People who have been injured due to another party’s negligence have the legal right to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for their damages. But what if the victim suffers a fatal injury? In this case, the law allows the victim’s family to take legal action against the at-fault party in what is known as a wrongful death claim.
If your loved one has suffered a wrongful death, a Tampa personal injury attorney can help you fight for the compensation your family deserves. But first, it’s important to understand when you may have a wrongful death claim and what you will need to prove to recover compensation.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim may arise whenever someone is killed due to another party’s negligence. Many wrongful death claims arise as a result of:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
You may have the right to file a wrongful death claim if your loved one was involved in any type of fatal accident that was caused by a negligent party.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Each state has its own laws regarding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Florida, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the victim’s personal representative. If the victim did not name a personal representative prior to their death, the court will appoint one.
The personal representative is the only party that is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the personal representative does this on behalf of the decedent’s survivors. The law defines the “survivors” as the decedent’s:
- Blood relatives or adoptive siblings that were partly or wholly dependent on the decedent at the time of their death
This means if any compensation is awarded, it will go to the victim’s estate and these family members.
What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The burden of proof falls on the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim. In other words, the decedent’s surviving family members must be able to prove that the defendant is liable in order to recover compensation for their damages.
To win a wrongful death case, you must be able to prove these elements:
- Duty of care: The defendant owed the victim a duty of care, which is a legal obligation to act in a way that does not put others in danger.
- Breach of duty of care: The defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently.
- Causation: The victim was killed as a result of the defendant’s negligent action.
For example, say your loved one was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Every driver has a legal obligation to drive safely in order to protect other road users. Because of this, the drunk driver owed a duty of care to your loved one.
Driving while intoxicated is a breach of this duty of care since it is a risky behavior that puts others in danger. If the accident was clearly caused by the drunk driver, you would be able to win your claim and recover compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.
What Types of Compensation Can Surviving Family Members Recover?
Surviving family members may be awarded several types of compensation if they successfully prove the three elements of a wrongful death claim.
Each surviving family member is entitled to compensation for the current and future loss of support and services they have suffered due to the victim’s death. This includes compensation for the loss of financial support and the loss of other services, such as childcare or household services, that the victim performed prior to their death.
The victim’s surviving spouse may also be awarded compensation for the loss of companionship and protection in addition to pain and suffering.
The victim’s children under the age of 25 may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering as well as the loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance. If there is no surviving spouse, the victim’s children over the age of 25 may also recover compensation for these damages.
Parents may recover compensation for their damages under certain conditions. If the victim was a minor, the parents can recover compensation for their mental pain and suffering. If the victim was an adult, the parents can only recover compensation for their mental pain and suffering if there are no other surviving family members entitled to compensation.
Surviving family members can also be reimbursed for funeral and burial expenses. If the victim’s estate covered these expenses, the court can order the defendant to reimburse the estate.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Florida?
The law limits the amount of time that personal representatives and surviving family members have to take legal action after a wrongful death. The statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Florida is two years from the date of the victim’s death. In other words, the law will give you two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
If you miss this two-year deadline, you could lose the right to take legal action against the liable party and recover compensation for your damages. This is why it’s so important to get in touch with an attorney as quickly as possible after losing a loved one in an unexpected accident caused by someone else’s negligence.
Discuss Your Case With Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent acts of another party, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from the wrongful death attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our aggressive attorneys will handle every aspect of your wrongful death claim so you can focus solely on mourning the tragic loss of your loved one. Let us help you fight for the compensation you deserve.