How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

February 20, 2022

Fear of losing a loved one is the kind of thing that keeps us up at night. We do our best to keep our families safe, but unfortunately, that is not always enough. 

When the unthinkable actually happens and a loved one dies, the immense grief and loss is compounded if the death was caused by an accident that could have been prevented. 

Coping with a loved one’s death due to someone else’s negligence can leave you feeling understandably angry and committed to seeking justice on their behalf. You may be able to do just that.

In Florida, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim to receive compensation for any financial losses and emotional pain and suffering caused by the loss of your loved one

When it comes to taking legal action, there are many hoops you’ll have to jump through to get your case heard. Trying to figure out what those hoops are and how to jump through them can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re also grieving the loss of a loved one.

If you are suffering from the loss of a family member, and you believe that the circumstances surrounding the death are the fault of a third party, a wrongful death claim may be the right course of action. Let’s find out more.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a specific type of lawsuit that a living family member can bring up when someone dies due to neglect or intentional wrongdoing.

To put it another way, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that gives the surviving family the ability to seek compensation from the party that negligently caused the death of their loved one.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate you for your loss, not to punish the defendant for violating a law. The claim is a civil lawsuit and not a criminal case, so there are no criminal charges. A successful claim will lead to compensation for you but no prison time or fines for the negligent party.

Some common accidents that lead to wrongful death claims include:

  • Car accidents
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Defective products
  • Workplace injuries
  • Assault and battery
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Sports accidents

When someone is claiming wrongful death, the charges can only be brought against the defendant (the person to blame for the death) by the estate or spouses, children or next of kin. 

Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death AttorneyHow Do I File A Wrongful Death Claim?

There are typically specific steps that the filing process will follow. Although some steps might deviate from this, this will give you a good starting place for what to expect.

  • You will file a claim with the defendant’s/negligent party’s insurance
  • You or your lawyers will determine the value of the damages you are suffering to decide how much compensation you are owed
  • You will then send your demand letter (for compensation) to the negligent party
  • The insurance company will assess your demand and offer you a settlement (depending on if they agree with your compensation terms)
  • If you and your lawyer can’t agree on terms with the negligent party, you will begin the negotiation process

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

One of the first questions to consider before filing a claim is whether you are even eligible to do so. Florida requires that wrongful death claims be in compliance with state law, which allows only certain close family members of the victim to file a wrongful death suit. 

Wrongful death lawyers can represent the family members and initiate the claim on their behalf. 

Eligible relatives of the deceased who can file include:

  • Spouse: Compensation for loss of companionship, protection, pain and suffering
  • Children: Minors can claim damages for loss of parental companionship and guidance, as well as for mental pain and suffering. 
  • Children born out of wedlock: If the victim is the father, a child is only considered a survivor if the decedent was responsible for the child’s support.
  • Parents: If the victim is a minor, parents can claim for mental pain and suffering; if the victim is an adult, parents may receive this compensation when there are no other survivors
  • Other blood relatives and adoptive siblings: Any who were financially dependent on the victim for support may receive compensation as well (usually after the primary beneficiaries listed above)

The survivor who paid the medical and funeral expenses related to the injuries and death of the victim can also receive compensation.

Again: Only certain people can file the claim in a wrongful death lawsuit. The insurance company will likely divide the compensation amongst the remaining family members depending on their relationship with the victim. A surviving spouse may receive more money than children, for example.

If you are planning to file a wrongful death claim, however, ensure that you do so before the statute of limitations expires. Your lawyer will confirm all the deadlines with you.

wrongful death claim - woman cryingWhat Is the Difference Between Malpractice and Wrongful Death?

As we’ve seen, wrongful death is a claim you bring after your loved one dies as the result of an act of negligence.

Medical malpractice happens to be one of those negligent acts. It occurs when medical professionals are negligent. For example, when a doctor fails to diagnose a patient and that misdiagnosis leads to a detrimental result for the patient.

Medical malpractice can result in a wrongful death claim, but not always. 

What Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Cases?

It can be painful and difficult to think about money when you’re grieving the loss of a family member, but you have a right to be compensated for what you have lost. 

Assessing the value of a wrongful death claim can be complex. Often, damages are largely non-economic in nature, meaning they involve losses that do not have a price tag. These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, loss of parental guidance, and other damages that are difficult to quantify in terms of dollars.

On the financial side, there are a number of different factors that could affect the financial value of your case, including the following:

  • Victim’s projected earnings
  • Value of any household services provided by your loved one prior to death
  • Victim’s age and life expectancy
  • Number of surviving dependents
  • Circumstances surrounding the death
  • Any medical costs and treatment prior to death

What You Need to Prove a Florida Wrongful Death Claim

When it comes to filing a wrongful death claim, there are specific elements you have to keep in mind so that your case isn’t immediately thrown out.

First things first. Before you can get damages in a wrongful death claim, you must first prove that it was in fact a wrongful death. This means showing evidence that the death was caused by someone who was negligent, and but for that negligence, your loved one would still be alive. 

Negligence describes a situation in which someone acts in a careless (or “negligent”) manner, causing someone else to be hurt or property to be damaged.

You must also be able to show that you or other family members are eligible to bring a claim for compensation based on your relationship with the victim. 

Other factors that may come into play are:

  • Divorce
  • Remarriage
  • Common Law Marriage
  • Adopted children
  • Stepchildren
  • Divorced Parents 
  • Posthumous child (child not yet born at the time of the victim’s death)

As you can see, wrongful death claims can get complicated. Evidence can be difficult to compile, especially during a time when emotions are running high. You are likely too distraught while thinking about how to navigate the legal system and get justice for your loved one.

That is where experienced personal injury attorneys are an invaluable resource. Let someone who knows the law handle the legal matters while you mourn and heal from your loss.

Keep in mind that, in Florida, you only have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death claim (due to the statute of limitations). That may seem like a long time but building a robust case that will hold up in court takes time. 

wrongful death claim - dead woman on pavement next to car accidentContact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

The death of a loved one is devastating, but that loss is magnified when it could have been prevented if others had acted with greater care. 

Nothing can bring your loved one back, but making sure those responsible for the accident pay for their actions can help you get closure. And having an experienced lawyer in your corner can be a gamechanger.

If you’re needing a wrongful death attorney in Fort Lauderdale or one of our other Florida metropolitan areas, contact us to get a free consultation. The BK Law team will get started on the path towards a successful wrongful death claim. Once we are representing you, you can be assured we are fighting aggressively for you and your loved ones.

We will review your case (what was the accident, who was involved, why the accident happened, etc.) and evaluate the situation.

If you have a compensable case, we’ll identify the damage you are suffering from. This can include economic and non-economic factors, such as the medical care of the victim before they passed, financial support for lost income, and many other elements. As for the non-economic factors, those include elements like emotional turmoil, loss of consortium, and vital injuries that can’t necessarily be fixed with money.

 

Category:personal injury

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