Wrongful death situations are truly devastating. Losing a loved one unexpectedly is one of the worst ordeals a family can experience. The emotional toll it takes can be unbearable, and the so can the financial toll.
Fortunately, you can get help by partnering with a wrongful death attorney to help you seek some form of compensation.
What Is Wrongful Death?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act defines a wrongful death as a fatality that “is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person.”
In Florida, wrongful death claims must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This representative may be named in the deceased person’s will or estate plan. However, if their will or estate plan does not name a representative, the court must appoint someone.
This claim is filed on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family members or the estate. Every surviving member who has an interest in the wrongful death case must be listed in the claim by the representative.
People who can recover damages in a wrongful death case include:
- The spouse of the deceased
- Children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased
- Any other blood relatives of the deceased
- Adoptive siblings who are partially or wholly dependent on the decedent for support
There are many different situations where wrongful death can be determined.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
The most common kinds of wrongful death claims include the following:
Several automobile accidents can result in severe bodily injury and death, often due to negligence or faulty products.
Unfortunately, Florida is leading the U.S. in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents. Fault can be determined by faulty manufacturing or driver negligence.
Semi-truck accidents can be caused by speeding, driver impairment, lack of maintenance, and other reasons that may qualify for a wrongful death case.
Slip and Fall Cases
Property owners are liable for the safety of visitors, which requires the property to be free of hazards. A premise liability accident, such as a slip and fall, can result in a wrongful death claim due to negligence by the property owner.
Accidents in the workplace can be severe, especially in environments where large equipment is being used. If the proper safety procedures are not in place, employers can be held liable when an employee dies after an accident on premises.
Defective products can result in death in a variety of ways, including:
- Medical devices
- Automobile parts
- Industrial machinery
- Consumer products
If fault can be attributed to defective products, claimants can recover compensation following a wrongful death.
Unfortunately, patients can die due to negligence from a medical provider. Medical malpractice wrongful death claims can result from surgical errors, medication errors, missed diagnoses (failing to identify a condition), and even a misdiagnosis (misattributing symptoms to the wrong condition).
Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
Thousands of people are killed walking or riding their bikes, with Florida leading the nation in the highest per capita rate of bike fatalities and injuries in the country. Bike and pedestrian accidents often include a liable party, like a negligent driver or a faulty automobile.
Drowning or Boating Accidents
Drowning accidents can happen in pools, and if there’s no proper security on the property, the owner can be held responsible. Boat operators are also held liable if there’s a fatal boat accident.
Accidental Poisoning and Overdoses
The opiate crisis is causing a massive spike in overdose deaths. Many instances of these fatalities might have the elements needed to file a wrongful death claim.
How Fault Is Determined in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death attorneys need to be able to prove that someone directly caused the death of the victim. This requires several different key elements in a claim, including the following:
- Establish that the defendant had a legal obligation to the person who died. For example, manufacturers are obligated to ensure their products are safe to use.
- Prove that this obligation was breached due to negligence. This usually comes down to showing that a reasonable person would have been more careful in a similar situation.
- Show how this breach of obligation directly caused the death of the decedent.
- Identify the costs that the plaintiff incurred and deserves to be compensated for. This might include medical bills, funeral costs, and non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
The plaintiff must prove each of the aforementioned elements. This is where professional legal representation is a must. With the right wrongful death attorneys on your side, you can work closely with them in gathering all the necessary evidence to help win your case.
The Cost of Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney
Most attorneys, like criminal or family law lawyers, will charge hourly rates for the amount of time they work on your case. You often pay a retainer upfront that goes to those hourly rates. When your retainer reaches zero, you need to pay another retainer to fund further work hours.
This is not the way wrongful death law firms operate. Instead, they work on a contingency fee model. In other words, you don’t pay anything until you recover the compensation you deserve.
When you hire lawyers for your claim, you will agree to pay them a percentage of the compensation you earn. This percentage will vary depending on the law firm. The average is between 33 and 40 percent.
This model is effective because the risk is shared by both the plaintiff and the lawyer, incentivizing attorneys to cover all the bases to win you compensation.
The Value of Winning a Wrongful Death Case
Plaintiffs can recover all kinds of damages owed to them, including the following:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical expenses
- Lost income from the deceased
- Loss of inheritance
- Lost support provided by the deceased
- Loss of guidance provided to children
All cases vary widely, so it’s hard to provide an average number for settlement amounts. Some cases settle for millions of dollars while others may settle for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This is due to the scope of compensation owed and how cases evolve. For example, some wrongful death cases are settled before a trial, whereas others can go through lengthy trials.
Your Next Steps for Your Wrongful Death Case
There are no words to describe the pain and anguish experienced when you lose a loved one unexpectedly, especially when it’s caused by the negligence of another party. While no amount of money will ever bring that person back or fully heal your pain, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss.
There are several steps you can take to get started.
When to Look for a Good Wrongful Death Law Firm
As you’re mourning, it can be hard to think ahead, but time is of the essence. Florida has a statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims.
In Florida, following the death of a loved one, you have two years from the date of their death to file a claim. Once this timeframe passes, you can’t file a claim.
What to Look for When You Choose a Wrongful Death Attorney
There are several considerations to have in mind when you’re assessing which attorney can help you win your case. As you start contacting law firms and speaking directly with attorneys, make sure you look at the following aspects:
- How much experience they have with wrongful death claims
- What their availability looks like and how fast they respond to you
- How well they communicate and show compassion
- How well they understand your claim
- How they strive to build rapport with you
As you narrow down your search to specific attorneys, make sure you have a good list of questions ready to ask.
Questions to Ask Wrongful Death Lawyers
Once you fully understand the law firm and how they handle wrongful death cases like yours, you can conduct an interview to get to know them even better.
Some important questions to ask include:
- What’s your experience with wrongful death claims like mine?
- What details should I know about filing this kind of claim in Florida?
- What’s your typical compensation structure for wrongful death cases?
Get Started with the Best Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys
With Lowman Law Firm, you’re more than just a case number — you’re a client who gets access to expert legal guidance on your wrongful death claims. Lowman’s team of ethical attorneys treat you with compassion and get you the results and settlement you deserve.
Our lawyers provide statewide representation, handling wrongful death cases in 34 Florida counties, including Hernando, Citrus, Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas. We also manage cases in several other states.