The death of a loved one is a tragic and traumatic experience. The family members may be in shock at first learning of the death and at a loss to explain what happened. The family may also feel anger towards those they believe to be responsible for the accident or injury. At KLO members of our team have experienced and suffered through unfortunate losses. A wrongful death lawsuit may allow the surviving family members to take comfort in knowing the wrongdoer may be held accountable for their actions.
Who Can Bring a Claim
When a person is injured in an accident, they are able to file a lawsuit against those who caused the accident. However, if the injured person dies as a result of the accident, who can file a lawsuit on their behalf?
There are a couple of ways to bring a claim for damages caused by wrongful death. After someone passes away, a personal representative of their estate may act on behalf of the beneficiaries of their estate to seek damages. The personal representative may name certain relatives as “survivors” of the decedent, who can seek damages from the wrongdoer.
Survivors include the decedent's:
- parents, and
- any blood relatives or adoptive siblings that are at least partly dependent on the decedent for support or services. This includes children born out of wedlock of a mother, or of a father if the father has recognized responsibility for the child's support.
While the decedent may have helped support friends or had a long-term partner, they are likely ineligible for survivor damages.
Statute of Limitations
After a loved one is killed in an accident, the representatives and survivors have a limited time to file a lawsuit seeking wrongful death damages. This is known as the statute of limitations, or the time limit to file a lawsuit for certain types of damages. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the decedent's death. If the statute of limitations is exceeded, the survivors may be barred from recovery for damages.
Causes of Wrongful Death
There are many causes of accidents or injuries that can lead to death. Some of the most common deadly accidents involve automobile crashes. Motor vehicle accidents commonly result in serious injury or death. When a loved one is killed in a car accident, their death may have been caused by another driver's negligence, dangerous road conditions, or a vehicle malfunction. A wrongful death lawsuit may allow the survivors to seek damages from those who caused the accident.
Other deadly accidents can be caused by accidents in the workplace, exposure to dangerous chemicals, product defects, intentional violence, fire, bicycle accidents, medical negligence, or prescription drug defects. However, the exact cause of the loved one's death may remain unknown.
In some cases, the person responsible for causing the injury or accident may try and avoid responsibility for causing an individual's death. If you suspect an individual or company may be to blame for causing a deadly accident, we may be able to investigate the circumstances and identify the potential wrongdoers responsible.
Wrongful Death Damages
The damages available after a wrongful death will depend on the relationship between the decedent and the survivor. Each survivor can seek damages for the value of lost support and services from the time the decedent was injured to the time they passed away. Support includes money and other forms of contributions. Services usually mean household tasks, including preparing meals, housekeeping, and upkeep.
Survivors can also seek damages for the future loss of support and services from the date of death. A determination of future support and services may be evaluated based on the probable net income of the decedent, replacement value of the decedent's services, and joint life expectancy of the survivor and decedent.
A spouse can also recover damages for loss of companionship, loss of protection, and mental pain and suffering. Minor children can seek damages for loss of parental companionship, loss of instruction, loss of guidance, and mental pain and suffering. Adult children can seek similar damages if there was no surviving spouse.
Parents of deceased minor children can also seek damages for mental pain and suffering, as well as parents of adult children if they have no other surviving children. There may be additional restrictions on recovering damages in cases of medical negligence, including limited recovery for adult children and parents of adult children.
Survivors may also be eligible to receive damages for the expenses they have paid related to the decedent's injury or death. This may include medical care from the time the decedent was injured, as well as funeral and burial expenses.
The personal representative of the estate may recover additional damages for the decedent's estate. This includes loss of earnings from the time the decedent was injured to the time they died and loss of prospective net accumulations of an estate. If medical and funeral expenses were paid out of the estate, the representative can also seek damages for these expenses.
Wrongful Death Settlement Offers
When a loved one has died in a car accident or other tragedy, the insurance company may try and offer the surviving family members a settlement for their loss. Family members are often distraught after the loss of a loved one, and may not fully understand what the settlement offer may mean for their future. You should consider talking to your attorney when any settlement offer is made to make sure the insurance company is not trying to take advantage of the sensitive situation. We often review settlement offers free of charge.
A settlement offer generally requires survivors to waive their legal rights to file a lawsuit seeking damages. Family members may not understand how much the loss of support and loss of services may mean after a loved one's death, or they may think the insurance company's offer is all they will be able to receive. We make sure you and your family will be taken care of after a tragedy, and the wrongdoer will be held accountable for the damage they've done, by calculating what is owed and explaining it to you.
Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys
As a Florida personal injury attorney we will fight for you and your family. We will make sure those responsible for the loss of a loved one are held accountable. Koberlein Law Offices regularly appears before trial courts and represents accident victims in Columbia County, Alachua County, Suwannee County, Hamilton County, Lafayette County, Madison County, and Gilchrist County. To schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney, contact KLO online or call 386-269-9802 for Lake City or 352-519-4357 for Gainesville.