After the loss of a loved one due to accident or illness, pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit will probably be the last thing on your mind. It’s hard for a lot of people to seek restitution or payment for a loved one passing. After all, you don’t necessarily want to assign a dollar amount to the deceased, and you don’t want to be seen as “benefiting” from their death, either. You also have to work your way through the grieving process and deal with all of the logistics that accompany death, including funeral arrangements and issues with the estate.
But if that death occurred because someone else was negligent, waiting to file is a mistake. Simply put, death is costly – in actual money that you have to pay out, in loss of income if the deceased earned income for your household, and in the emotional loss of their presence. Many people put their heads down to deal with the death only to later realize that they are accruing debt and continuing to emotionally suffer. If this realization occurs too late, they may not be able to file a wrongful death claim to get their lives back on track. Filing a wrongful death claim is not disgracing the memory of your loved one, but making sure that he or she can rest easily, knowing you are not burdened financially by their passing.
If you’ve recently lost someone in Florida, you owe it to yourself and your remaining loved ones to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer and learn about the options available to you.
Defining Wrongful Death Claims
Once someone starts thinking about filing a wrongful death claim, they tend to have one main question on their mind: do I really have a case? The only way to know for sure is to share the specifics of your situation with a skilled personal injury attorney. Wrongful death “right of action” in Florida, as covered under 768.19, are quite specific.
In a wrongful death case, the person’s death must be brought about by the defendant (whether an individual or a business), and that death must have resulted in financial difficulties, medical expenses accrued, and a drastic change to lifestyle and ability to function without the deceased.
Only spouses (husbands or wives) and minor children can file a wrongful death claim in our state. Usually, adult children cannot file for a wrongful death claim, nor can extended family (no aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on).
An exception is made only in very specific circumstances, such as when the deceased has no immediate next of kin. Florida law also says that anyone who qualifies as “next of kin” can file a claim against the defendant, taking a portion of any damages paid, and possibly increasing the total amount the defendant is sentenced to pay.
What are Damages?
In a Florida wrongful death claim, you can claim damages for a number of things:
- Funeral costs
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Lost income due to the death of a working spouse (including projected income the deceased would have earned had they lived)
- Loss of protection, guidance, and companionship
- Pain and suffering due to losing a child
All of those things are combined into the damages request. It’s also quite common for Florida personal injury attorneys to help their clients seek services compensation, which is essentially repayment for child care, relocation costs, housekeeping/hired help, or other things you had to pay for due to the loss of your loved one.
This is why working with a successful wrongful death lawyer is so important. Your attorney will be able to craft your case, calculate compensation, and determine if there are outstanding conditions that would add to the charges or result in more damages awarded.
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, 2013, and 2014 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.