The loss of a spouse or close relative is arguably one of the most stressful events you will experience, especially when it is unexpected. You instantly lose their affection, companionship, and the value of their services and financial support. A Florida wrongful death lawyer from Ratzan Weissman & Boldt can help families recover damages for these losses, but the right to file a wrongful death case does not arise after every death.

Florida law describes the parties, damages, and grounds for seeking compensation from those responsible for a family member’s demise.

Defining Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is equivalent to “preventable death,” and as such, the law’s goal is to give families the right to pursue compensation when someone’s behaviors are the cause of their loved one’s death.

At common law, a person’s legal claims died with them, which meant the at-fault party was better off when the victim died from their injuries instead of recovering from them; worse yet, it meant the law provided no remedy for a family’s losses due to their loved one’s death.

Florida changed that rule by establishing the right to a wrongful death claim. Today, Florida law describes four situations in which a death might qualify as wrongful:

Wrongful Act

Wrongful acts usually refer to intentional acts. Civil battery, for example, occurs when a wrongdoer intentionally makes harmful contact with a victim. Such civil iniquity represents the same idea as the crime of assault, but the remedy in a wrongful death case is monetary damages, while the remedy for homicide is imprisonment.

Negligence

Most wrongful death cases rest on negligence; when a doctor unintentionally kills a patient, a wrongful death claim will likely assert that the doctor acted carelessly.

Default

A default refers to one’s failure to fulfill an obligation. One type of default is an omission; someone with a legal duty to act instead allows the victim to die in the natural course of events.

Defaults can also cover an unintentional breach of a strict legal duty, such as when a manufacturer sends a defective product into the stream of commerce.

Breach of Contract or Warranty

Consumers have a right to expect products to be safe when used as instructed; as such, breaches of contracts or warranties typically arise in product liability claims.

Establishing Liability

Florida’s wrongful death law applies when the deceased would have had a reasonable legal claim for their injuries had they not died. Thus, the elements of the claim depend on the cause of the victim’s injuries, which may include the following:

Negligence

Negligence will apply to many wrongful death claims, including those involving the following:

In a medical malpractice wrongful death case, a lawyer must prove that the healthcare provider caused the victim’s death by failing to meet their professional standard of care.

Intentional Act

Recovering damages for an intentional injury requires proof that the wrongdoer intended to make harmful contact with the victim and that the resulting injury caused the victim’s death. That said, a Florida wrongful death lawyer does not need to prove the wrongdoer intended to kill the victim.

Strict Liability

Strict liability applies when a defective product causes someone’s death. A lawyer only needs to prove the product was defective in its design, manufacture, or warnings and that its defect caused the death.

Examples of Wrongful Death

Some common causes of wrongful death include the following:

Traffic Accidents

Motor vehicle collisions are the second-most common cause of accidental deaths in the United States; pedestrian accidents are fourth, motorcycle accidents are fifth, and bicycle accidents are ninth.

Premises Liability

Falls, drownings, electrocutions, fatal burns, and other similar injuries can all support a wrongful death claim if they result from the negligence of a property owner or manager.

Defective Products

Defective products, including toxic chemicals and dangerous pharmaceutical products, can cause preventable deaths.

Medical Malpractice

A study by Johns Hopkins University researchers suggested that medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the country.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?

The victim’s personal representative will bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the estate and its survivors. If the victim had a will, its executor is to be that representative; if not, the probate court will appoint one.

Navigating the Legal Process: What to Expect

Wrongful death claims, like personal injury claims, begin with insurance claims. Liability insurers agree to cover a policyholder’s liabilities that fall within the contract up to a pre-set policy limit and then investigate the death before deciding whether to accept or deny the claim. If it accepts, your attorney will negotiate with the insurer for a fair settlement; if the insurer denies the claim, your attorney may need to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

FAQs

Here are some answers to questions people often ask about wrongful death cases:

Can I Be Compensated for My Grief?

Yes, you can recover compensation for mental pain and suffering if you are any of the following individuals:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • A minor child of the deceased
  • An adult child of the deceased (if there is no surviving spouse)
  • A parent of a deceased minor
  • A parent of a deceased adult child (if there are no other survivors)

You may need to show you were not estranged from the victim to recover compensation for grief.

What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action?

You can recover the following damages through a wrongful death action:

  • Lost financial support from the deceased’s income
  • The value of lost services provided by the deceased
  • Lost companionship

You will likely need financial records, like pay stubs, to prove your losses.

Who Is Liable for a Wrongful Death?

You can file a wrongful death claim against anyone who contributed to the death, including businesses and individuals.

Learn More About Florida Wrongful Death Cases

When you lose a loved one to a preventable incident, reach out to a Florida wrongful death lawyer from Ratzan Weissman & Boldt for a free consultation. We’ll discuss the wrongful death action you can seek for your loved one’s death.