What is a Wrongful Death?
When an individual dies as the result of negligence on the part of another person or entity, that person’s loved ones may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit which seeks compensation for losses experienced by the family members. The right to bring a wrongful death claim is relatively new—it is only during the last century that state and federal courts created the right of surviving family members to bring a wrongful death claim.
In the state of Florida, Statutes Section 768.19 state that if an individual’s death is “caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract” of another person or entity, the estate of the deceased has the right to bring a civil claim which seeks a legal remedy for the death and the resulting losses.
According to PBS, there are as many as 250,000 annual deaths caused by preventable medical error—medical malpractice. Another 34,000-38,000 Americans are killed in automobile crashes each year, often due to the negligence of another driver. Add to those numbers, fatalities from slip and falls, fatalities from dangerous drugs or devices, workplace fatalities and fatalities from assault or other violent acts, and you can understand the need for holding those responsible for a death accountable.
If your loved one died as the result of the negligence of another, you need to be able to take the time to grieve while an experienced South Florida wrongful death attorney from Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti handles the legal aspects. Our attorneys are assertive and uncompromising on what we will accept on your behalf. We understand the situation you are in, both emotionally and financially, and believe we can help you during this traumatic time.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Individual states vary somewhat as far as who is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, only specific, close relatives of the deceased are allowed to bring a wrongful deal claim. Those family member include the spouse of the deceased, his or her children or parents, any dependent blood relatives, any dependent adoptive brothers or sisters, a child born out of wedlock of a deceased mother and a child born out of wedlock of a deceased father (if it can be shown that the father accepted responsibility for the child’s support). Those who are allowed to recover damages following a wrongful death in Florida are known as beneficiaries or survivors.
Typically, these survivors are allowed to seek compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering of the deceased, losses suffered by the spouse of the decedent, loss of companionship, services, financial support or the loss of parental training and guidance and any other expenses resulting from the unexpected death of the decedent. Under Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file the wrongful death claim—if no will or estate plan exists, a personal representative will be court-appointed. While the actual claim is filed by the personal representative, it is filed on behalf of the estate of the deceased and the surviving family members. The personal representative has the responsibility of listing each survivor who has an interest in the case.
Statutes of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in the State of Florida
Just as each state has their own rules regarding who is allowed to file a wrongful death claim, each state also has specific time limits in which the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. In the state of Florida, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the death (with a very few specific exceptions). If the wrongful death claim is not filed within the statute of limitations, then in most cases no claim may be filed.
Causes of Wrongful Deaths
Auto accidents and medical malpractice claims make up the bulk of wrongful death claims, although product liability claims, dangerous drug claims, slip and fall claims, death from negligent security claims and claims resulting from fatalities from assaults or other violent crime are also a part of wrongful death lawsuits. Persons, companies and governmental agencies may be found legally liable if they acted in a negligent manner which then led to a death.
The term “negligent” means the person, company or governmental agency failed to act in the manner a reasonable person would have acted or acted intentionally. While a wrongful death claim can potentially be brought against a wide variety of persons, companies, employees and governmental agencies defendants often fall into the following categories:
- The driver who acted negligently in an automobile accident;
- The employer of a driver who acted negligently in an automobile accident;
- The designer of a flawed roadway;
- The builder of a flawed roadway;
- The manufacturer of a dangerous vehicle or vehicle part;
- The distributor of a dangerous vehicle or vehicle part;
- The doctor who committed medical malpractice;
- The hospital where the doctor who committed medical malpractice works;
- The manufacturer of a dangerous drug;
- The manufacturer of a dangerous medical device;
- An employer who knowingly allowed a hazard in the workplace;
- The person who sold, served or gave alcohol to an already-impaired driver, or
- The owner of the premises where the alcohol was sold.
Under certain circumstances, governmental agencies could be immune from a wrongful death claim—as an example recent federal laws offer immunity from wrongful death lawsuits to defendants in railroad collisions and in certain product liability cases for dangerous medical devices.
What is Required to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
Like most personal injury claims, the majority of wrongful death claims are settled out of court, although some do go before a jury. The attorneys for each side will usually attempt to negotiate an equitable wrongful death settlement out of court, but if that proves to be impossible, then the plaintiff must prove the elements of the claim in order to prevail. These elements include duty of care, breach of duty of care and the causation of death.
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care, which is essentially an obligation to act as another reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. Next, the plaintiff must show the duty of care was breached—the defendant did not act in the same manner as another reasonable person would have under the same circumstances. Finally, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the wrongful death. So, the plaintiff must show that the deceased person more likely than not died due to the negligence of another person.
How Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti Can Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
If your loved one has died due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to compensation for that death. While no amount of money will make up for a life, money can certainly help those who were dependent on the deceased to get through this difficult time financially. The Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti attorneys are experienced wrongful death lawyers who have compassion for your current circumstances.
We work hard to obtain the very best results for our clients and have the experience and knowledge necessary to ensure you receive an equitable wrongful death settlement. With more than 80 years of collective experience, we pride ourselves on providing personal attention to every client. We are not a “lawyer mill”—the attorney you speak to will be the same attorney who will follow through with your case in a personalized, hands-on manner. Contact Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti today to speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer.
If you or a loved one has suffered the premature death of a family member due to negligence, or the reckless or criminal behavior of another, consult the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Hoffman, Larin, & Agnetti today. Our firm will aggressively seek maximum compensation to help you handle medical and funeral expenses, lost wages of the deceased, and other financial and emotional consequences. The law surrounding wrongful death, however, allows legal action to be taken only for a limited period of time. When this period has elapsed, you will no longer have the option of filing a lawsuit. Call for a free consultation today.