Are you and your family dealing with the loss of a loved one due to an unexpected or preventable death? If so, this is understandably a difficult time for everyone. You may be feeling responsible for the deceased person’s medical costs and funeral expenses, which can lead to an overwhelming number of questions that are hard to answer.
The purpose of this post is to provide answers regarding how wrongful death claims work in Florida and what type of evidence is necessary to prove fault in one. Moreover, we’ll offer advice on how best to ensure you get the justice you deserve by outlining the statute of limitations related specifically to wrongful death cases in Florida as well as giving actionable steps on filing a claim and getting legal representation. No matter what kind of situation you find yourself in concerning wrongful death, we hope that this guide will help bring clarity during these turbulent times.
Defining a wrongful death lawsuit
After someone else’s wrongful act or negligence, a person can file suit for “wrongful death.” Wrongful death lawsuits seek to recover damages for the losses sustained by family members due to their loved one’s untimely passing. If you’re looking to prove a wrongful death, you must understand Florida law regarding these types of cases.
Florida law states that a wrongful death must be based on a claimant’s ability to prove that the death of their loved one was caused by another person’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. In other words, you must be able to present evidence that someone else is responsible for your loved one’s passing.
Statute of limitations
For all wrongful death cases in Florida, the statute of limitations is two years, meaning that a claimant must file suit within two years of the deceased person’s passing. It’s important to note that this time limit applies to all aspects of a wrongful death lawsuit and all claims related to it.
The burden of proof in wrongful death lawsuits
A wrongful death suit is a civil lawsuit and not a criminal charge. The burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is much lower than in criminal cases. To be successful, plaintiffs need only prove that the defendant’s negligence was more likely than not the cause of their loved one’s death.
Wrongful death case: causes, elements, evidence
To prove wrongful death has taken place, plaintiffs must establish the cause and essential elements accompanied by conclusive evidence to support the claim.
Common causes of wrongful death
The most common causes of wrongful death include motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, defective products, and acts of violence.
Elements of a wrongful death claim
The four essential elements of a wrongful death claim are:
- Negligence – This can include any careless, intentional, or reckless behavior that directly leads to the death of a person.
- Breach of duty – This simply means that the person who caused the wrongful death was legally obligated to provide care and safety to the deceased individual and failed to do so.
- Proving Causation – There are two types of causation; proximate, which is the direct cause of death, and actual, which means that the harm would not have occurred if it were not for the wrongful acts or omissions of another.
- Damages – This refers to any losses incurred by the deceased person’s family due to his/her passing. Three types of damages can be incurred in a wrongful death case: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Conclusive evidence to prove wrongful death
To prove wrongful death, claimants must provide conclusive evidence such as:
- Testimony of expert witnesses to establish negligence
- Medical records related to the deceased person’s injury or illness
- Police reports indicating that another party was at fault
- Witness/eyewitness accounts of what occurred prior to and during the incident
- Photos, videos, or other physical evidence from the site of the incident
- Documentation of the deceased person’s financial losses and/or medical expenses
- Testimony from family members regarding the deceased person’s character, interests, etc.
Calculating damages in wrongful death claims
Damages in wrongful death cases are calculated based on a variety of factors, including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are awarded to the claimant to cover any financial losses suffered as a result of their loved one’s death. These may include funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of income or benefits, and other costs associated with the deceased person’s passing.
Non-economic damages refer to compensation for intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress. These damages are more difficult to calculate as they do not have an exact monetary value.
It is important to note that punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their negligent or intentional behavior and serve as a deterrent for similar incidents in the future. However, they are rare and usually only awarded when the defendant’s actions were especially egregious.
Wrongful death settlement
The claimant’s legal team may be able to negotiate a wrongful death settlement with the defendant outside of court. This option can be advantageous as it can save time and money. However, the amount of compensation given in a wrongful death settlement is typically lower than if the case were taken to trial.
It is important to understand the legal process of a wrongful death lawsuit before proceeding with your case. This can help you make informed decisions and improve your chances of receiving the justice and compensation you deserve.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In Florida, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only one who can file a wrongful death claim. This individual will be appointed by either the court or named in the deceased person’s last will. The personal representative may also be a family member, such as the deceased’s spouse, parent, or child.
How to file a wrongful death claim
- Gather evidence – This includes any documents, photos, videos, or other materials that prove negligence.
- Consult with an attorney – A wrongful death lawyer can help you understand the legal process and how to build a strong case.
- File a claim in court – The time frame for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is limited by law.
- Serve the defendant with a summons – This officially notifies them of the lawsuit and gives them time to prepare their defense.
- Gather more evidence – Additional evidence can be collected through witness testimony, expert opinions, reports from medical professionals, etc.
- Negotiate a settlement agreement – This is an option that allows the parties to come to an agreement outside of court, thereby avoiding a costly trial
- Go to court – The case will be tried in front of a judge and jury if no settlement is reached.
No matter what steps you take, consulting with a wrongful death lawyer should always be your first step. A skilled attorney can help you understand the legal process, protect your rights, and build a strong case to seek justice for your loved one.
How a wrongful death attorney can help you
It is wise to hire a lawyer from the Jared Spingarn law firm who has experience in handling wrongful death cases. You can be sure that they are knowledgeable about the laws and regulations related to such claims. They should also be able to provide sound and effective legal advice about how best to proceed.
Once you have hired a lawyer, they will guide you through the process of filing a claim and represent your rights in court. You must keep all communications with them confidential, as anything said can be used against you in court.
In addition to providing legal counsel, your lawyer can work with you to develop a strategy for negotiating a fair wrongful death settlement. They can also help you calculate the number of damages that the defendant owed you.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one. But seeking justice and financial compensation is an important step in the healing process, and having a skilled attorney on your side to help can be invaluable.
A wrongful death suit can be a complicated process, but having experienced legal representation on your side can make a difference. It is also important to remember that there are time limitations in these cases so if you believe you may have a valid claim against a wrongful act, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. With the right team, evidence, and knowledge on how to prove wrongful death, you can ensure that you get the recompense your family deserves and that the deceased person died not in vain but in justice.
>> If someone you know got involved in an accident that resulted in a wrongful death in Florida, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jared Spingarn, Accident Attorney, at 1-954-781-2316 for a Free Case Review or drop a message on their Contact Us page.