What is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when someone negligently or intentionally causes the death of another person. If you have experienced the wrongful death of a loved one, you know that no amount of money can compensate you. However, you can minimize the financial ramifications of your loss and impose consequences on the wrongdoer, which might prevent future losses for other families.
Wrongful death examples
Wrongful death may occur in a variety of circumstances, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Medical malpractice;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Firearm accidents;
- Defective or dangerous products; and
- Construction site or other workplace accidents.
Sometimes, the individual responsible for the death will also be subject to criminal charges, but it is not necessary to have a criminal conviction in order to succeed in a wrongful death claim. Furthermore, it is enough that the act that caused the death was negligent, intentional or not.
Elements of a wrongful death case
In Florida, wrongful death actions are governed by the state’s Wrongful Death Act. The Act’s stated purpose is to shift the losses caused by wrongful deaths away from the decedent’s survivors, to the wrongdoers. Thus, according to the statute, a right of action exists when a person’s death is caused by another’s wrongful act, negligence, breach of contract or breach of warranty.
To prove a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must show:
- A death (generally of a spouse or close family member);
- Caused by another’s negligence or misconduct; and
- That the decedent would have had a legal claim against the defendant for his injuries if he had survived.
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the decedent’s personal representative, who may be appointed by the court or named in the decedent’s will or estate plan to administer the estate. The court will frequently appoint a surviving spouse as personal representative.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the decedent’s survivors and estate. The statute specifies that the survivors include only the decedent’s:
- Any blood relatives or adoptive siblings who depended partly or wholly on the decedent for support; and
- The child of an unmarried mother.
A child born to unmarried parents whose father suffers a wrongful death is not considered a survivor eligible for recovery unless the father has previously recognized his responsibility for the child’s support.
Damages for wrongful death
The Wrongful Death Act specifies that all potential beneficiaries of a recovery for wrongful death, including the plaintiff’s estate, must be identified in the complaint and their relationship to the decedent specified. Survivors may recover for:
- Lost support and services;
- Loss of companionship;
- Mental pain and suffering;
- Loss of earnings; and
- Medical and funeral expenses.
Consult a Florida wrongful death lawyer
A loved one’s accidental death can be devastating to the survivors, both emotionally and financially. The experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorneys of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, have successfully represented the families of victims killed in all manner of accidents, helping them to make sense of the legal and financial aspects of their losses. We serve clients in West Palm Beach, Stuart and Boca Raton. Contact us for a consultation about your case today.