If you’ve lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to bring about a wrongful death claim. The law around wrongful deaths is complicated. It varies from state to state and each case is unique. That’s why many choose to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help guide them through the process and likely outcomes.
We got our experts to answer the most common queries around wrongful death lawsuits, from what they are to when you should hire a lawyer.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death is when a fatality occurs as a result of an injury or accident that should not have happened. This can be as a result of negligence or carelessness, as well as a range of other aggravating factors.
Wrongful death law varies from state to state. Though many are similar in the sense of claimants and damages permitted. In this article, we’ll be referring to the Florida Wrongful Death Act.
As with any legal claim, the article of law is used to bring the claim to court where it will be heard in front of a judge. Lawyers will present both sides of the case to the judge, who will consider the facts and ultimately rule on whether the claim is valid or not. The judge will also determine the appropriate amount of damages, both economic and non-economic.
Wrongful Death Causes
There’s no exhaustive list of causes of wrongful death. It applies to any situation that puts the victim at serious risk of harm or death needlessly.
The CDC cites unintentional injuries as the third leading cause of death in the US. While not all of these will be wrongful deaths, many may be. The most common types of accidents in wrongful death claims are:
- Car accidents
- Boating accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Criminal activity
Determining the cause of death is one of the first steps needed to file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death attorney can help you investigate who and what the cause of a loved one was. This helps identify the correct defendant in a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act states the following parties have the right to file a wrongful death claim:
- A spouse
- Blood relatives wholly dependent on the deceased
- Adoptive siblings wholly dependent on the deceased
It’s not quite as simple as this though. The act says the only party who may file a claim must be a personal representative of the deceased’s estate. In this sense, though all of the parties above have the right to file a wrongful death claim, who is actually able to file the claim will vary depending on the deceased’s will.
If the deceased hasn’t named a representative within their Will or has no Will, the courts will assign one during the probate process. This is most often the surviving spouse.
This representative may file the claim on behalf of all eligible survivors. Multiple claims are not allowed. Survivors are expected to determine the allocation of any settlement or damages won among themselves.
Wrongful Death Damages
The Act outlines the damages that may be available to claimants as a result of a wrongful death claim. Each survivor can recover a monetary value that is equivalent to the deceased’s lost support. This will be determined by the relationship between the survivor and the deceased.
A surviving spouse may additionally be entitled to claim for loss of companionship, protection, and suffering. Surviving children who are minors may additionally be entitled to claim for loss of parental instruction and guidance, as well as pain and suffering. Overall, damages may be claimed for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of parental instruction and guidance
It’s impossible to give even a vague estimate on damage figures. This is because this will vary from case to case. The best person who can advise you on this is an experienced wrongful death lawyer who knows your case.
When to Hire a Lawyer?
As a general rule of thumb, you should hire a wrongful death lawyer as early as possible. Most reputable law firms will offer a free initial consultation to gather the facts and ensure you have a case.
Having a wrongful death lawyer hired early will help you navigate your claim. It will also help you avoid any potential pitfalls, such as interactions with the defendant which may later be used in court. Not to mention removing much of the stress of dealing with legal matters from the family to allow them to grieve in peace.
It’s also worth noting there is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. This means if the claim is not filed before this, no surviving beneficiaries would be entitled to make a claim.
You aren’t legally required to hire a wrongful death lawyer, but due to the complicated nature of the claim, it is advisable to. Your wrongful death lawyer will be responsible for a range of matters including investigating and evidencing liability. This involves understanding legal faults and knowledge of a range of applicable state laws.
Wrongful Death Lawyers Near Me
If you’re based in Tampa, Florida, or surrounding, RHINO Lawyers can help you. We have experienced wrongful death lawyers who will be able to advise you on your specific situation and case. Simply get in touch today for a free case review or free video consultation.
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