There is nothing more emotionally devastating or heartbreaking than losing a loved one in an accident that never should have happened. Dealing with the aftermath can be traumatic. It is even challenging trying to navigate a legal claim. If you have lost a loved one because of the negligent, careless, or deliberate actions of another person or group of persons, you need justice. The wrongful death process allows grieving families to get accountability, closure, and financial support.
At Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC, our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers are compassionate, justice-focused advocates for grieving families. With the skills and experience to handle complex wrongful death claims, our firm gets real results. We can help your family pursue compensation for your loss. If your loved one was involved in a fatal accident, our legal team is here as a resource. Call us today to set up a free, strictly confidential initial consultation with an experienced attorney.
What is a Wrongful Death in Fort Lauderdale?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statutes § 768.16) is a state statute that allows eligible family members to hold a negligent party legally responsible for the damages that they sustained as a consequence of their loved one’s death. A type of civil legal claim, a wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of the negligent or otherwise improper act of another party. The legal process allows surviving family members an opportunity to pursue justice and financial support.
Is a Wrongful Death a Criminal Act?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of civil legal claim. Depending on the actual wrongful act in question, there may or may not be a corresponding criminal case against the defendant. For example, if your loved one was killed in a crash with a drunk driver in Broward County, there may be both a criminal prosecution and a civil wrongful death case. Drunk drivers can be arrested and charged with a serious crime. That being said, the criminal case will not lead directly to compensation for your family. A civil wrongful death claim must be filed.
It is important to emphasize that not all wrongful death cases involve criminal acts. As an example, your loved one may have been killed in a crash with a distracted driver in Fort Lauderdale. Distracted driving is negligent driving—but it is not necessarily a criminal act. Your family can still bring a wrongful death claim. Even if the responsible party is never charged with or convicted of a crime, it might be possible to file a civil claim to hold the responsible party financially accountable for their actions.
Understanding the Most Common Cause of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims can arise in a wide range of different circumstances. Indeed, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by eligible surviving family members after any type of accident in which a wrongful, negligent, or otherwise unlawful actions or inactions caused the death of an innocent person. Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths in Florida include:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Truck accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Pedestrian collisions;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Boating accidents;
- Fall accidents;
- Negligent security;
- Unsafe conditions on property; and
- Dangerous and defective products.
How Does My Family Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case?
Unfortunately, even after a fatal accident, it can be hard for grieving families to get cooperation from defendants, corporations, and insurance companies. The unfortunate reality is that the liable party is unlikely to admit their faults, and you will be under a lot of stress as it is.
The last thing you need to be doing is thinking about the fact that your loved one died an unnecessary death. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be one of the hardest things a person can go through. Without a good attorney by your side, you may find yourself wasting time and energy, and ultimately compounding your emotional and financial problems.
Every fatal accident requires a comprehensive, thorough, and detail-driven investigation. An experienced Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer can determine exactly what happened and why it happened – with a focus on gathering, securing, and preparing all of the evidence needed to prove fault.
Ultimately, the standard of liability in a wrongful death claim depends largely on the specific circumstances of the case. The plaintiffs (grieving family) will need to provide evidence that demonstrates that the defendant(s) actions or inactions constitute wrongful conduct that contributed to the death.
How Difficult is it to Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case?
Every wrongful death case is different. How difficult it will be to establish liability depends on a wide range of different factors. Still, every fatal accident should be carefully investigated by a lawyer. In some cases, defendants and insurers will aggressively fight back against a claim of liability—arguing that they do not bear fault at all for the fatal accident. In other cases—such as a drunk driving crash—the core legal issue may be less on proving liability and more on establishing damages and maximizing recovery.
Regardless of the specific circumstances, if you would like the best chance of obtaining a resolution to your case, then it is very important to seek legal advice from an experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer. Executing a lawsuit correctly takes a significant amount of knowledge about the law, and the ability to aggressively fight for the rights of the victim.
What is the Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
You have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. If the legal claim is not properly initiated before the statute of limitations expires, then the case could be dismissed outright without a full hearing on the actual merits. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years. As a general matter, a grieving family must file any wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date that their loved one passed away.
You should not wait to get started with the wrongful death claims process. After a fatal accident, you can be sure the other—whether a corporate defendant or an insurance company—will waste little time in building a legal defense strategy. The sooner you set up an initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, the better position your family will be in to get justice, closure, and the maximum financial support.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
An untimely death impacts an enormous number of people. Family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and the community as a whole can all feel the effects. Unfortunately, Florida’s wrongful death laws do not provide a cause of action for everyone who was emotionally affected by a deadly accident.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, grieving family members do not file a wrongful death claim directly in Florida. Instead, the claim should be filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate. Typically, this is the executor named in their will or another trusted party as appointed by a probate court.
While a Florida wrongful death claim is filed by a personal representative, it is filed on behalf of the surviving family members of the victim. Indeed, the personal representative of the victim is responsible for listing all parties in the wrongful death lawsuit who have a potential interest in the claim. Typically, this includes the following:
- The surviving spouse;
- The surviving children;
- The surviving parents; and
- Anyone else who is a direct legal dependent of the deceased.
What Types of Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim that exists to compensate the surviving family members for their losses. Through a wrongful death case, an eligible family member can seek financial compensation for their economic and intangible losses. More specifically, a wrongful death settlement or verdict may include compensation for some or all of the following damages:
- Any out of pocket medical costs;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of financial support;
- Loss of emotional support and service of the deceased;
- Loss of companionship from the deceased; and
- Loss of parental instruction, and guidance.
One of the many challenges of pursuing a wrongful death claim is that the surviving family members’ damages are primarily non-economic in nature. The loss of a close loved one is a preventable accident that is devastating. It is impossible to put a precise dollar figure on your non-economic damages. Further, nothing could ever truly make things right.
Sadly, defendants and insurance companies may try to take advantage of the inherent ambiguity in calculating non-economic damages. They offer grieving family members a settlement that is wholly inadequate given the scope of their loss. Our Florida wrongful death lawyers are committed to helping grieving families secure the full compensation that they are owed under the law.
Can You Claim Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Punitive damages are a form of “penalty” damages that are meant to punish the extraordinarily egregious conduct of the defendant. To be clear, these additional damages are still awarded to the victim’s family. Punitive compensation can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. That being said, punitive damages will not be awarded in every wrongful death case. It is the policy in Florida that punitive compensation will only be granted for criminal or extremely reckless conduct.
There is a statutory cap on punitive damages in Florida. Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 768.73), punitive damages are limited at three times the total compensatory damages or $500,000 whichever amount is greater. In other words, punitive damages cannot be awarded in excess of $500,000 in a Florida wrongful death claim. If you have specific questions about punitive damages, contact our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney for immediate help.
Call Our Fort Lauderdale, FL Wrongful Death Attorneys for Immediate Legal Help
Wrongful death claims are complicated, and every wrongful death lawsuit in Florida involves its own separate set of facts. Personalized legal representation is a must in these serious cases. If a loved one was killed because of another person’s reckless or negligent actions, then a wrongful death lawyer like the attorneys at Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC can help you receive restitution from the defendant for funerary costs, loss of income (including future income), pain and suffering, and the loss of a loved one. We will go above and beyond to do what is best for you and your family. Call us now or contact us online for a free, no obligation initial case review. With a law office in Fort Lauderdale and additional offices in Miami, Jacksonville, and Starke, we handle wrongful death claims throughout the entire State of Florida.