Losing a loved one in an untimely accident, when that accident could have been easily prevented, is hurtful, angering, and often financially disastrous. Rosen Injury Law, P.A. can help you work through those feelings of anger and frustration and get much-needed financial help by holding the responsible party accountable for their negligence or wrongful misconduct. Through a wrongful death claim, our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers can find a measure of justice for your loved one and a sense of closure for yourself, knowing the party responsible did not get away with their misdeed with no punishment or repercussion.
What Wrongful Death Means in Florida Law
The Florida Wrongful Death Act holds a person liable for causing death by a wrongful act, negligence, or other means when the victim would have had a personal injury claim had they only been injured and not killed. The estate’s personal representative can bring a lawsuit against the negligent defendant on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family members, including a surviving spouse, children, parents, and any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters who were partly or wholly dependent on the deceased for support or services.
What Are the Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
Like personal injury cases or other civil matters, Florida courts assess money damages against negligent defendants who caused a wrongful death. These damage awards help hold negligent defendants accountable and also compensate the people they have harmed. In a wrongful death case, the wronged party is considered to be the surviving family members who have had a loved one taken from them. These family members can recover the following types of damages in a Florida wrongful death case:
- The value of lost support and services
- The surviving spouse’s loss of companionship and protection, plus pain and suffering
- A child’s lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance, plus mental pain and suffering. This applies to minor children but also adult children if there is no surviving spouse.
- A parent’s mental pain and suffering for the loss of a minor child, or the loss of an adult child if there are no other survivors
- Any family member who paid for the deceased’s medical or funeral expenses can recover those costs.
Additionally, the estate’s personal representative can recover the following damages, which are paid into the estate and distributed according to the deceased’s will, estate plan or Florida law:
- Loss of earnings from injury to death, plus the loss of prospective net accumulations which could otherwise have been expected to accumulate if not for the wrongful death
- Medical or funeral expenses that were paid by the estate or are charged against the estate
Can People Convicted of Homicide Be Sued for Wrongful Death in Florida?
According to the Florida Wrongful Death Act, “It is the public policy of the state to shift the losses resulting when wrongful death occurs from the survivors of the decedent to the wrongdoer.” This law recognizes the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit even when “death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony.” The law is clear that family members can recover compensation even when the person who caused the death is charged with a homicide.
In Florida, the killing of a human being by the “culpable negligence of another” can be charged as manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter, which are second-degree and first-degree felonies, respectively. Florida law also recognizes the crime of “vehicular homicide,” defined as the killing of a human being or an unborn child by injury to the mother caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another person. Vehicular homicide is also a first-degree or second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances.
Not every case of wrongful death leads to an arrest or conviction of a negligent driver or other responsible party. It’s up to the local police and county prosecutors to decide whether to make an arrest and charge a driver with homicide. The state may or may not bring charges, and even if it prosecutes, the person might or might not wind up convicted of a crime.
These facts or events do not stop a wrongful death case from occurring. A civil case can proceed separately from any criminal prosecution. If the driver is convicted of a crime, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case can use that fact as evidence of the defendant’s negligence, proving they were responsible for the death and liable to the surviving family members.
If the driver is not charged or not convicted, this does not hurt the plaintiff’s wrongful death case. The weight of evidence required to prove a civil wrongful death case (the preponderance of the evidence) is much lower than the standard required to convict a person of a crime (guilty beyond a reasonable doubt). Because of this, you shouldn’t be dissuaded from filing a wrongful death lawsuit based on what does or does not occur on the criminal side of things. An experienced wrongful death attorney at Rosen Injury Law, P.A. can evaluate your claim and let you know whether you have a case. Our Board-Certified civil trial specialist will prepare your case and negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company or take your case to court for a substantial, favorable jury verdict.
Help With Wrongful Death Claims in Fort Lauderdale
If you have lost a beloved family member due to the negligent actions of another in a car accident, botched surgery or other fatal incident, call Rosen Injury Law, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale at 954-787-1500 for a no-cost consultation. Our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers will help you find justice for your loved one and get you the financial help you need to make up for the loss and hurt inflicted on you.