At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, our West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyers represent surviving family members who have lost loved ones in auto accidents, slip and falls and other situations where negligence or wrongdoing led to death.
Our attorneys understand how devastating it can be when a family member is taken away from you because another person or entity did something wrong or failed to live up to his legal obligations. While we know there is nothing that can make the pain of loss go away, we will fight to protect your legal rights and ensure you have the best chance of getting the maximum compensation available to you for your losses under Florida law.
What is a Wrongful Death Case?
When a person is killed in an accident or at the hands of another, their death may be “wrongful.” These deaths are typically the result of someone’s error, negligence or reckless behavior. In all cases, the death could have been prevented if the at-fault party had simply made better decisions.
While a wrongful death can occur as the result of any type of accident, they most often occur as the result of a vehicle collision. The at-fault party does not have to be criminally charged in order for the surviving family members to file suit but in many cases, these types of accidents do result in someone being charged with a crime.
Here’s an example:
John is driving down the street and stops at an intersection. His light turns green and he proceeds. A car that should have stopped at the red light did not and collides with John’s vehicle. John is fatally injured in the accident and leaves behind a spouse and three young children. The spouse has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Elements of Proving a Wrongful Death Case
When a person files a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, there must be certain elements in place in order for the case to be successful. If even one of these elements is missing, the plaintiff will not be awarded damages. The elements of a wrongful death case are:
- The at-fault party had a duty of care to the deceased person;
- The at-fault party breached that duty of care;
- The breach of duty led to an accident or incident; and,
- That incident directly led to injuries that caused the death of the person.
In plain language, someone must have been tasked with a certain responsibility, behaved in a negligent manner and caused a fatal accident.
Mariah is driving down the highway when a driver approaching in the opposite direction crosses the center line and hits her vehicle. Mariah is killed instantly. Police discover that the driver who crossed the centerline was intoxicated. Each element of a wrongful death case has been met.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in West Palm Beach?
There are laws that dictate who may file a wrongful death claim in court. In Florida, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a claim. Each surviving family member must be listed in that claim. The deceased person’s spouse, children and parents can recover damages as a result of a successful case. Additionally, any blood relative that the decedent was supporting partly or wholly may recover damages.
When parents are not married, a child can recover damages if the mother dies. They can also recover damages if the father dies, but the father must have claimed the child and been legally obligated to support the child.
How Long You Have to File Your Lawsuit For a Wrongful Death
There is a statute of limitations in any type of civil lawsuit. The statute of limitations is the time that a person has to file a case. According to Florida Statutes section 95.11(4)(d), a surviving family member or personal representative of a decedent’s estate has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If a person fails to file suit within this time frame and two years passes, they have lost their right to seek compensation unless very specific circumstances have postponed the time limit.
The Types of Damages You May Seek for Your Wrongful Death Claim
Any wrongful death case is considered a civil claim, which only means that it is brought by a person and not the government. The case will not address the possible crimes that the at-fault party committed, only the monetary damages that were caused to the remaining family members or estate.
A judge and jury must abide by certain rules when awarding damages. Several factors will be considered. These include:
- The value of the support that the decedent had provided to the surviving family members,
- The loss of protection, companionship and guidance resulting from the person’s death,
- Emotional suffering when the decedent is a child, and
- The expenses related to the funeral and burial of the deceased person.
Other damages that may be awarded to the estate include:
- Lost earnings and benefits, including the earnings the person could have been expected to contribute to the family if they were not killed
- Prospective net accumulations of the estate
- Any medical or funeral expenses paid by the estate rather than a surviving family member
Scott was a teacher. At the time of the accident that took his life, Scott was 25 years old and left behind a wife and newborn child. Scott had a salary of $35,000 at the time of his death and would not have retired until he was 55 years old. The estate could potentially be awarded $1,050,000 as a result of Scott’s lost wages.
Florida Laws for West Palm Wrongful Death Cases
Florida law gives close family members the right to pursue a legal claim for compensation after their loved one is killed as a result of someone’s careless behavior. If a driver operates a vehicle in a risky way, for example, or if a doctor botches a surgery or fails to properly treat a medical condition, then the family members of those who die from the mistake can sue the responsible person or entity for wrongful death.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff (surviving family members) have the legal burden to prove that the defendant did something wrong and that his negligent or bad actions were the direct cause of death. The plaintiff also must prove the extent of the losses that occurred because of the wrongful death. This includes financial losses, such as lost income the deceased cannot earn, funeral costs and medical expenses for treatments before the death. It also includes non-economic or non-financial losses such as compensation for the loss of companionship of the deceased.
Only certain family members, such as spouses and children, can pursue wrongful death claims and there is a time limit and strict procedural rules that must be followed. A West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer at Steinger, Greene & Feiner can help family members to ensure their rights are protected and to have the best chance of a successful claim.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
There are many different situations where someone may become responsible for a death and made to compensate for surviving loved ones. Some of the different situations that can lead to a wrongful death case include:
- Accidental drowning if a pool was not properly secured or supervised
- Car accidents if the driver broke safety rules or was unreasonably careless behind the wheel
- Defective product cases where manufacturers released a dangerous product onto the market
- Medical malpractice claims where doctors misdiagnosed a patient or otherwise failed to provide reasonable quality care
- Slip and fall cases or other situations where property owners failed to maintain their property in a safe way before inviting visitors in
These are just a few of many situations where you may have a wrongful death case if your loved one has been killed. If you believe someone else caused the death of your family member, you need to get in touch with a West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer today to learn about your legal rights.
RELENTLESS LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR WEST PALM BEACH INJURY VICTIMS
A personal injury can occur in a variety of ways, but almost all have the same results in common. Suddenly, your life is disrupted and possibly jeopardized physically, emotionally, and financially by an accident or incident which could have been prevented.
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Contact a West Palm Beach Wrongful Death Attorney Today
The West Palm Beach wrongful death attorneys at Steinger, Greene & Feiner have helped clients throughout the Florida area to pursue claim after they have lost a loved one. We treat every case with compassion and understanding and do everything we can to help ensure that no one suffers financial harm due to the death of a loved one. To learn more or to speak with one of our West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyers about your case, contact us today.
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