While taking legal action may not be a priority for those who have lost a loved one, it is important for survivors of the decedent to consider retaining a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. In addition to the significant emotional trauma of having a loved one pass away, families may also face considerable financial difficulties without the support of the deceased. The compensation provided by a wrongful death lawsuit can help ease this financial burden. The wrongful death attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have a long history of recovering compensation that recognizes the value of the deceased, and helps the surviving family recover from their loss.
If you have lost a loved one unexpectedly, learn about your legal rights from an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney by filling our free, no-obligation case review form today.
Wrongful death claims are civil actions made by the survivors of an individual who has passed away due to the negligence or misconduct of another. In these cases, the law allows the family members of the decedent (called “distributees”) to file a wrongful death suit seeking monetary damages. The wrongful death action is designed to provide compensation for relatives who depended upon the deceased for financial and/or emotional support.
The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows the survivors of the deceased to seek compensation for lost support or services after the death of their loved one. These survivors include a spouse, child or parent, as well as any other relative or adoptive sibling that was dependent on the deceased for financial or emotional support. There is a time limit for filing wrongful death lawsuits in Florida; failure to file within this time limit can prohibit the potential claimant from ever seeking compensation for their losses.
Wrongful death occurs when negligence, recklessness, or deliberate behavior results in a fatality. Negligence refers to the failure of an individual to behave how a reasonably prudent person would have acted under similar circumstances. To establish that a wrongful death occurred, an attorney must prove that the individual had a duty of care to the deceased; that their act or omission breached that standard of care; that their wrongful actions were the proximate (direct) cause of the injury or death of the decedent; and that damages resulted.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death include:
The court will consider a number of factors when determining the amount of damages to be awarded to the survivors of the deceased. These factors include the relationship between the survivor and the deceased; the amount of the deceased’s net income available to the survivor; the replacement value of the deceased’s services; and the life expectancy of all parties. As described below, an individual’s relationship to the decedent may entitle them to certain benefits.
Spouse: A surviving spouse may recover the loss of the decedent's companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Children: Minor children may seek compensation for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Parent: Each parent of a deceased minor child may recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.
All: Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent's injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value. In addition, medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent's injury or death may be recovered by the survivor who has paid them.
In addition to the aforementioned compensatory damages, a court may also choose to impose punitive damages. Punitive damages are appropriate in situations where a party’s intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent actions result in a wrongful death. These damages serve to punish the offending party, as well as discourage others from behaving similarly in the future.
At Morgan & Morgan, our attorneys understand the hardships a family faces after a wrongful death, and are dedicated to seeking fair compensation for these individuals. To learn more about your legal options following an unexpected death, please contact our Florida wrongful death lawyers by filling out our free, no-obligation case review form.