It’s getting late, so Jane and her husband, John decided to grab a quick pizza after work. On the way home from the restaurant, Jane turns left and is blinded by bright lights heading for her car. Before Jane can register what’s happening, the drunk driver careens through a stop sign and crashes into John’s side of the car. Both rushed to the hospital, John does not survive.
We often stop ourselves from imagining this scenario happening to us. In an instant, we could lose one of the most important people in our lives. And at the same time, we’re thrust into a situation having to navigate an uncertain financial future. Not only covering hospital and medical bills but daily life expenses. It’s overwhelming to think about.
A loved one’s death is tragic, and nothing can replace that person. But when you lose someone due to someone else’s negligence, pursuing a wrongful death suit is necessary.
What is wrongful death?
Simply put, wrongful death is a negligence action in which a person dies due to someone else’s failure to take proper care. In Florida, wrongful death is a tort claim or a civil case, which means you’re not accusing anyone of a crime. Instead, you’re seeking financial compensation from the person you believe is responsible for your loss.
To win a wrongful death case, you must work with an experienced injury attorney to prove negligence or wrongful conduct occurred. In other negligence cases, you have four years to file a lawsuit. But Florida’s statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is only two years. That means you must act quickly.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?
In a wrongful death case, we always ask who the survivors and beneficiaries are and who has claims. Unfortunately, not every person has a right to file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one. However, most people have legal claims if they relied on the decedent for emotional or financial support. Loved ones with legal claims generally include:
- The spouse
- Parents (if the victim was 25 or younger)
- Blood relatives, such as a sibling, uncle, etc., or adopted brothers and sisters
But there are always exceptions to the list above. For example, parents can claim a child over 25 if that child was supporting them or they had to pay funeral expenses. Conversely, a father whose child was born out of wedlock is not eligible to make claims on that child’s behalf unless he can prove he was financially responsible for the child’s support. Moreover, victims don’t have to be “blood relatives” to make a claim. They can also be adoptive brothers and sisters.
What are examples of wrongful death cases?
Wrongful death cases include any scenario where someone dies due to someone else’s negligence. The endless list of possibilities include:
- Medical malpractice. A patient dies after a doctor accidentally administers the wrong medicine.
- Slip and falls. A shopper slips at Publix and dies after landing directly on his head.
- Vehicle accidents. A semi-truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel and crashes into a car.
- Workplace accidents. A faulty stock picker machine throws a worker to his death.
- Product defects. A pressure cooker with shoddy construction explodes in the kitchen, killing a person while making dinner.
- Negligent security. A hotel guest is murdered in a poorly lit and unsafe parking lot after a robbery gone wrong.
Medical Malpractice vs. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death and medical malpractice cases both occur as a result of someone else’s negligence. However, medical malpractice cases have a higher burden of proof.
To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you need to prove the doctor acted negligently by not following standard protocols. On top of that, you also have to follow Florida’s medical malpractice statutes, which have different requirements than typical wrongful death cases. For example, only immediate family members are allowed to make medical malpractice claims. Eligible medical malpractice survivors are:
- The spouse
- Children under the age of 25
- Parents, if their child was 25 or younger
- Adult children (if they are still considered a dependent of the deceased)
How to know if you have a wrongful death claim
If you recently experienced an unexpected loss due to someone else’s negligence, call KL Injury Attorneys immediately. We will vet your case based on the answers to the following questions:
- Who are the survivors, and who qualifies for the maximum compensation?
- Did the survivors suffer measurable emotional and financial damages?
- Did the victim die as a direct result of provable negligence?
- Does the death certificate include the cause of death?
- Have the surviving family members set up a probate estate to sue on behalf of their loved one?
Wrongful Death Compensation
In a wrongful death case, you can receive compensation for present and future damages, starting from the day of the accident. Damages include:
- Lost wages, benefits, and potential future income
- Medical and funeral costs
- Loss of companionship and protection
- Mental pain and suffering
- Loss of guidance and instruction (in the case of children)
It’s important to note that compensation in wrongful death cases can depend on the decedent’s age and income. For instance, a 30-year-old high-earning mother who died unexpectedly will warrant a much higher payment than an 80-year-old grandfather who had limited years left. In fact, the settlement difference could be millions of dollars, as opposed to hundreds of thousands.
Tragic Wrongful Death Case
KL’s lawyers have seen various wrongful death cases throughout their careers, fighting for victims’ rights. In one example, a local college student died suddenly after his Boca Raton landlord got drunk at a nearby casino. The casino kicked him out and put him in a taxi, but the landlord managed to jump out and drove home anyway. When the landlord pulled into the garage, he shut the door and fell asleep with the car running. As a result, three people died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, including the college student, who left his parents far too young.
When KL partners Ian Kleinman and Bennett Lessmann heard about the case, they fought to get the student’s parents the compensation they deserved. Pursuant to Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, the firm promptly filed a lawsuit against the casino and the owners of the house. As a result, Derek’s father, who served as his estate representative, received a confidential settlement to ease his pain and suffering.
What To Do If A Loved One Dies
If you believe a loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, immediately request a copy of the death certificate that includes the cause of death. Then call an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Remember, wrongful death claims have a shorter statute of limitations. Time is of the essence.
Our team at KL Injury Attorneys has years of experience litigating wrongful death cases. We know how to handle the heavy lifting so you can focus on healing. Contact our KL Injury Attorney team today to get the compensation you deserve.