If you’re coping with a loved one’s death, no amount of money can replace what you’ve lost. But if your loved one died due to the negligence of another person, compassionate wrongful death attorneys, such as those at Swope, Rodante P.A., may help you seek justice during this emotionally devastating time.
Wrongful death is a civil action, separate and apart from criminal charges, that may be brought for intentional or unintentional acts that created a natural, direct, series of events leading to the injury. Common causes of wrongful death claims include: automobile and motorcycle accidents, airplane accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, construction site accidents, and even criminal acts.
The last common cause may lead you to ponder the difference between a criminal case and a civil case for wrongful death. Instead of seeking imprisonment, in a civil case the claimant is seeking monetary compensation for the loss suffered. Also, in civil cases, the standard may be proof by a “preponderance of evidence,” compared to a criminal trial with a higher standard of guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Under Florida law, survivors such as the decedent’s spouse, children, parents and other blood relatives that were partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for financial support have a “right of action” for wrongful death: “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 ….”
In a wrongful death lawsuit, plaintiffs may be able to recover expenses for damages, such as:
• Medical and funeral expenses
• Loss of income and family support
• Emotional suffering
• Loss of companionship
• Mental anguish
• Children’s loss of guidance or supervision
The lawsuit must be able to prove that the acts or omissions by the defendant were the proximate cause of death. Lawyers at our firm have experience litigating wrongful death cases for our clients including a case regarding the wrongful death of a man that resulted in the largest award ever in Hardee County.
Due to the statute of limitations to file suit for a wrongful death claim, which in Florida is two years from the date the cause of wrongful death is suspected or confirmed, it’s important to file as soon as possible. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one due to the reckless conduct of another person and would like to find out more about how to proceed with a claim, please contact us.
Below are some of the most common questions we are asked regarding wrongful death:
1) What does the term wrongful death mean?
A wrongful death is a death caused by the wrongful act of another, either accidentally or intentionally, according to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. A claim for wrongful death is made by a family member of a deceased person to obtain compensation for having to live without that person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided.
2) What are some common cases of wrongful death claims?
Some of the most common cases of wrongful death include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and criminal acts.
3) What is the difference between the term wrongful death and murder?
Murder is an intentional act whereas some wrongful deaths may be the result of negligence. For example, a wrongful death may sometimes result from an automobile accident or medical malpractice.
“The purpose of the wrongful death statute is not to punish those who may have caused the death, but rather, is to compensate those who may have suffered a loss as a result.” Scully v. Armstrong, 646 F. Supp. 213 (N.D. Ind. 1986).
Wrongful death is considered a tort [a civil wrong] where family members of the victim bring the civil lawsuit for [damages] financial compensation, which may help the victim’s family pay for medical expenses from the injuries that caused the death, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. In a murder, charges are brought against the defendant by the state, not the victim’s family, which may result in a prison sentence or in rarer cases the death penalty.
4) How can someone be acquitted of murder and then charged with wrongful death? Isn’t that like double jeopardy?
No. Under the Fifth Amendment no one can be charged with the same crime twice, but a wrongful death is a tort [civil wrong] that is prosecuted in a civil lawsuit separate and apart from a criminal lawsuit and neither proceeding affects nor controls the other.
5) Who can file a wrongful death claim?
The executor of the decedent’s estate, usually a member of the family, may file a claim on behalf of “survivors” such as the spouse, children and/or blood relatives.
6) Is there a time limit on filing a wrongful death claim?
The statute of limitations in Florida is typically two-years under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, and that time commences from “when the last element constituting the cause of action occurs,” according to Fla. Statute Section 95.11(4)(d) and Section 95.031(1). Although there may be extenuating circumstances that extend the SOL, if you believe that your loved one died because of the wrongful actions of another person, you may want to consult an attorney soon to determine your legal rights and to give them time to prepare a case. Please contact us.
7) What sort of damages may be recovered?
The injured party in a wrongful death lawsuit may be able to recover financial compensation for medical expenses from the injury that caused the death, funeral expenses, loss of financial support in the household, and pain and suffering from loss of companionship.