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Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida: How to Know if You Have a Valid Claim

March 1, 2024 – Michael S. Herman, Jr., Esq.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida: How to Know if You Have a Valid Claim

Losing a loved one is an indescribably painful experience, especially when their death results from someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. In Florida, the law provides a path for survivors to seek justice and compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. How do you know if you have a valid claim? This blog will answer that question and explain what else you need to know so you can take the first steps toward healing and restitution.

Have you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence?  Britto & Herman Injury Lawyers are here to help and advocate on your behalf. Contact us at (561) 835-5555 for a complementary case evaluation with a wrongful death attorney from our team.

What is Wrongful Death in Florida?

In Florida, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the negligent, careless, or intentional actions of another person or entity. This legal concept is designed to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and provide financial support to the deceased person’s (decedent) family, recognizing the profound impact a sudden loss can have on a family, both emotionally and financially.

The Florida Wrongful Death Act

The Florida Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statutes Sections 768.16-768.26) is the foundation for supporting families who have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence. It emphasizes shifting the financial and emotional burdens from the survivors to the at-fault party, ensuring that families receive the necessary support during their time of loss.

Key Elements of a Valid Wrongful Death Lawsuit

To establish a valid wrongful death case in Florida, you must prove:

  • Duty of Care: This means that the defendant (alleged negligent party) had a legal obligation to act in a certain way toward the decedent. For example, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely to avoid harming others.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to fulfill their duty of care. Using the driving example, running a red light would be a breach of the duty to drive safely.
  • Causation: There must be a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the death of the decedent. In other words, the wrongful act or negligence directly caused the death that occurred.
  • Damages: The death must result in quantifiable damages. This includes not only economic damages like funeral expenses and lost income but also non-economic damages such as the emotional suffering of the survivors.

In a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, proving these four elements is critical to establishing the defendant’s liability and securing compensation for the survivors. This legal standard ensures that wrongful death claims are substantiated by clear evidence of negligence or wrongful action leading to someone’s death, aligning with the principles of justice and accountability. This is why consulting with lawyers for wrongful death is crucial.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit, for the benefit of the decedent’s immediate family members and the estate. This ensures the lawsuit is managed properly and any compensation awarded is appropriately distributed.

Compensation for the Loss

Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can be broadly categorized into economic (tangible losses like funeral expenses, medical expenses, lost income and lost net accumulations) and non-economic damages (intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of support and services of a loved-one and loss of companionship). In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior and deter similar conduct in the future. Florida law allows both the decedent’s estate and the statutory survivors to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Whether a family member qualifies for damages as a statutory survivor depends on their relationship to the decedent as well as whether the decedent was married or unmarried at the time of death. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for damages as a survivor after a family member’s wrongful death.

Statute of Limitations

In Florida, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years from the date of death. There are very few exceptions to this rule, making it crucial to consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure your claim is filed on time.

The Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida

The process begins with consulting an experienced wrongful death attorney, who can advise you on the viability of your claim and the best course of action. After choosing to proceed, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, gather evidence, and file a lawsuit on your behalf. While many wrongful death claims are settled out of court, some may go to trial, where a judge or jury will make the final decision.

Common Challenges in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Proving negligence or fault stands as the cornerstone challenge in any wrongful death lawsuit. This task demands a robust compilation of evidence, including eyewitness testimonies, expert opinions, and forensic analysis, to establish a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the tragic loss of life.

The complexity of demonstrating this causality cannot be understated, as it requires not only showing that the defendant had a duty of care but also that their breach of this duty directly led to the decedent’s death. This often involves intricate legal and medical arguments, particularly in cases where multiple factors could have contributed to the outcome.

In addition, navigating the interactions with insurance companies can significantly intensify the ordeal for the grieving family. Insurance firms are equipped with seasoned legal teams dedicated to reducing the company’s financial exposure. They might challenge the severity of the claim, dispute the evidence presented, or argue that the decedent had a role in their own death, thereby attempting to diminish their liability.

Determining who can be a survivor under Florida’s wrongful death statute is complicated. Florida law separates claims of the estate (lost wages, lost net accumulations, medical bills) from the claims of qualifying survivors in wrongful death actions. Who may qualify as a survivor depends on whether the decedent was married or unmarried and the age of any children. Florida law also callously excludes many family members from the “survivor” category, meaning they cannot recover for the loss of their loved one at all. You need an experienced attorney to evaluate the specific circumstances of your wrongful death claim to determine whether you qualify as a survivor who can recover damages for the loss of a loved one.

Wrongful death settlements may require court approval. Courts will approve the split of the settlement amongst the estate and different survivors.

While no amount of compensation can replace your loved one, pursuing a wrongful death claim can offer a sense of justice and financial security during this challenging time.

Have You Lost a Loved One Due to Someone Else’s Negligence?

If you’re coping with the loss of a loved one and believe their death was caused by someone else’s negligence, we encourage you to reach out for legal support. Consulting an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide you with clarity, peace of mind, and the best chance for a favorable outcome in your case.

With over 25 years of combined experience, our team, led by Attorney Daniel Britto, a Board Certified Trial Lawyer, and Michael S. Herman, Jr., Esq., an aggressive, client-minded advocate, is uniquely qualified to unravel the complexities of wrongful death cases to protect your rights and interests.

We recognize the challenges in determining negligence, dealing with insurance companies, and claiming rightful compensation after losing a loved one due to another’s negligence. Our approach is tailored to your needs, offering 24/7 availability, free virtual case evaluations, and streamlined, paperless sign-ups. We’re here to simplify your legal journey and help you receive justice and compensation.

If you’ve been searching online for “wrongful death lawyers near me,” contact Britto & Herman Injury Lawyers, The Voice for Florida Injury Victims, instead at (561) 835-5555 or fill out our online form for a free case review. Let us advocate for you if you’ve lost a loved one due to another’s negligence. We serve all Florida counties.

Copyright © 2024. Britto & Herman Injury Lawyers. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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1001 W Indiantown Rd., Suite 101
Jupiter, FL 33458
(561) 835-5555
https://www.brittoherman.com/

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