, will be appointed by the court. This is usually one of the immediate family members of the deceased.
The list of those who can sue for wrongful death is specifically set out in the Florida Wrongful Death Act. Here, specific family members of the deceased or the incident are stated and include the following:
- Survivors of the incident which caused the wrongful death.
- The surviving spouse of the victim.
- Children of the deceased.
- Parents of minor children who were victims of wrongful death.
How Long Do I Have to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you wish to file a wrongful death claim, then it is important to make your claim as soon as possible. According to Florida Statute 95.11, an action for wrongful death must be brought within two years of the death of the victim. We understand that wrongful death claims can be difficult to make, especially with the added time pressures afforded by the law. This is why it is important to be as well-informed as possible to make the process as smooth as possible.
What Damages Can I Recover From a Wrongful Death Claim?
It is important to recover financial compensation if the wrongful death of a loved one has occurred. In recovering compensation through your wrongful death lawsuit, you can focus on your grieving process and allow yourself time and resources to heal.
The different types of damages that are available after making a successful wrongful death claim are identified in Florida Statute 768.21:
- Medical or funeral expenses – It is possible to recover expenses paid for medical bills or funeral costs that have occurred as a result of the wrongful death of the deceased.
- Recovery for the deceased’s estate – This can include medical or funeral expenses charged against the estate, as well as any lost wages.
- Loss of support and services – This includes the future loss of support and services as well as the support and services lost from the date of the deceased’s injury to the date of their death.
- Loss of companionship and pain and suffering – This category of damages allows you to recover damages for any emotional trauma that has resulted from the wrongful death.
- Loss of parental companionship – This allows minor children of the deceased, or all of the deceased’s children if there are no surviving parents, to recover damages in order to compensate for the loss of parental companionship and guidance, as well as any resulting pain and suffering from this loss.
Contact the Law Place About Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit Today!
The emotional impact that the death of a loved one can have is already hugely significant, so it is important to relieve the pressure that finding legal justice may bring. If you need a lawyer or require legal advice, then contact The Law Place today! Our team of dedicated personal injury attorneys wants to relieve this pressure as much as possible and help bring justice to your case. We can provide you with a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney who can help you to understand how to win a wrongful death lawsuit.
To book your free consultation, contact The Law Place today at (941) 444-4444.