Apart from facing felony criminal charges, anyone who takes the life of another person deliberately, due to recklessness or negligence may also be sued in a civil court. But these civil lawsuits become complicated because the family members of the deceased try to balance between grieving and filing a wrongful death claim. For those in Sawgrass that want to submit this claim, the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney will provide legal guidance.
Overview of Wrongful Death Claims
Florida Statutes 768.16 – 768.26 is the law that defines wrongful death and helps individuals receive monetary compensation when their loved one dies because of the negligence of another party or entity. The estate, children, or spouses of the deceased are allowed by the statute to file a claim to receive reimbursement in monetary terms. Under Florida 768.19, the estate of the deceased can also seek legal action for the losses accruing due to the death.
Note that according to Section 768.19, you can only file a claim if the following elements apply in your case:
- The defendant’s behavior constitutes negligence, default, breach of warranty, or wrongful act.
- The behavior or conduct by the defendant resulted in the death
- The action by the defendant could have allowed the deceased to pursue compensation if he or she was alive or death had not happened.
Statutes 768.21 outlines the rules that govern the awarding of wrongful death damages. As per law, you must reveal the identities of possible recipients of the benefits and their relationship to the deceased. Section 768.20 permits the children, blood relatives, adoptive siblings, parents, or spouses of the victim to file a claim. Section 768.22 is the law that outlines the number of damages each survivor receives.
Wrongful deaths occur all the time due to car accidents, medical malpractice, pedestrian accidents, or motorcycle accidents. When a death occurs, the family and the estates of the victim incur losses and undergo a lot of pain. For this reason, there is a need to blame someone for death. The blame results in a wrongful death claim that shows you are seeking monetary benefits for the untimely death of a loved one or losses incurred because of the demise of the victim.
Differences Between Wrongful Death and Murder
Although wrongful death is related to murder, the two are very different. Murder is an intentional act to take someone’s life, while wrongful death is a fatal accident caused by another person’s negligence or recklessness. Murder cases are prosecuted in a court of law, and upon conviction, the defendant is sentenced to prison. Contrarily, a wrongful death claim is an independent action that allows you to pursue monetary compensation as an estate or descendant of the deceased. Your wrongful death claim will seek compensation for pain, loss of consortium, loss of future income, medical expenses, funeral and burial costs. The main objective of the claim in a civil court is to provide economic and non-economic damages to the grieving family. Note that for you to file this claim, a Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney will be necessary to guide you through the process.
Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
In an endeavor to bring fairness and predictability when filing civil suits, Florida laws provided a statute of limitations, which is the time limit within which you should register a claim in Florida. If there is no pending legal matter against the defendant, you should notify them of the harm they caused to other people. Consequently, you have to make up your mind fast on whether to file a lawsuit or not. The reason being, if you fail to register a claim within the stipulated period, you will lose your constitutional right to punish those whose action or inaction resulted in the death of a loved one.
As per section 95.11, Florida Statutes, the survivors or family members of the deceased have until two years to register a claim. If you compare this period with other personal injury claims, you will realize that wrongful death claims have a shorter window for registering an application. Exceptional circumstances can, however, result in the extension of the time limit. Things like intent to marry or divorce, adoptive children, and posthumous children can get the statute of limitations extended.
In wrongful death claims, the clock starts ticking when you find out or when you ought to have found out what caused the death of the victim. The discovery rule applies when deciding if the decedent knew or ought to have known the source of injuries or disease before demise. The rule allows you as the claimant a particular duration to register a claim after discovery or when you should have discovered the cause of death. In case the decedent was aware of the action that caused the illness or injuries but didn’t file a claim, the statute of limitations clock will start ticking even before death occurs.
Keep in mind that your wrongful death claim might be barred by the statute of limitations where the claim arises from a personal injury claim, and the decedent had not filed a complaint before death. The reason for barring the wrongful death claim is because the deceased didn’t register a personal injury claim within the stipulated time limit.
Even after the statute of limitations has elapsed, there are other ways you can extend it. You could file a motion with the court requesting a waiver of the time limit to allow you to register a claim. To be eligible for the waiver, you must meet a specific criterion. Not many people that petition the court merit for a waiver because the opposing party will not agree with your request to have the time limit waived.
Also, you could opt for tolling to suspend or delay the time limit for registering the claim. Tolling is justified if a wrongful death claim involves a child of the deceased who is 18 years or younger. The statute of limitations for children begins to run once the child attains 18 years. Also, if your case involves fraud or intentional acts or you have a mental disorder, tolling might be justified. The court will weigh the pros and cons of tolling to the defendant to decide if it is justified or not. If you want to know if you can toll or postpone the statutes of limitations, you should speak to your Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney about the issue to be advised accordingly.
Common Claims of Wrongful Death
If a company manufactures or designs a defective product like machinery and product malfunctions, causing the death of a loved one, you can file a wrongful death claim. If a harmful product caused the demise, you could file a claim against the manufacturers of the product for failing to warn consumers of dangerous side effects. Manufacturers bear the responsibility when they breach their duty of providing safe products to the general public.
In case you lost a loved one in a car accident, you can register a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. Drivers act negligently when they:
- Drive while impaired
- Drive recklessly
- Fail to adhere to traffic lights and signs
In case a person dies from a car accident caused by the above things, the descendants of the victim can file a claim against the driver or the vehicle owner. You can also file a claim if a construction site on the road or poor road conditions results in the death of a person.
Where a wrongful death involves a truck accident, the procedure might become complex because different federal and state laws govern trucks. These cases will include first parties turning to their insurers for compensation, commercial insurance policies, or employer liability claims.
In Florida, motorcycles are uninsured. In such cases, the car owner or the driver is to blame. If a faulty part caused the accident, you can bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the product. If the vehicle had poor maintenance, the experts in charge of the maintenance of the people would be sued. Speak to your Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney about your motorcycle accident to be advised on the party you should sue for damages.
If wrongful death occurs because of medical negligence or malpractice, you can pursue a claim. Medical malpractice occurs when doctors, hospitals, or medical experts fail to meet the required standards resulting in death or injuries on a person. If a patient dies of drug interaction or lack of proper care in a hospital, you can sue the hospital for wrongful death. If it’s a doctor who prescribes medication without inquiring from the patient if he or she has an underlying medical condition, you can register a claim if the patient dies.
Also, if it’s a child who dies during birth due to medical negligence, you could file a wrongful death claim. Where biomedical devices malfunction resulting in death, your Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney can pursue a wrongful death claim against medical providers, pharmaceutical companies, or drug manufacturer seeking monetary compensation for the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of support
- Pain and suffering
In Florida, if a minor or an alcoholic dies after consuming liquor, you can sue the bar, restaurant, company, homeowner, or anyone who knowingly served the alcohol.
If it is a slip and fall that led to the death of a loved one, Florida Wrongful Death Act allows you to pursue monetary compensation for various damages that you might incur or will incur after death. If the slip and fall occur in a property, the property owner, manager, or ride manufacturer will be held responsible for wrongful death. If the accident occurs in a theme park, you could register a claim against the company that does maintenance in the park or the theme park company.
Where an accidental shooting results in death, you should file a wrongful death claim against the gun owner. If another person were using the gun when the accident occurred, the gun owner would still be held liable for negligence because of allowing an unauthorized person to use a gun. Homeowners can also have wrongful death claims filed against them for negligence and inadequate precaution for safe storage of a firearm if accidental shooting causes death.
The claims discussed above are prevalent in wrongful death cases. But there are other circumstances apart from the above that could necessitate you to file a claim. These are:
- Accidental pool drowning
- Boat accidents
- Airplane crashes
- Death stemming from hazardous working conditions
- Work-related deaths
The reason many people who lose their family members to negligence by other parties don’t pursue wrongful death claims is that they lack proper legal advice. But with a Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney by your side, you can even register a claim against the insurance company of the deceased if they delay or deny you benefits from decedent’s life insurance. You could do this if the deceased’s death occurred within two years of him or her taking out life insurance.
Generally, if you or your Sawgrass Personal Injury Attorney can prove the death of the victim occurred due to negligence, recklessness, or action or inaction of another party, you can register a wrongful death claim in a court. The number of damages to be recovered from the suit will depend on the individual circumstances that led to death and your relationship with the decedent.
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim
Civil and criminal elements of wrongful death are handled separately. Civil lawsuits seek to hold the negligent party responsible in monetary terms. The first damages are calculated from the time negligence occurred to the time of death. The other costs are for the losses incurred after a death. Actuaries and economists are some of the experts whose testimonies are used to estimate the amount of compensation you will receive. The damages come in three forms which are:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Keep in mind that although you should receive compensation for these damages, there is a limit on the recoverable damages by the descendants of the deceased.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you live in Sawgrass and have lost a loved one because of negligence or deliberate action by a person or entity, we invite you to call 904-494-8242 and speak to the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney. We will assist you in recovering monetary damages for the wrongful death.