Wrongful Death Lawyers Fort Lauderdale
Compassionate Local Attorneys Help Families Recover After The Loss of a Loved One in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Throughout Florida
The death of someone you care about is one of the hardest experiences that anyone can ever go through. Everyone deals with grief differently, but most of us pass through the same five stages laid out by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.
- Denial and Isolation
It’s never easy to pass through these stages and get to the point where you can move on with your life, but often this is even harder when a person dies of unnatural causes that are the result of negligence on the part of an individual or an organization. In this type of situation, you may find yourself grappling with both grief and anger at the party responsible for your loss, as well as the high costs associated with medical bills and funeral services.
The expenses that pile up after a death can be overwhelming, and sometimes the loss of the financial support of the deceased can make it hard just to stay afloat. Common damages in wrongful death cases include:
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income for the deceased
- Loss of other financial support, including pension distributions and child care
- Loss of love, companionship, and guidance for the survivors
No one should have to think about all that while they are grieving. You need to get compensation for your losses from the responsible party so that you don’t have to worry about your financial situation.
It may feel painful enough to plan a funeral, let alone consider taking legal action, but inaction doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help your loved one that was killed. If you truly believe that their death was caused by the actions or negligence of another, you should consult a wrongful death lawyer in Florida as soon as possible.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
If you recently lost a loved one, you may not be sure if their death can be legally considered “wrongful” in Florida. Typically, wrongful death is defined as any case where someone dies as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another. Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, family members of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages for the loss of financial and emotional support.
The amount of compensation that a family member is eligible for often depends on their relationship to the deceased. Spouses, children, and parents may all be entitled to a certain amount of monetary compensation, based on the amount of support they received from the deceased.
In addition to determining who is eligible for compensation, you need to determine the cause of death. Some of the most common types of wrongful death cases include:
Medical malpractice. According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 people die in our country every year due to medical errors. That number is nine times higher than the number of homicidal deaths each year, and it makes medical malpractice the sixth leading cause of death. Other studies put medical malpractice deaths even higher, listing it as the third leading cause of death in the US. Malpractice can occur when a doctor makes the wrong diagnosis or fails to diagnose their patient in time, makes a medication error, performs an incompatible blood transfusion, or makes a preventable error in surgery, just to name a few examples.
Workplace accidents. Certain types of jobs, like construction and truck driving, might come with more occupational risks than others, but workplace deaths can happen in any kind of setting. One recent case involved a nurse who was worked to the point of exhaustion and, as a result, got in a car accident after her shift. Wrongful deaths in the workplace might be caused by defective machinery, a negligent manager or coworker, or even an unsafe work space.
Premises liability. If a business or property owner fails to maintain safe premises and a hazard on their property results in a death, they may face a wrongful death lawsuit.
Birth injuries. While most babies are born without major medical complications, there are unfortunately cases where the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider results in a serious birth injury, such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, or Erbs’ palsy. In some cases, this can mean a lifetime of disability for the child and exorbitant medical expenses for parents. In other cases, it can actually result in an early death.
Motor vehicle accidents. Sadly, motor vehicle accidents are relatively commonplace in our country, and with large vehicles and high speed limits, crashes result in at least one fatality far too often. There are roughly 30,000 motor vehicle accident fatalities in the US every year, including car, motorcycle, and truck accidents. Common causes of crashes include speeding, distracted driving, driving while intoxicated, driving while sleep deprived, lack of driver experience, and a lack of visibility around the vehicle.
Knowing Your Rights as a Surviving Family Member
Sometimes fault in a wrongful death case is fairly clear-cut – for example, if a driver jumped the curb while texting and hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk, they could easily be sued for wrongful death. Other cases can get a bit more complicated, such as when a car’s defective air bags fail to deploy, or a patient’s prescription medication has unexpected side effects that result in death. In those types of cases, the car manufacturer or the hospital may be responsible for the death, but surviving family members might not know how to take on such big organizations. That’s where Lawlor, White & Murphey can help.
The law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey consists of a team of trial lawyers who have considerable experience with wrongful death cases. We know that this is a difficult time for you and your family, and we will handle your case with professionalism and compassion. We can help you determine if you have a case and who may be responsible for the death. We’re not afraid to go up against large organizations like a hospital or manufacturer – we know that your wellbeing is too important for us to just back down or take a low settlement.
We can’t bring your loved one back, but we can make sure that the responsible party covers some of the financial and emotional losses caused by the death. Additionally, your claim may serve to spare another Fort Lauderdale family from what you are enduring right now.
If you’re ready to discuss your case, fill out our online contact form. Because we know you’re going through enough already, we offer free initial consultations. If you do hire us, you won’t pay us until we recover damages for you and your family.
Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A claim for wrongful death is a claim that can be filed even though the person that was harmed is no longer alive to file a claim on his or her own behalf. A claim for wrongful death seeks compensation for two categories of damages — “wrongful death” damages that have been incurred by the deceased individual and his or her estate, and “survival” damages that are incurred by the deceased individual’s immediate family.
A claim for “wrongful death” alleges that a person’s death was unlawfully caused by another person or entity. A death can be unlawfully caused if the deceased individually was intentionally killed by another person or entity, or if the deceased individual died as a result of the negligent acts or omissions of another person or entity
A wrongful death claim is usually filed by the representative of the estate of the deceased individual, on behalf of the estate and on behalf of the survivors of the deceased individual. If the estate’s representative does not file a wrongful death claim, it can be filed by a qualifying survivor of the deceased individual on behalf of all survivors. Qualifying survivors of a deceased individual who can bring a wrongful death claim include a spouse, children, parents, and any blood relative or adopted sibling who was “dependent on the decedent for support or services” at the time of the decedent’s death.
A claim for “conscious pain and suffering” on behalf of a decedent in a wrongful death claim seeks compensation for pain and suffering caused by the decedent’s injuries or other medical issues leading up to the decedent’s death. Pain and suffering damages can only be recovered if a decedent actually experienced pain and suffering before his or her death; if a decedent was rendered unconscious or killed before his or her injuries or medical condition caused him or her to experience pain or other suffering, then the decedent’s estate will likely be ineligible to seek conscious pain and suffering damages.
In a wrongful death claim, the damages that can be recovered on behalf of the decedent and his or her estate include medical expenses incurred to treat the decedent’s last injuries or illnesses, the conscious pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to his or her death, any wages or income that the decedent missed out on prior to his or her death, and the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses. Damages that can be recovered on behalf of a decedent’s surviving family members include the lifetime value of the income that the decedent would have contributed to the family, the value of the lost services to the household that the decedent performed, or the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, society, and counsel.
It is advisable that you do not accept an insurance settlement until you have had an opportunity to review it with a wrongful death attorney. The insurance company’s first offer of settlement is often not a full compensation of your losses nor is it the maximum amount of compensation that the insurance company may be willing to offer. A wrongful death attorney will be able to advise you as to whether an insurance company’s settlement offer represents full and fair compensation for your claim.
Under Florida law, you have two years from the date of a person’s wrongful death to file a lawsuit to seek compensation. This time limit can be paused, or “tolled”, for the length of time that it takes the decedent’s estate’s representative or surviving family members to discover the facts and circumstances that give rise to the wrongful death claim.
The length of time that a wrongful death claim takes depends on numerous factors. If the responsible party accepts liability and concurs with the calculation of damages, a wrongful death claim may be settled in as little as a few months. However, if it is necessary to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death claim and to go to trial in the case, it can take as many as two or three years to finally resolve a wrongful death claim.
In a wrongful death claim, money can be recovered by the estate of the decedent; this money is then distributed according to normal estate laws, usually first to pay the estate’s debts and then to pay the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries under a will. Money can also be paid directly to the qualifying surviving family members of the decedent to compensate them for their direct losses in a wrongful death claim.
In most cases, the first step in a wrongful death claim is to establish an estate administration for the decedent’s estate, since the estate representative is usually the individual who pursue a wrongful death case. If no estate is established for the decedent, any qualifying surviving family can pursue the case. Once someone decides to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of a decedent and his or her surviving family members, the first step is providing the party or parties alleged to have wrongfully caused the decedent’s death with notice of your claim.
Although it is not required to have an attorney to file a wrongful death claim, it is highly advisable to retain an attorney. This is because a wrongful death claim can be incredibly factually and legally complex, such as when a wrongful death arises from situations such as medical malpractice or defective products. An attorney can be especially useful in a wrongful death claim since there may be multiple parties who may be entitled to compensation, including the decedent’s estate and surviving family members of the decedent.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be possible to hire a wrongful death lawyer without needing to pay any money upfront. A wrongful death lawyer may be able to take a case on a “contingency” basis. This means that the party asserting the claim will not need to pay anything to the attorney unless and until the attorney is able to recover financial compensation. The attorney is then usually paid an agreed-upon percentage of the total financial recovery the attorney obtains.