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What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Flanagan & Bodenheimer Injury and Wrongful Death Law Firm
what is a wrongful death lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought against a party whose negligent, reckless, or intentional actions resulted in the death of another person. These lawsuits seek to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and provide compensation to the surviving family members for their losses.

In Florida, wrongful death claims are governed by the Florida Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statutes 768.16 – 768.26), which outlines who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, the types of damages that may be awarded, and the statute of limitations for filing a claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?

In Florida, only a personal representative can bring a lawsuit for the benefit of certain individuals who are legally entitled to compensation. These individuals typically include:

  • Surviving Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased person has the first right to file a wrongful death claim in Florida.
  • Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person’s children may file a wrongful death claim.
  • Parents: If the deceased person is a minor child, the parents may file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person is an adult with no surviving spouse or children, the parents may also file a claim.
  • Other Dependent Relatives: In some cases, other dependent relatives who relied on the deceased person for financial support may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

According to Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is typically the individual who files a wrongful death suit on behalf of the surviving family members. The personal representative may be appointed in the decedent’s will or by the court if there is no will or previously appointed personal representative.

Proving Liability in Wrongful Death Cases

To succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty through negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.
  • Causation: The defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the deceased person’s death.
  • Damages: The surviving family members suffered damages as a result of the death.

What Damages Are Available in Florida Wrongful Death Cases?

  • Economic Damages: This category covers financial losses incurred as a result of the death, such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost income and benefits, and the value of services and support provided by the deceased.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages compensate for intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress experienced by the surviving family members.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases involving egregious conduct or gross negligence, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.

How Do I Know If I Am Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?

If you believe that your loved one’s death may qualify as wrongful death in Florida, there are several key indicators to consider:

  • Negligence or Wrongful Conduct: Was your loved one’s death caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of another person or entity?
  • Relationship to the Deceased: Are you a surviving spouse, child, parent, or dependent relative of the deceased person?  If not, will those survivors consent to you bringing the claims on their behalf as personal representative of the deceased?
  • Financial Dependence: Did you rely on the deceased person for financial support or services?
  • Statute of Limitations: How long ago did the person die or did the original injury occur.  In Florida, typically the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death (with a few exceptions).

Determining whether you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim can be complex, especially during a time of grief and emotional distress. Consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial to understanding your rights and options under Florida law. An attorney can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death, advise you on the legal merits of your case, and guide you through the process of pursuing a wrongful death claim. Even if you believe you are past the statute of limitations, you should still contact an attorney to see if you can still bring a claim.

Examples of Wrongful Death Claims

wrongful death examples florida

Wrongful death lawsuits encompass a wide spectrum of circumstances where negligence, misconduct, or recklessness leads to the loss of a loved one. These acts may include, but are not limited to:

Car Accidents

Tragically, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death in Florida. Wrongful death claims arising from car, truck, or motorcycle accidents may involve:

  • Drunk driving collisions
  • Distracted driving accidents, such as texting while driving
  • Speeding or reckless driving
  • Failure to obey traffic laws or signals

Truck Accidents

Accidents involving commercial trucks can have devastating consequences due to their size and weight. Wrongful death claims in truck accidents may include:

  • Collisions with semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, or delivery vehicles
  • Improper loading or securing of cargo leading to spills or accidents
  • Driver fatigue or violations of federal hours-of-service regulations

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents often result in severe injuries or fatalities due to the lack of protection for riders. Wrongful death claims in motorcycle accidents may involve:

  • Failure of other drivers to yield the right-of-way or observe motorcyclists
  • Road hazards or defects contributing to accidents
  • Negligent or reckless behavior by other motorists, such as aggressive driving or lane splitting

Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to serious injuries or fatalities in accidents involving motor vehicles. Wrongful death claims in pedestrian accidents may include:

  • Hit-and-run accidents where the driver flees the scene
  • Failure of drivers to yield to pedestrians in designated areas
  • Negligent or distracted driving leading to pedestrian fatalities

Medical Malpractice

Medical errors can have devastating consequences, leading to wrongful death claims in cases such as:

  • Surgical errors, including wrong-site surgery or anesthesia errors
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a serious medical condition
  • Medication errors resulting in overdose or adverse reactions
  • Birth injuries due to obstetric negligence or improper prenatal care

Workplace Accidents

Fatal workplace accidents can occur in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, and transportation. Wrongful death claims in workplace accidents may involve:

  • Falls from heights, such as scaffolding or ladders
  • Equipment malfunctions or machinery accidents
  • Exposure to hazardous substances or environmental toxins
  • Failure to provide adequate safety training or protective gear

Defective Products

Defective products pose serious risks to consumers, potentially leading to fatal accidents. Wrongful death claims in product liability cases may stem from:

  • Design defects that render products unreasonably dangerous
  • Manufacturing defects resulting in product malfunctions or failures
  • Inadequate warnings or instructions for proper product use
  • Contaminated or adulterated consumer goods, such as food or pharmaceuticals

Premises Liability

Property owners have a duty to maintain safe conditions on their premises and warn visitors of any hazards. Wrongful death claims in premises liability cases may involve:

  • Slip and fall accidents due to wet or slippery floors
  • Inadequate security leading to assaults, robberies, or shootings
  • Dog attacks or animal-related injuries on the property
  • Structural defects or hazards causing building collapses or fires

Negligent Security Leading to Shootings

Tragic shootings occurring on commercial or residential premises can result in wrongful death claims if it can be shown that the property owner or manager failed to provide adequate security measures to prevent foreseeable harm. Examples of negligent security leading to shootings may include:

  • Inadequate lighting in parking lots or stairwells
  • Failure to screen guests or patrons for weapons
  • Lack of surveillance cameras or security personnel
  • Failure to respond to previous incidents of violence or criminal activity on the premises

Construction Accidents

Construction sites are inherently hazardous environments, and when safety protocols are disregarded or proper precautions are not taken, fatal accidents can occur. Wrongful death claims in construction accident cases may involve:

  • Falls from scaffolding or heights
  • Crane or forklift accidents
  • Electrocution from exposed wiring or faulty equipment
  • Collapses of structures or trenches

Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse

Elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are vulnerable to neglect and abuse by caregivers. Wrongful death claims in nursing home cases may stem from:

  • Failure to provide adequate medical care or supervision
  • Medication errors or overdoses
  • Physical or emotional abuse by staff members
  • Neglect leading to malnutrition, dehydration, or infections

If you believe that you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim in Florida, it’s essential to seek legal guidance from experienced wrongful death attorneys. Flanagan & Bodenheimer Injury and Wrongful Death Law Firm is committed to providing compassionate support and vigorous advocacy as you seek justice and accountability on behalf of your loved one. Contact us 24/7 at 305-638-4143 for a free consultation.

Is there a difference between a criminal case and a wrongful death lawsuit?

Yes, a criminal case is brought by the state to punish the wrongdoer for a crime, while a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought by the family of the deceased to seek compensation for their losses resulting from the death.

What if the wrongful death occurred due to a criminal act?

If the death resulted from a criminal act, such as homicide, the responsible party may face both criminal charges and a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys can assist in navigating these complexities to ensure your rights are protected.

Will I have to go to court for a wrongful death lawsuit?

While many cases are settled out of court through negotiation or mediation, some cases may proceed to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. Our attorneys are skilled litigators prepared to represent you effectively in court if necessary.

How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take to resolve?

The duration of a wrongful death lawsuit can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and court scheduling.

How much does it cost to hire a wrongful death attorney?

At Flanagan & Bodenheimer, we work on a contingency fee basis for wrongful death cases. This means you pay no upfront costs, and our fees are contingent upon us securing compensation for you. We only get paid if you win.

What should I do if I suspect wrongful death but I’m unsure?

If you suspect that a loved one’s death may have been the result of negligence or wrongdoing, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney. We offer free consultations to evaluate your case and provide guidance on the next steps.

Free Consultation With a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney

florida wrongful death lawyers

At Flanagan & Bodenheimer, we understand the immense emotional and financial toll that wrongful death cases can have on families. Our Florida wrongful death attorneys are committed to providing personalized legal representation and pursuing maximum compensation for our clients. With a track record of success in wrongful death litigation, we have the knowledge, resources, and dedication to guide you through every step of the legal process. Our law firm has recovered millions of dollars for families throughout Florida. Click here to see some of our results. 

If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death incident, don’t hesitate to contact Flanagan & Bodenheimer for aggressive legal representation. Call us 24/7 at 305-638-4143 or complete our online form for a free consultation. 

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