If you have recently decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit, your next question might be, “Now what?”
Below, we’re going to dive into what happens once you begin the process with five of the most common questions people have.
What Damages Can I File For?
Florida has specific rules for what damages can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit. These include:
- Support and services, future support and services
- Mental pain and suffering (if parents are filing on behalf of a deceased child)
- Loss of companionship/mental pain and suffering (if plaintiff is filing on behalf of deceased spouse)
- Funeral and medical expenses
- The deceased’s estate (if personal representative is filing)
For the specific laws, click here.
Who Do I File the Claim Against?
As the person filing the claim, you are the “plaintiff” in the case. The “defendant” (the person you are filing the claim against) would be the person that you blame for the deceased’s wrongful death.
It may be someone who committed elder abuse or similar offenses against the deceased, the driver in a fatal car accident, an employer engaging in unsafe practices, a business that sold a defective product – basically any entity whose negligence or harmful actions led to your loved one’s death.
What Will I Have to Prove?
Similar to many personal injury and civil suits, you will have to prove that the defendant caused unnecessary harm to a person through negligence or harmful actions. Consider these three elements while building your wrongful death case:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, a construction supervisor has the duty of keeping his or her employees safe by following federal regulations, providing proper training, and so on. This does not necessarily mean that the defendant was a supervisor or caretaker of the deceased. In the case of a fatal car accident, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had the duty of driving safely and avoiding accidents while on the road.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. In the case of the construction supervisor, a breach of duty of care could include neglecting to alert employees when they were in the presence of toxic chemicals, or failing to provide proper safety gear.
- The breach of duty of care caused the victim to die. For example, if the deceased died from falling off scaffolding, the plaintiff may have to prove that proper safety equipment could have saved the victim’s life, and the lack of safety equipment caused the deceased’s death.
All of the above elements will need to be present in your case. An argument is not strong if only two of the elements are present. If, for example, the construction supervisor breached the duty of care he owed to the deceased, but the deceased died in a car accident after work, the plaintiff cannot blame the death on the construction supervisor. All three elements are key to winning your case.
How Quickly Will I Need to File the Lawsuit?
The lawsuit must be properly filed within four years of the deceased’s death. This deadline may be extended in rare circumstances, but not always. Contact an experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer to learn more about our state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits.
How Can I Win A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In criminal cases, a judge has to believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant is guilty in order to issue a guilty verdict. This puts a lot of pressure on the prosecution to build an airtight case.
In civil court, the pressure shifts. The law says that a defendant is guilty if the majority of evidence present points to their guilt. So as long as most of the evidence pus the blame on the defendant for the deceased’s death, they will have to pay the damages issued by the judge.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2014-2016 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.