It is not unusual for the family of a deceased person to experience emotional turmoil. This is especially true when the death is not due to natural causes, but to someone’s negligence, error or reckless behavior. When a person dies, the family may also experience unexpected financial hardship. Laws in each state provide a way for the remaining family members to seek compensation in the way of “damages” after such a death.
If a loved one has been killed because of someone else, you may have the elements necessary for a successful wrongful death lawsuit. If you were to believe the commercials you see on television, every victim is entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars when they file a civil lawsuit. While large settlements certainly do occur, they are not the norm. Before you file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important that you understand the type of damages that can be awarded. Here is a brief rundown of what you may expect.
Damages Experienced by the Deceased
When a person is killed as the result of someone’s reckless behavior or negligence, such as in a vehicle collision, that person may not pass away instantly. Instead, they suffer injuries that are so severe they ultimately pass away days, weeks or months later. In the time between the accident and the death, medical bills are incurred that can be quite high.
In cases such as this, damages that may be recovered include medical expenses, lost wages on the part of the decedent, the victim’s pain and suffering, and funeral and burial expenses. Damages such as these are paid to the remaining family members to alleviate the burden of having to make good on bills that were not foreseeable.
Damages Experienced by the Next of Kin
The second category of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death case are those that the next of kin experience following the death of their loved one. When a judge or jury awards these damages, they are meant to compensate the remaining family members for their financial losses. These damages typically include wages that would have been paid to the decedent up until the age of retirement.
Some states also allow damages for a loss of consortium. These damages are paid to the surviving spouse as a way to compensate for a loss of love and companionship. These damages may also be paid to surviving minor children who will now be forced to grow up without their parent’s guidance and support.
Who Can Be Awarded Damages?
Not every family member can be awarded damages. There is a strict protocol in who may file a claim for compensation after the death of a loved one. In typical cases, damages may be awarded to:
- Spouses: The first person who is awarded damages is the surviving spouse. The husband or wife of the deceased may file a claim to recover financial losses stemming from the death, as well as emotional trauma experienced.
- Children: Minor children may file for damages, but adult children typically may not. Children can file for compensation on the basis of a loss of comfort and support.
- Parents: When a minor child dies, the parents may file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial loss as well as for the emotional trauma stemming from the death. Parents of an adult child who is killed typically cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit unless they were legal dependents of the deceased.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
Like any other personal injury lawsuit, certain elements must be met in order to have a successful outcome in a case. In a wrongful death action, these elements include:
- The death of a person;
- Caused by the at-fault party’s negligence, regardless of intent;
- Monetary injury suffered by the surviving family members, and;
- A personal representative appointed for the estate.
If all four of these elements are met, a case will typically be successful. A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed based upon a variety of circumstances. The most common causes of a wrongful death are:
- Medical malpractice
- Automobile accident
- Criminal behavior
- Occupational exposure
- Death during supervised activity
- Pedestrian accident
A person may be killed in any type of accident. It is whether or not the accident was caused by another person’s negligence or error that will determine if a wrongful death case is appropriate.
If a loved one has been killed in Fort Lauderale and you believe that someone is to blame, reach out to our team of Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers today. We will help you schedule a free case evaluation and we will determine if you may have a successful wrongful death lawsuit on your hands. Call now to arrange for your consultation or browse our website at your convenience to learn more about our firm and the types of cases we handle. We are here for you and your family as you move forward with your lives