What are Florida’s Laws Surrounding a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is a tragedy under any circumstances. Losing a family member results in mental anguish for those left behind. When a person is in good health, only to pass away suddenly in an accident, it causes a great deal of shock to the entire family.
This writeup answers the following questions:
- How does wrongful death occur?
- What’s necessary for a claim to proceed?
- What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
- Can these cases really have “successful” outcomes?
A wrongful death takes its toll on surviving family
There is a large financial burden after a wrongful death. While nothing can ever replace someone who dies, life must go on. This means bills are still due. Because of this, the financial burden placed upon family after a wrongful death causes great anguish. Even the most financially stable family find themselves in debt. There’s a risk of losing a home and stability, especially if the head of household passes away.
During trial, financial compensation awarded to the victim’s family can help to reduce stress, medical bills, and funeral expenses incurred due to someone else’s negligence that ultimately resulted in loss of life. An experienced lawyer can obtain financial compensation on behalf of a surviving family after losing a loved one to a wrongful death accident, medical malpractice, or negligent security.
How does a wrongful death occur?
The circumstances surrounding what makes up a wrongful death lawsuit make up the rest of a successful verdict. Below, we provide links to the Shaked Law Resource’s various writeups regarding them:
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse and/or neglect
- Occupational exposure and workplace accidents
- Negligent Security accidents resulting in wrongful death
- Social host liability and accidents which result in wrongful death under these circumstances
What’s necessary for a claim to proceed?
Next, let’s list the aspects necessary to make up a successful wrongful death lawsuit that results in a verdict that awards maximum compensation for the victim’s surviving family:
- The death of a human being.
- Death must be due to the negligence of another. There must be intent (to cause harm, to maim or kill) such as through medical malpractice or negligent security.
- Surviving family who suffer financial injury due to the death
- Appointing of a personal representative.
- The “standard of proof” and a “preponderance of evidence”.
What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
The first thing we’ll approach is the legal principle known as preponderance of evidence versus what’s frequently mistaken for beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, “standard of proof” is what the law calls a “preponderance of evidence“.
To better understand this in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit and, as it pertains to Personal Injury Law, let’s look at the legal definition:
“[…]the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other.”
Looking at the context of a civil lawsuit in regards specifically to Personal Injury, the court would use “preponderance of evidence” to determine the standard of proof, not “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is found in criminal court cases.
However, the “standard of proof” is just one area of a successful lawsuit. There are many details that factor into a successful outcome for those seeking civil justice. In cases of a wrongful death, the clients would be surviving family members of a victim.
Can these cases really have “successful” outcomes?
Financial injury is the measure of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. In truth, there is no “successful” outcome after a wrongful death. How can there be? Wrongful death implies a family member passes away under tragic circumstances rather than after a long, happy life. However, while no dollar amount can heal the loss, financial stability for the family is necessary to provide healing on the emotional side.
Pecuniary loss and injuries
It’s important to look at the meaning of “pecuniary loss” and “pecuniary injuries” under Florida law. “Pecuniary injuries” include: loss of support, termination of inheritances, medical and funeral expenses, and future expenses for the family.
Compensation for financial injury due to a wrongful death must be fair. Sometimes a case must go to trial if a settlement offer is not sufficient for the family’s loss. Going to trial is sometimes necessary to better compensate the family with the maximum amount of damages they rightfully deserve. Age, health of the victim prior to death, earning capacity, life expectancy and intelligence factor into potential compensation. Thus, if a wrongful death claim goes to trial, the judge takes every aspect of the “book of the victim’s life” into consideration.
How are circumstances appropriately determined?
The main thing the court will look at when determining damages are the circumstances surrounding the victim at the time of death.
- Loss of income. If the victim wasn’t working at the time of death, a jury considers the deceased’s last known earnings. They will award damages in part on this information. They also consider the potential for future earnings, now lost. The reason for a victim being in between jobs at the time of their death will factor into this amount.
- Loss of a parent. parental guidance is considered when determining damages to be awarded
- If the decedent has dependents at the time of death, their children are considered as they were the adult wage earner in the home
Surviving family members require a lawyer with experience
When a family member passes away after a wrongful death, their surviving family members have the right to bring litigation against those responsible. While difficult and overwhelming for the family, a lawyer with Board Certification can help mitigate the anguish a family is facing by recovering maximum compensation on their behalf.
Remember: It’s important to act quickly, because the Statute of Limitations in the state of Florida is (2) two years from the time of death. If a family exceeds the Statute of Limitations, the case may not proceed no matter how valid the claim.