Nothing can be more devastating than the sudden death of a loved one. If you have lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence, not only are you left behind to cope with grief, but you may also be worried about your financial future. While no legal action can erase the emotional pain you are feeling, speaking with an experienced Stuart, Florida Wrongful Death Attorney can help you understand your rights. The experienced and dedicated Stuart, Florida wrongful death attorneys at Ehrlich & Naparstek can help you hold the responsible party accountable and recover the compensation you need to support your family.
At Ehrlich & Naparstek, we can help you understand your rights and pursue compensation, especially if the untimely death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of another party and was entirely preventable. We understand the difficulties families face as they try to move forward from the sudden death of a loved one.
For this reason, we offer you free consultations and a no-win-no-fee service so that you don’t have to worry about the legal world and the costs involved in making a claim. Contact us at (772) 842-8822 or (561) 687-1717 to learn how we can help recover compensation for the loss of your loved ones.
The Legal Definition of Wrongful Death in Florida
Wrongful death is a tort claim that arises when a party (an individual, business or government) causes the death of a person. The legal definition of wrongful death is contained in Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, which can be found as part of Florida statutes, in sections 768.16-768.26 of the Florida statutes’ chapter dealing with Negligence. The act allows someone to file a claim against the opposite party when any death is caused by default, negligence, wrongful act or breach of warranty or contract.
Wrongful death claims can be confusing and complicated for loved ones attempting to file a claim. It is highly advisable to seek the services of a seasoned Wrongful Death Lawyer in Stuart, Florida. Ehrlich & Naparstek Stuart, Florida wrongful death attorneys handle cases on the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and across the entire state of Florida. Ehrlich & Naparstek Stuart, Florida wrongful death lawyers understand this process intimately. We have helped many families recover compensation after the death of their loved ones due to someone else’s actions.
The Elements of a Wrongful Death Case in Florida
Whenever an attorney files an action for wrongful death in Florida, they must establish that your case satisfies the definition of wrongful death. This entails establishing the four critical elements of a wrongful death case, or your case may be dismissed. These four critical elements must be met in accordance with Florida’s Wrongful Death Act include:
- Death of a person,
- The death must be caused by default, negligence, wrongful act, or breach of warranty or contract of the at-fault party,
- The decedent’s family member must have suffered a financial loss as a result of the death,
- An estate must be set up in accordance with Florida’s Statutes and a personal representative for the decedent.
Of course, strong evidence is needed to prove the wrongful conduct of the at-fault party and how it directly caused your loved one’s death. You will also require evidence of your and your family members’ losses. Our West Palm Beach & Treasure Coast Wrongful Death Attorneys will help you gather sufficient evidence to prove each of these elements in order to recover compensation.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
One of the most important factors to consider when initiating a wrongful death claim in Florida is to determine who can bring the claim successfully. The Florida Wrongful Death Act, under Section 768.20, clearly states that only the deceased’s personal representative is eligible to file a claim. The personal representative files the claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
If the claim is successful, the damages recovered are then distributed to the eligible beneficiaries. The following groups of people are eligible to receive wrongful death compensation:
- The decedent’s spouse.
- The decedent’s children born out of a marriage.
- The decedent mother’s children born out of wedlock.
- The decedent father’s children born out of wedlock if the father, prior to his death, recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
- Any blood relatives who partly or wholly relied on the support of the decedent.
- Any adoptive brothers and sisters who partly or wholly relied on the support or services of the decedent.
The Florida statutes do not allow uncles or aunts, cousins, grandparents, half or step-siblings to initiate a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent.
Types of Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim
Each wrongful death case is unique, and the recoverable compensation varies greatly depending on the unique facts and circumstances involved. A wrongful death takes into account the full value of the decedent’s life. Thus, it is possible to recover the following types of damages in a wrongful death case:
Damages Available to Survivors
These are awarded to the survivors to help them recover any losses incurred due to the untimely death of a loved one. Under section 768.21 of the Florida Wrongful Death Act, survivors can recover the following damages in a wrongful death claim:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Lost support and services. This may include a probable future income of the deceased, relationship to the deceased and replacement value of lost support and services
- Pain and suffering
- Lost companionship
Damages Available to the Estate
The damages available to the estate in a wrongful death claim are listed under the Florida Statutes Section 768.21. They include:
- Medical or funeral costs
- Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of the injury to the date of death
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of an estate that were reasonably expected but were reduced to the present money value due to the decedent’s wrongful death
The court may also impose punitive damages in situations where the defendant was intentionally or recklessly negligent and caused death. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the at-fault party and discourage others from behaving in a similar way. Damages recovered can be used to compensate for the loss of the decedent or support a family deprived of its breadwinner. Either way, it helps to ensure that justice has been served.
Our West Palm Beach & Treasure Coast Wrongful Death Lawyers will help the decedent’s estate representative calculate a reasonably accurate estimation of the amount of compensation owed to the family and estate. They will then gather sufficient evidence to prove your case. All this will help increase the odds of getting a rightful compensation.
The Timeframe for Wrongful Death Cases in Florida: How Long Until Your Case Expires?
With every lawsuit, there is a specified timeframe within which the claim must be filed. This time limit is called the statute of limitations, and it may be different for each state and each type of lawsuit. In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. However, it is recommended that to file the case before this deadline, as trying to bring a claim after the expiry of this time limit is usually impossible.
Depending on the circumstances, the timeframe can be longer or shorter. One of the most common reasons is related to the discovery rule. If it was not immediately clear that the decedent’s death was due to someone else’s action or negligence, the two-year time limit may begin when that cause is discovered. There are other reasons why the statute of limitations may be stopped or tolled, such as:
- The defendant cannot be served because they are hiding, are using a false name or otherwise cannot be found
- The defendant is out of state
Although tolling the statute of limitations is extremely rare, it is imperative you consult our West Palm Beach Wrongful Death Attorneys about your unique case. The lawyers have adequate knowledge of the legal process involved with successfully filing a claim and understand the elements needed to build a strong case. They will also make sure that all legal documents are completed and correctly filed within the time limits.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death claims can arise in any situation where a person or entity does something careless, negligent or in breach of their legal obligation and the negligent or wrongful action is the direct cause of death. Some common situations that might lead to a wrongful death claim include:
Every year, thousands of traffic accidents occur in the United States. According to the National Safety Council, more than 40,000 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2018. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported that there were 402,592 crashes that resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Most often, traffic accidents in Florida are caused by negligent drivers. Negligent driving behavior may include:
- Intoxicated or impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Illegal driving maneuvers
- Texting and driving
- Drowsy driving
All these conditions and more can make roads in Florida dangerous, and even the smallest car accidents can result in severe injuries and even death.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. A recent study has shown that medical negligence accounts for as many as 251,000 deaths annually. Any time a healthcare provider or a doctor offers substandard care to a patient, they can be held legally accountable for the consequences. Some of the different types of situations that can lead to medical malpractice deaths include:
- Surgical errors, such as operating the wrong body part or wrong patient
- Delayed diagnosis or failure to diagnose a medical problem
- Failure to monitor for drug interactions
- Prescribing or administering the wrong dose or wrong medication
- Laboratory test mistakes
- Birth injuries
- Inadequate hospital policies regarding cleanliness or staffing
Most of the medical malpractice deaths occur as a result of the failure by primary care doctors to diagnose a medical condition. Surgeons, on the other hand, have reportedly been known to make errors like operating the wrong patient or body part as well as leaving surgical instruments inside of patients.
Employers are expected to provide their employees with a safe environment when at work. If employers fail in their duty, accidents can occur causing injuries and even death in the workplace. Certain occupations, such as electricians, truck drivers, metalworkers, loggers, miners, and construction workers are considered high-risk occupations and come with a higher percentage of workplace deaths. If it is proven that improper training or faulty equipment caused the accident resulting in death, the employer can be held liable.
Slip and Fall Accidents
More than 1 million people visit the emergency room every year as a result of slip and fall accidents, according to the National Floor Safety Institute. Slip and fall accidents can cause serious injuries and may even be fatal, especially if the victim is an elderly person or a young child. Slip and fall accidents occur for many reasons, often they could have been prevented if they were not caused by hazardous conditions. Common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet or slippery floors or parking lots
- Uneven tiles or flooring surfaces
- Inadequate lighting
- Broken railings
- Cracked or raised sidewalks
- Unsecured rugs and carpets
These are just some of the common causes of wrongful deaths. Other causes can include pedestrian and bicycle accidents, boating accidents, swimming pool accidents, and product liabilities.
Contact a Stuart, Florida Wrongful Death Attorney for Help
If you lost a loved one due to a fatal accident, the Stuart, Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys at Ehrlich & Naparstek will thoroughly review your circumstances and advise you of your rights and options under Florida’s wrongful death law. If necessary, we will help you set up an estate so you can claim proper compensation as stipulated in the state’s probate law.
Wrongful death can happen at any time. Regardless of what causes this type of situation, the family is left to grieve their loss as they look for answers. The untimely death of a loved one can also bring a significant financial burden on a family. At Ehrlich & Naparstek, we can help ease some of this burden by ensuring you receive the financial compensation you deserve.
We don’t charge upfront fees for wrongful death cases that we take on. That means you do not have to pay anything unless we obtain a financial recovery. Contact us today to discuss your case.