What is a Wrongful Death in Personal Injury?
Wrongful death law exists to protect surviving family after losing a family member to a negligent or reckless act. Wrongful death is a tragedy under any circumstances. No one wants to think about the loss of a loved one. When a person is in good health, enjoying a successful life only to pass away suddenly in an accident, there is immense trauma. Whether Medical Malpractice, accident, or Negligent Security, were the cause of the death, the victim’s surviving family members have the right to bring litigation against the party at fault.
This Shaked Law Resource article approaches wrongful death in Personal Injury Law by answering important questions:
- Why is the financial burden so high?
- Why does civil law differ from criminal law in wrongful death cases?
- What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
- What’s necessary for a claim to proceed?
- How does wrongful death occur?
- What is a “successful” outcome in wrongful death cases?
- Why do surviving family members require an experienced wrongful death lawyer?
Why is the financial burden so high?
The financial burden of wrongful death is enormous. While nothing replaces the loss of a loved one, life must go on. Bills must be paid. Understanding this, the financial burden upon a family after a loss causes mental anguish. A once financially stable family faces an uncertain financial future, risking the loss of their home and stability when the head of household passes away.
A Personal Injury lawyer familiar with wrongful death law can obtain financial compensation on behalf of surviving family. During trial, recovering financial compensation for the victim’s family can help reduce stress, final expenses, and household bills such as rent or mortgage.
Does civil law differ from criminal law in wrongful death cases?
The short answer is “yes”. However, regardless of liability, the negligent party may not be convicted of a crime in association with the death. Therefore, in this writeup we will be looking at wrongful death law in the area of Personal Injury from the standpoint of a Board Certified civil trial lawyer.
What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
Preponderance of evidence is frequently mistaken for beyond a reasonable doubt.
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 of the term:
“[…]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 to Personal Injury, the court uses “preponderance of evidence” to determine the standard of proof. The court will not use “beyond a reasonable doubt”, as this is terminology for criminal court cases.
However, as we go more in-depth readers will note the “standard of proof” is only one area of a wrongful death lawsuit. Many factors are necessary for a successful verdict. In cases of wrongful death, the client would be the surviving family members of the victim. Several elements go into a lawyer successfully obtaining compensation when wrongful death occurs.
What’s necessary for a Florida wrongful death claim to proceed?
In civil cases, “standard of proof” or “burden of proof” is what the law calls a preponderance of evidence.
Next, let’s list the aspects necessary to make up a successful wrongful death lawsuit. A successful lawsuit results in a verdict that awards maximum compensation for surviving family:
- The death of a human being
- The death must be the result of the negligence of another or with intent. Intent refers to causing harm, maiming, or killing. These instances occur through medical malpractice or negligent security
- Surviving family who suffer financial injury because of the loss
- Appointing of a personal representative for the deceased’s estate
What does wrongful death law cover?
The circumstances for litigation in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit make up the remaining puzzle pieces of a successful verdict:
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse and/or neglect
- Occupational exposure that are not considered occupational hazards (i.e.: toxic substances, hazardous conditions, negligent security)
- Criminal actions such as assault, battery, or a shooting
- Death during an activity with supervision
What is a “successful” outcome in wrongful death cases?
There is no “successful” outcome in wrongful death cases. A person passing away is tragic. However, on the legal side, success is determinable by recovering a sufficient verdict for the victim’s family. Families deserve to achieve financial stability after losing a family member. This means retaining the best possible wrongful death lawyer.
Financial injury is the measure of damages specific to wrongful death law. This refers to “pecuniary injuries”. These can include: loss of support, termination of inheritances, medical and funeral expenses, and any other financial needs that cease being met for the family after death.
It’s also important to look at how “pecuniary loss” is determined by law, and in the next section we will do so.
First, there is a determination of financial injury. These circumstances include the age and health of the victim, earning capacity, their original life expectancy and intelligence are all considered. This step in litigation usually occurs during trial. Furthermore, the surviving family members circumstances are a consideration by the judge during this phase of the case.
What is an appropriate determination of damages in wrongful death cases?
The main thing the court looks at when determining damages, are the circumstances surrounding the victim at the time of his or her death.
- Loss of income. If unemployed at the time of death, a jury considers the victim’s last known earnings. They will award damages based in part on this information, as well as the potential for future earnings, now lost.
- Loss of a parent. Parental guidance is a factor when determining damages.
- If the deceased has dependents at the time of death, their children factor into damages.
Why do surviving family members require an experienced wrongful death lawyer?
A lawyer with Board Certification and experience can help mitigate the mental anguish that results from wrongful death.
It’s important to act quickly, because the Statute of Limitations in the state of Florida is (2) two years from the time of a wrongful death. If clients exceed the Statute of Limitations, the case cannot be heard. This happens even if the burden of proof is there to support the claim.
These cases are not straightforward. In fact, these claims are more complicated for younger lawyers without much experience. This is why a Board Certified lawyer’s experience and prior successes with similar cases are of utmost importance. When retaining legal representation, looking for a Firm with multi million dollar wrongful death law verdicts is a must.