Many states, including Florida, have laws that allow beneficiaries to file a suit and recover for the wrongful death of their relative. This law is essential to help you gain compensation if you lose your loved one due to the negligence of another person. Florida Statute 768.19 states that if the death of an individual occurs due to the wrongful act, negligence, breach or default of contract or warranty, the estate of the victim may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit in which a family member sues another person or a company due to the death of a loved one.  By filing a claim against the liable party, the family member can hold them accountable for the death of their loved one.  If you have lost a loved one in Jacksonville, FL, due to the negligence of another party, Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation.

Elements of a Wrongful Death

We all cling to the hope that our loved ones will live long lives. However, things do not always go as we expect in life. Every day, people of all ages die in events like accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and defective products.

If your loved one dies due to the negligence of another person, it is called a wrongful death. A wrongful death implies that if the defendant had acted with due care, the death would have been preventable. Wrongful death is usually unexpected and avoidable. The surviving family members of the deceased have a right to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.

You should be aware of the applicable period in the Statute of Limitations. For instance, in Florida, the applicable period for recourse in Florida’s Statute of Limitations is four years from the date of death. If you fail to file the claim within the dictated period, you may miss on the compensation. 

To file a wrongful death claim successfully, you have to ensure that the claim satisfies the four elements of a wrongful death claim. The elements of a wrongful death claim include:

Negligence

Your loved one may have died due to the reckless behavior of the defendant. If the defendant had exercised his/her duty of care, your loved one would not have died. In considering negligence, the law uses the likely conduct of a reasonable person as the standard. The law considers what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances.

Breach of Duty of Care

For you to file a wrongful death claim, it should be evident that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. In the case of a road accident, the duty of care is easy to prove. A driver owes a duty of care to other road users, including other drivers and pedestrians.  In the case of medical malpractice, a doctor owes a duty of care to all his patients. In a business setting, the business owners owe a duty of care to their clients. The business owners must ensure that their business premises are safe. This may help to prevent slip and fall accidents and other injuries resulting from negligence.

 If it is evident that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, it should also be apparent that the defendant breached that duty of care. For instance, if a doctor fails to follow the right procedures when treating a patient and a patient dies, the doctor is guilty of breaching his/her duty of care to the patient. If a driver engages in reckless driving or driving under the influence and causes an accident leading to the death of a passenger, the driver has breached his/her duty of care to the vehicle occupants or other road users. 

Causation

For a wrongful death claim to be successful, causation must exist.  This means that it should be evident that the negligence of the party at fault caused the death of the victim.  For instance, if a patient dies, it should be apparent that the negligence of the doctor caused the death. For example, the doctor may have injected the wrong medicine to the patient, and this is preventable.  In an accident setting, the intoxication of a driver may have caused the accident leading to death. It should be apparent that if the driver were sober, the accident would not have occurred, and the death would have been preventable.

Damages

It should also be evident that the death of the victim led to the damages for the surviving family members. The damages may include medical bills, funeral expenses, burial expenses, emotional damages, and loss of income. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In some states, some specific family members may bring a wrongful death claim. However, in Florida, the situation is different. Only the representative of the estate of the deceased has a right to bring a wrongful death claim. The representative seeks damages on behalf of the surviving members of the deceased's family. Only the family members designated by the Statute as eligible for compensation receive the compensation.

Usually, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased is the person or executor outlined in the last testament made by the deceased. At times, a person may die without leaving a will. In some other instances, the executors named in the will may also die. The executor may also not be available due to other factors. In this case, the court has the mandate to appoint a representative of the estate of the deceased person.

According to the Wrongful Death Act in Florida, the surviving family members who may benefit from the estate of the deceased include the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. Other blood relatives of the deceased, including the siblings who depended on the deceased for support and services, may also benefit. The adoptive siblings of the deceased may also benefit if it evident that they relied on the deceased for support.

A child born outside the wedlock of a mother may also benefit from the estate. A child born outside the marriage of a father may also benefit if it is evident that the father has taken responsibility for providing child support.  The persons who benefit from the estate of the deceased are known as survivors or beneficiaries. 

The rationale behind wrongful death claims in Florida is to shift the losses that occur when a wrongful death happens. The law shifts the losses from the survivors to the wrongdoer or the negligent part. A wrongful death claim mitigates the losses suffered by the victim's dependents and close family members by holding the responsible party liable. 

For wrongful death claims, the law considers children below the age of 25 years to be minors.  This is for the damages the children may claim under the law. 

Leading Causes of Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful deaths can arise from multiple different situations. Some of the leading causes of wrongful deaths include:

Auto Accidents

An accident may result from automobile accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, boating accidents, bicycle accidents, and airplane accidents.  In an accident, one party may sustain fatality due to the negligence of another individual. Some of the leading causes of accidents include distracted driving, driving while impaired, and reckless driving. Auto accidents may also occur due to poor and unsafe road conditions and construction of the roadways. 

In the case of an airplane accident, an accident may occur due to manufacturing or design error in the airplane. Pilot's error and failure to conduct a thorough pre-flight check-up may lead to an airplane accident. Poor weather conditions may reduce visibility leading to an accident. Airline negligence of employing unqualified or inexperienced pilots may also lead to airplane accidents. 

To establish the real cause of an accident, an accident reconstruction expert usually comes in handy. A personal injury attorney works together with the accident reconstruction expert to determine what happened at the time of the accident. 

It may be expensive to seek the services of an accident reconstruction expert. However, the experts are worth the price given the experience they bring in establishing the cause of an accident. An accident reconstruction expert can determine the cause of a particular car wreck and learn how the accident relates to wrongful death. Every reasonable personal injury attorney understands the importance of an accident reconstruction expert. 

When a loved one dies in an accident, the defendant liable will depend on the kind of accident. For instance, if a person dies in a trucking accident, the liable parties may include the truck driver, the trucking company, or the company responsible for repairing the truck. In a bus accident, the liable parties may consist of the bus manufacturers, the bus operator, or the bus driver. If a person dies in an accident involving a public bus, you may have to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the government. 

Wrongful Death via Medical Malpractice

A wrongful death may also occur due to medical malpractice. For instance, a doctor or medical assistance may recommend some medication without considering an existing medical condition of the patient. A patient may also die when a doctor commits a wrong medical procedure on him/her.  The potential defendants in a wrongful death claim include the individual physician or the medical provider like the hospital. The physician or the hospital may be liable for offering medical services that fall below the appropriate standard of care. Most wrongful deaths resulting from medical malpractice revolve around mothers and babies.

A doctor may negligently fail to note a particular condition like gestational diabetes, maternal infections, fetal distress, hypertension, or other issues that may compromise the well –being of the child or the mother. The wrongful death claim will revolve around the failure of the medical practitioner to notice such medical conditions. Such negligence may lead to the death of the infant or the mother.

Mislabeling or product Liability Wrongful death

It is common for people to die due to product defects and malfunctioning equipment. For instance, a piece of machinery may malfunction, leading to injury and death of the user. Many wrongful deaths occur due to ski jet accidents. In most cases, the deaths are preventable because they occur due to a lack of proper safety features in the ski jets. 

Every year, manufacturers face numerous wrongful death claims for failing to properly label products. Manufacturers also face charges for failing to issue warnings of potential hazards and dangers while using machinery and other products. Manufacturers must be liable when they produce and sell unsafe products to their consumers. 

 Workplace Hazards

Your loved one may also face a sudden death due to exposure to workplace hazards. Workplace hazards include interacting with poisonous substances that may affect the health of the worker leading to death. Workplace hazards also include poor working conditions. Slip and fall accidents may occur, leading to the death of workers and clients due to an unsafe work environment.  If your loved one dies due to workplace hazards, you may be eligible for wrongful death compensation. 

Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

It is essential to understand that a wrongful death claim is not a criminal case. It is a civil lawsuit that does not require much evidence, like in the case of a criminal case. The claimant has to meet the burden of proof by providing credible and high-quality evidence. F, it is crucial to seek the assistance of an attorney from the start.

An attorney will help determine whether you have a solid case that will increase your chances of winning the case. At times, the attorney may recommend mediation with the defendant instead of proceeding to trial. Most people settle wrongful death claims outside the court. However, if the defendant and the claimant cannot agree, the case may have to proceed to trial.  It is particularly important to have an attorney by your side if the case continues to court. 

Damages Available

The damages available in a wrongful death claim are similar to the damages the deceased person would have received if he/she survived the accident. The pain and suffering the deceased experiences at the time of the accident may not be recoverable in a wrongful death claim. However, the surviving relatives are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering they experience for losing their loved ones.

The damages available in a wrongful death claim mainly fall under two categories. Some claims are on behalf of the estate. There are some separate claims for the estate and the surviving members of the family.

The available benefits for the estate include:

Lost Earnings

Lost earnings are calculated from the date of the injury to the date of the death of your loved one. After suffering injuries, the deceased may have spent some time out of work or away from other income-generating activities. The surviving dependents of the deceased are entitled to compensation for this lost income.

The estate may also recover lost earnings that the deceased person would have earned if he or she survived the accident. In determining lost earnings, the court may consider the regular rate of pay of the deceased before his/her death. The court may also consider other factors like years to the retirement of the deceased person.

Funeral Expenses

Funeral expenses payable by the estate are also available under the estate compensation. Also, under estate claim is the medical expenses the deceased person spends from the time of the injuries to the time of death of the victim.

Claims on Behalf of the Deceased's Family Members

The other category consists of claims made on behalf of a deceased’s family members.  Some designated surviving family members of the deceased are entitled to compensation. Some of the damages that the surviving family members may be able to recover include:

These are services and the support that the family member would have received from the deceased person. When determining the support of the services the surviving family members would have received, the court considers the period between the date of the injury to the time of death.

The court also calculates lost future support. This is the support, which the surviving family members would have continued to receive if the deceased was still alive — the computation for lost support and earnings from the deceased starts from when the deceased died.

The surviving relatives of the deceased may also be entitled to compensation for the loss of companionship.  For instance, the spouse of the deceased is no longer able to get the love and care that he/she received from the victim. This compensation is similar to the loss of consortium or companionship claim sought by the spouse of an injured victim.

Family members are likely to experience immense pain and suffering after losing their loved ones.  They are entitled to compensation for emotional distress, pain, and suffering. If the deceased person had minor children, the children might receive compensation for the loss of companionship and the guidance of their deceased parent.

If the deceased person does not have a surviving spouse, adult children of the deceased may also claim loss of companionship and guidance of their parents. If the deceased person is a minor, each parent of the deceased may claim for pain and suffering of losing a child.

In some instances, a family member may pay for some medical expenses and funeral costs. In this case, the family member may be able to recover the amount paid. The calculation of wrongful death benefits is complex to calculate. The deceased's family members may be able to recover future support and benefit they would have received from the deceased. For you to know how much you can get for a wrongful death claim, it is advisable to seek the counsel of an attorney.

Statute of Limitations

The family members of the deceased should not take too long before filing a wrongful death claim. The family has to act within the set period in the Statute of Limitations. The period in the Statute starts from the death of the victim and is in effect to the time the dependents seek compensation. The period in the Statutes of Limitations may vary depending on the cause of the victim's death. In most cases, the period is two years. In some cases, a longer period may apply, especially in deaths resulting from medical malpractice. 

Do not postpone your meeting with an attorney to begin the process of suing for damages and seeking compensation. You should always remember that only a representative of the deceased's estate or a person appointed by the court can bring a wrongful death claim.

Only a court order can give the authority to act on behalf of the estate. The process of appointing a representative by the court is time-consuming and may add to the time it takes you to file the claim.

The Deceased was not the Primary Provider

In some instances, the deceased person may not have been a provider in the home. For example, the deceased person may have been a stay at home parent. However, even if the victim did not have a job, he/she may have contributed to the well-being of the family. For instance, the deceased may have offered services and guidance in nurturing the family. The family will suffer pecuniary losses upon the loss of the deceased. 

When a person causes the death of another, intentionally or through negligence, the offender will most likely face criminal charges and imprisonment. However, regardless of the underlying criminal charges, a person responsible for causing the death of another will also face charges in a civil court. Wrongful death is a separate tort claim that the defendant is liable.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

It can be devastating to lose a loved one due to the negligence of another person.  The survivors often have to bear with the emotional and financial damages of this tragic event. With the help of an experienced attorney, the survivors can receive various compensation for wrongful death. If you are in Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation. Contact us at 904-800-7557 and speak to one of our attorneys.