Absolutely nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, and when they go suddenly as the result of someone else’s negligence or ill intent, the family may experience anger, sadness and financial devastation all at once. With the help of a Pensacola wrongful death lawyer from Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers, Florida civil law provides an avenue to relieve the potential financial burdens. Consider the elements of wrongful death cases and how the law governs them, then contact our Pensacola wrongful death lawyers to discuss your claim.
What Do Our Pensacola Wrongful Death Lawyers Do?
When you hire an attorney to handle your case, they first investigate the accident to look for evidence proving negligence or malicious intent. As your legal representative, they protect your rights, guide you through the process, collect all necessary documentation to prove damages and handle all the paperwork required to file an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Most importantly, they know where to look for recoverable damages to value your claim adequately. Your attorney will also negotiate with the insurance company to fight for a fast and fair settlement.
What Are Common Examples of Wrongful Death Cases?
According to Florida law, wrongful death occurs when someone dies from the actions of another. A Florida wrongful death lawyer commonly sees cases involving:
- Auto accidents: When someone violates their duty to follow traffic laws and keep others safe on the road, they are liable for the resulting economic and non-economic damages. In cases such as fatal drunk driving accidents, negligence by the DUI driver is clear.
- Defective products: When a faulty product results in someone’s death, the manufacturer or distributor could be liable.
- Premises liability: In Florida, property owners are legally responsible for making a reasonable effort to keep their property safe for lawful visitors. This duty of care applies to business owners and residential property owners alike.
- Medical malpractice: Health care professionals and medical facilities are guilty of medical malpractice when a negligent action or omission results in the death of a patient.
- Intentional torts: Assault and battery are common intentional personal injuries that can lead to wrongful death.
When you work with a Pensacola wrongful death lawyer, they will identify the cause of your loved one’s death and build a case for compensation.
What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case?
The foundation of every wrongful death claim is proof that the defendant caused the death, either intentionally or negligently. That means establishing that they owed your loved one a duty of care and violated that duty, resulting in the incident that caused your family member’s death. Other key elements include who is eligible to file a claim and what damages they can recover.
Eligibility to file a claim or lawsuit
In Florida, only the deceased person’s personal representative, also known as the executor of their estate, may file a wrongful death suit. The representative is often a family member named in the decedent’s estate plan or assigned after the decedent’s death when no estate plan or will exists. Any compensation awarded to the plaintiff goes to the deceased’s survivors and dependents. Therefore, the personal representative will list them in the claim.
The compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim include economic and non-economic associated with the accident and resulting death. Examples include:
- The cost of medical care your loved one received before their death, including hospitalization, surgeries, emergency services and medications
- The cost of funeral and burial expenses, lost inheritance and benefits and income your loved one provided
- The pain and suffering the decedent endured before death
- The loss of love, nurturing, companionship, society and guidance provided by your loved one
Surviving spouses or partners can recover compensation for loss of consortium, which refers to the deprivation of the affectionate and intimate family relationship they had with their spouse or partner.
What Florida Laws Can Impact Your Wrongful Death Claim?
When you meet with a Pensacola wrongful death lawyer, they will discuss Florida tort laws as they apply to your case. However, three laws you should know upfront include the no-fault insurance system for auto accidents, the statute of limitations and the comparative negligence rule.
No-fault auto insurance requirement
Florida is one of only a few states that require drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance. When an accident occurs, they can file a claim for damages with their policy and avoid the fault-based system. Part of the policy is a $5,000 death benefit. However, a wrongful death attorney in the Florida panhandle can evaluate your eligibility to bypass the no-fault system and file an at-fault claim so you can access more extensive compensation.
The statute of limitations
The statute of limitations for a Florida wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of your loved one’s death. If you do not file before that date, the court will likely dismiss your claim. If the at-fault party faces criminal charges, such as manslaughter or murder, you can still file a civil suit at any time.
The comparative negligence rule
In March 2023, Florida changed the laws that govern shared fault in personal injury cases from pure to modified comparative negligence. When you file a wrongful death claim, the defense may respond with accusations of shared liability. When both parties are at fault, the court will assign percentages of responsibilities to both parties and deduct an amount equal to the plaintiff’s or their loved one’s fault from the total recoverable damages.
For example, if your loved one died in a car accident and was 20% at fault for $10,000 in damages, you can still recover $8,000. However, under the modified comparative negligence rule, you are no longer eligible for compensation if your loved one was more than 50% responsible for the accident.
Do You Need a Pensacola Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If you lost a loved one due to negligence or malicious intention, a Pensacola wrongful death lawyer could help you navigate the legal process and access the compensation you deserve. The attorneys at Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers in Pensacola, Florida, assist victims of personal injuries and their families in holding the at-fault party financially accountable. Contact us at 850-444-0000 to schedule your free consultation today. The phone lines remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.