What is a Wrongful Death?
Under Statute 768.19, Florida defines wrongful death as a “death (that is) caused by a wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract or warranty”. When a wrongful death occurs, the estate of the deceased person may file a civil lawsuit to collect damages.
For a death to be considered a wrongful death, it must be established that the circumstances would have resulted in a personal injury case had the person survived.
Unlike most personal injury cases, in the case of wrongful death, criminal liability does not have to be established, only civil liability must be established. For example, if a doctor accidentally kills a patient in a medical malpractice case, his actions are not considered to be criminal actions. However, he is going against his civil duties and he is, therefore, responsible for the death.
Examples of Wrongful Deaths
There are several types of claims that can constitute wrongful death. Here are some of the most common.
- Murder and Manslaughter: This is a physical attack that results in the loss of life. If the victim had survived, he or she would be able to file a personal injury claim to be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, emotional suffering, and perhaps punitive damages.
- Medical Malpractice: Medical malpractice is considered a wrongful death if a doctor performs a surgery or medical procedure that is unnecessary or unethical and the patient loses their life as a result.
- Negligent Actions: Negligent actions are a much broader term. They can refer to a driver acting carelessly or a property manager who neglected to keep their property safe. If the negligent actions of a driver, property owner, or any other person leads to the death of another person, this would justify as wrongful death.
- Defective Products: If a company sells a product that is defective and fails to post warnings of potential danger, and a person is killed as a result, the victim’s family may go after the company in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
According to Florida law, only a personal representative of the victim’s estate is permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That person may be named in the person’s will.
If there is no will, the court will assign a personal representative. That person will be responsible for naming all survivors who benefit from the lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed on behalf of a surviving parent, spouse, child, or any blood relative who was dependent on the decedent for support. Once the person is identified as a personal representative, he or she may move forward in finding a lawyer to proceed with the case.
Establishing Guilt in A Wrongful Death Claim
As mentioned earlier in the article, it is not necessary to establish criminal responsibility in a wrongful death claim. However, it must be proven that a person’s reckless, intentional, or negligent behavior caused the death. You must also prove that your family members suffered as a result of death.
To prove the person was negligent, you must establish that they did not exhibit reasonable care. For instance, it is up to a driver to slow down for pedestrians in a crosswalk. If they do not do so and end up killing a person, that would be an example of failure to exhibit reasonable care.
Once failure to exhibit reasonable care is established, it will be up to the lawyer to connect the rest of the dots. For one, they will have to prove that the person’s negligence was the direct cause of the person’s death.
For instance, if a doctor used a treatment on a patient that seemed unethical, he may be guilty of medical malpractice. However, if that patient later died of cancer, that doctor would not be responsible for the wrongful death because his actions weren’t the direct cause of death.
A lawyer will also have to prove that the family suffered damages that resulted directly from death. A loss of income, medical burial and funeral expenses, and emotional pain and suffering are all examples of damages that may be collected.
Finding a Wrongful Death Lawyer to Represent You
If you lost a loved one in wrongful death, it is essential to have a reliable lawyer by your side. If you are looking for a lawyer in the Pensacola, FL area, the Stevenson Klotz team is highly recommended.
The Stevenson Klotz team has years of experience in the fields of personal injury, wrongful death, and consumer protection. They aim to simplify the legal process and make it easier for clients to get through difficult times. They are dedicated to providing the people they represent with outstanding service and winning results.
Wrongful death is a terrible tragedy. Although there’s nothing you can do to get loved ones back, the Stevenson Klotz team can help you get the compensation you need and the justice you deserve. Make them the first call you to make.