Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer
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When the negligence or wrongdoing of another causes injuries resulting in a death, the victim’s family has the ability to bring a wrongful death claim. Each state has its own wrongful death statutes that allow for grieving family members to recover financial compensation. Many states, including Florida, provide that the negligent party or insurance company pay monetary damages to the victim’s family. The law specifically states,
When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters, and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person or watercraft that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony.
At The Pittman Law Firm, we believe that everyone should be held accountable for his or her actions. If you lost someone due to negligence, carelessness, or malicious intent, you may have a claim to compensation. Our wrongful death attorneys are ready and willing to help you. According to Florida Statute section 768.21, both family and the estate have rights to the deceased’s assets and money.
Is a Wrongful Death Case Criminal or Civil?
While criminal actions may have led to the death of your loved one, a wrongful death suit is strictly civil. A criminal case is brought when the government is seeking to punish an individual for committing some type of crime. If crime played a part in your loved one’s death, the party at fault may face both criminal and civil cases. In the civil case, you can pursue financial recovery for damages compared to the legal penalties that a criminal case can bring.
What Type of Damages Can Be Recovered?
Depending on the specific circumstances of your loved one’s death, you may be able to recover a broad range of damages. Economic compensation in these cases can typically cover funeral expenses and lost wages or future earnings that the deceased would have provided. The medical and hospital expenses incurred due to the accident or injuries that led to death may also be recovered.
Noneconomic damages that can be recovered include compensation for loss of guidance, loss of companionship, and grief. In extreme cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the party’s actions that led to the wrongful death were intentional (criminal), reckless, or grossly negligent.
Surviving Family Can Claim the Following Damages:
- The victim's wages
- The victim's medical and hospital bills until death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship or guidance (for example, to the victim's children)
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering
The Deceased’s Estate Can Claim the Following Damages:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings
- Lost potential of net accumulation
- Medical and funeral expenses the estate has to cover
The Pittman Firm, P.A. has seen a tragic upswing in the number of wrongful death cases during the last decade. Many have stemmed from tractor-trailer collisions with cars and pickups while others stem from inattentive or drunk drivers. It is imperative that the victim's family act quickly to retain experienced legal counsel for their wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased’s property or survivors can bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit. Usually, in matters of the estate, an individual should appoint someone they trust to handle such matters. However, if no one was appointed prior to death, the court may choose someone. The Pittman Firm, P.A. can help you determine whether or not you are able to file a claim and how to do so in an appropriate manner.
- For example, the following survivors may be allowed to file:
- Spouses and children
- Siblings / adoptive siblings
- Any other relatives
- Dependents on the deceased
The priority will typically go to spouses and children first, then parents and any other close relatives or dependents. A dependent is an individual who depends on the deceased for emotional and/or financial support. For children not born at the time of death, they still have a right to bring forth a case for their deceased parent. However, if the child’s father dies, and he did not formally recognize them, they may not have a claim.
Time Limits on Filing Wrongful Death Claims
When a wrongful death occurs, dependents have the right to file a claim—but only in a certain window of time. That makes it all the more important for you to take legal action as soon as possible. If you don’t file within the statute of limitations for Florida—which is two years—you could miss your opportunity to secure justice for the loss of your loved one. Keep in mind, there are some circumstances that involve a shorter or longer statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. That is why it is so crucial to discuss your case with a knowledgeable lawyer.
How Will the Wrongful Death Award Be Decided?
When determining the amount of compensation to award a family or dependent in a wrongful death case, the court will review several key aspects of the case. They will calculate the economic losses, determine the extent of noneconomic losses suffered (loss of love, nurturing, companionship, etc.), and decide whether or not punitive damages are necessary. These calculations are based off the details provided in court, which can include everything from evidence demonstrating the negligence of the at-fault party to the strength of the child’s relationship with their lost parent. Expert witnesses, accident reconstruction, family member testimony, and more may be used to help guide a judge and jury to award a fair amount.
Additionally, How does Florida determine how much in damages to award in a wrongful death case? While the state of Florida determines what losses can be compensated in a wrongful death claim, attorneys are usually the ones who determine how much in damages should be pursued given the specific circumstance of a case. The circumstance of a case that plays a role includes the deceased’s age, the relationship the claimant had with the deceased, and any losses the estate of the deceased’s incurred. Learn more in our blog, “How Florida Values a Life in a Wrongful Death Claim.”
How Long Will it Take to Resolve a Wrongful Death Case?
This can depend on a number of different factors involved in your case. From the quality of evidence provided to the court to the legal strategy of the at-fault party, a variety of issues can change the way a wrongful death is resolved. Whether or not the responsible party is willing to settle or requires you to take a case all the way through court can also impact the length of the process. If economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages have to be calculated, this will also likely add more time to the case.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Claim?
While you have the choice of whether or not to retain a lawyer, it is always in your best interest to secure experienced counsel during a time like this. Not only can a seasoned attorney keep you informed of your rights and legal options, but they can also help you craft a strong, compelling case that withstands the trial process or brings about a desirable settlement. When you have a skilled advocate on your side, you can focus on grieving and moving forward with your friends, family, and loved ones.
No Legal Fees Unless Recovery is Secured
Attorney Wes Pittman brings more than three decades of experience to the table. His extensive legal insight could make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
As a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum® and Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Florida, he has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his clients. He is not afraid to take a matter to court if he believes it is necessary to pursue justice for his clients.
He handles wrongful death claims on a contingency fee basis. You won’t have to pay legal fees unless recovery is made for your family. The Pittman Firm, P.A. is the kind of law firm you need on your side during this difficult time.
Give the firm a call to discuss your case with a trusted Florida wrongful death lawyer and learn your legal rights and options.