Wrongful death is the worst possible outcome of someone else’s negligence. It is devastating to surviving family members and friends of the loved one, who are left to pick up the pieces after a devastating loss. When someone’s mistake, error, misjudgment, recklessness, or unlawful act results in the death of another, there are legal outlets available. In Florida, filing a wrongful death claim could result in financial compensation for the myriad losses that come with a life cut short. The wrongful death lawyers at Kelley/Uustal have the experience necessary to successfully help families in Fort Lauderdale who are dealing with this legal process.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a person dies at the fault of another person or entity (like a company), certain surviving family members may be able to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit. A vehicle driver, employer, product manufacturer, or property owner may all be defendants in wrongful death claims. The purpose of this type of lawsuit is to compensate the survivors for financial, emotional, and intangible losses that stem from the death. To bring a wrongful death claim in Fort Lauderdale, the plaintiff must prove four main elements:
- Duty. The defendant owed the deceased person (the “decedent”) a duty of care at the time of the incident. Duties of care will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Drivers, doctors, employers, product manufacturers, and others all owe different duties to various parties. Understanding what duties the defendant owed the decedent will help establish a wrongful death claim.
- Breach. The defendant breached, or broke, his/her duties of care to the decedent. The courts will rule a defendant “breached” a duty if another reasonable and prudent party would not have done the same in similar circumstances. For example, a surgeon may have breached his/her duty of care if another surgeon would have performed the procedure differently, preventing the error that led to wrongful death.
- Causation. The defendant’s breach of duty must have caused or contributed to the decedent’s injuries and subsequent death. Proving causation requires the plaintiff to show it was actually the defendant who was involved in the incident and not someone else. Proving causation can become quite complex and often demands assistance from experienced wrongful death attorneys.
- Damages. Showing damages in a wrongful death claim is often easy since the harm is obvious – a person has died. Other damages can include medical bills up until the time of death, lost income or inheritance, loss of consortium, and more. Proving damages can involve gathering documents like bills and demonstrating the family’s intangible losses through testimony and other means.
If you have lost a loved one due to another person or party’s negligence, come to Kelley/Uustal for a wrongful death consultation. Our attorneys can help you through this difficult time and give you helpful insight, even if you are not sure who is at fault for your loss.
Leading Causes of Death in Florida
A report from the Florida Department of Health gives a window into the most common causes of fatal injuries in the state. The Department uses the Florida Injury Surveillance Data System to monitor the frequency of fatal injuries, as well as risk factors. Knowing the major factors in most fatal injuries can help you learn whether your loved one was a victim of wrongful death, as well as prevent yourself and others from becoming statistics. According to the report, these were the leading causes of injury death in Florida in 2015:
- Poisoning (3,292)
- Falls (2,932)
- Motor vehicle traffic (2,861)
- Firearms (2,553)
- Suffocation (1,220)
- Drowning (510)
- Cut/pierce (147)
- Fire/flame (142)
- Transport, other (130)
- Pedestrian, other (80)
Other lead causes were pedal cycling, getting struck by/against, and natural/environment deaths. Risk factors change depending on age group. Those under one year of age are most at risk of suffocation. From one to four, drowning is the leading cause of death. Ages five through 24 are most at risk of death by motor vehicle accidents. From 25 to 64, poisoning presents the greatest threat. Falls are the leading cause of death in those 65 and older.
Florida Wrongful Death Act
The Florida Wrongful Death Act dictates when, how, who, and why when it comes to these types of claims. This Act enforces rules for filing that all plaintiffs must obey to be eligible for compensation. The litigators at Kelley/Uustal are available to help family members abide by applicable statutes in a way that can maximize compensation awards. We’ve won six- and seven-figure settlement/judgments for our wrongful death clients in the past. Our team can break down complicated rules, such as:
- Definition of wrongful death. The Florida courts define “wrongful death” as any death that occurs due to another person or entity’s negligence, wrongful act, default, or breach of contract.
- Who may file. The only party who can bring this type of claim is a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. The decedent’s will or estate plan may name this party, or the Fort Lauderdale courts may appoint a representative during probate, typically a spouse.
- Who may recover damages. Florida allows only certain parties to receive compensation for wrongful death. These include the decedent’s children, spouse, parents, and any blood relative or adoptive sibling who was dependent on the decedent.
- Time limits for filing. The statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death claim in Florida is two years from the date of the death in most cases. There are exceptions to this rule. An attorney can help you learn the date of your particular deadline.
- Types of damages available. Damages for wrongful death differ from those available in a typical personal injury lawsuit. The family may be able to recover for the value of the decedent’s support and services, loss of companionship and guidance, mental or emotional pain from the loss, medical expenses, and funeral/burial costs. The estate may also recover for the loved one’s lost wages and benefits, and prospective net accumulations of the estate.
Currently, there are no damage caps on wrongful death lawsuits in Florida. A recent Florida Supreme Court ruling eliminated the previous $1 million cap on wrongful death non-economic cases, calling it “unconstitutional.” Learning how much your particular case could be worth requires speaking with a Fort Lauderdale attorney. The value of your case will depend on a number of factors, including economic losses and how much the death affected your family. You could also be eligible for punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, intentional, or grossly negligent.
Contact Our Experienced Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer
After a sudden death in the family, you need a dedicated attorney who will take negligence seriously. Your family has undergone one of the worst possible things that could happen – all because of someone else’s preventable actions. At Kelley/Uustal, our Florida personal injury attorneys will pursue compensation for these cases with all possible tools under Florida law. Our team will work closely with you, your family, and the estate’s personal representative to go up against big insurance companies and other defendants for the compensation you deserve.
We know a lawsuit won’t bring back your beloved family member, but it can provide closure and financial stability for the future. Contact us or call (954) 522-6601 for a free consultation with one of our dedicated wrongful death lawyers in Fort Lauderdale.