Wrongful Death Attorney
Our attorneys fight for families of victims killed by other parties' negligence
The untimely death of a loved one can devastate a family. Beyond going through the experience of grieving the loss of their family member, surviving relatives must also plan funeral arrangements and resolve an array of legal matters. If the death was the result of another person’s negligence, family members may also be struggling with mixed feelings about the cause of the accident and the resulting expenses. For this reason, Florida law allows accident victims’ families to file a claim to receive compensation for damages resulting from their family member’s death. These cases are known as wrongful death cases. If a loved one has been killed because of another's carelessness, don't hesitate to reach out to a Palm Bay wrongful death lawyer from Couture Law, P.A.
Who can file a wrongful death case in Florida?
Florida law permits people who have very specific relationships with the accident victim to file a wrongful death claim. Everything a person owns at the time of his or her death is referred to as his or her “estate.” If there is an estate representative, this person may file a wrongful death claim, though representatives are entitled to more limited damages than the decedent’s surviving family members. The estate representative may also file a claim on behalf of the surviving family members. However, the family members are generally eligible to receive additional damages depending on the facts of the case. State law defines surviving family members or “survivors” as:
- the victim’s spouse
- the victim’s children
- the victim’s parents
- blood relatives and adoptive siblings who were at least partially dependent on the victim for support
Compensation for victims’ children
In Florida, the accident victims’ children may recover damages in a wrongful death case at any age. Children may receive compensation from the time of the parent’s injury to the time of the parent’s death. Courts also compensate surviving children for future loss of financial support. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, surviving children may receive compensation for emotional damages, including loss of parental guidance and companionship and mental pain and suffering. Surviving children may not be awarded damages for pain and suffering in wrongful deaths that occur as a result of medical negligence.
Compensation for the accident victim’s parents
Parents may generally recover damages for children killed in wrongful death accidents if the child was age 25 or under at the time of death. If the child was over 25, the parents may still receive damages if there are no other eligible surviving family members. In wrongful death cases that occur as a result of medical malpractice, the parents do not receive damages for pain and suffering. Regarding funeral expenses, whoever pays for the funeral may receive compensation to cover related costs without regard to the victim’s age or whether there are surviving children who are also entitled to damages.
Establishing a wrongful death case
In all Florida wrongful death cases, the plaintiff’s attorney must establish certain elements to win the case. The plaintiff’s side must prove:
- a death occurred
- someone else’s actions caused the death
- the act or condition that caused the death was negligent or intentional
- there are survivors who suffered damages as a result of the death
- the survivors suffered monetary damages as a result of the death
Two categories of damages in wrongful death cases
In a wrongful death case, courts may award surviving family members compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to give the victim’s family a sense of justice following the loss of their loved one. Courts determine the amount surviving family members are to receive by evaluating the specific details of the case, including surviving children’s ages, the decedent’s income at the time of the accident, the decedent’s future earning potential, and whether the decedent had a spouse. Courts also award plaintiffs compensation for medical and funeral expenses under the category of compensatory damages. There is no exact formula courts use to quantify emotional damages like loss of companionship and pain and suffering. Because these calculations rely heavily on evidence submitted by the plaintiff, it is important to have a Palm Bay accident lawyer thoroughly review every detail relating to the case and gather all records, photos, and witness testimonies he or she will need to use in establishing the plaintiff’s case.
Punitive damages are meant to generally discourage others from behaving like the defendant, thus discouraging similar personal injury cases from arising in the future. Courts most often award punitive damages when the plaintiff is a large company or other large entity. Nevertheless, individuals can also be ordered to pay the punitive damages to the plaintiff. Compensating the victim’s family is not the primary intent behind punitive damages. However, courts award the additional payout to the victim’s surviving family members.
Statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits
Florida’s statute of limitations for wrongful death cases differs significantly from the amount of time potential plaintiffs have to file a claim for most other personal injuries. The victim’s family or estate representative must file a claim within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. An exception applies to wrongful death cases in which the victim’s death was caused by homicide. In Florida, there is no civil statute of limitations in homicide cases. These cases usually also undergo a criminal investigation process. Criminal investigations may last years; therefore, several years may pass before the guilty party is identified and surviving family members are able to proceed with a civil claim.
In some wrongful death cases, it may take months or even years for the attorney to gather the necessary facts, file the case, and proceed through pre-trial negotiations. Therefore, surviving family members should contact a Florida wrongful death attorney as early as possible.
Contacting a Palm Bay wrongful death attorney
Our Palm Bay wrongful death attorneys are available to represent Palm Bay families in such civil death cases. Contact us to receive a free, confidential case evaluation.