Wrongful Death Lawyers in Ocala Florida
Every three minutes someone dies from an unintentional injury, such as a car crash or a drug overdose. In 2017, deaths from unintentional injuries in the United States reached a record high of 169,936. That same year, unintentional injuries in Florida were 13.43 percent higher than the national average. In 2018, the highest number of incidents were in Marion County (home to Ocala) and Alachua County, reporting 391 and 115 deaths by unintentional injuries, respectively.
The number of unintentional and often, preventable deaths may seem shocking. However, accidents are inevitable and when an unanticipated accident results in death, grieving loved ones are left behind. A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury claim available to the family of the deceased. Ultimately, the family may bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of their loved one. In Florida, any individual determined to be responsible for causing the death of another may be sued for wrongful death.
Unexpectedly losing a family necessarily involves immense mental and emotional distress. In addition, because accidents are never planned, families may be left with financial burdens that they are unable to support. Of course, a successful wrongful death claim will not bring back your loved one. It may, however, provide a means to manage the costs associated with your loss and ensure that responsible parties are held accountable.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can investigate your case, advise you of your options, and guide you through the process. After an unintentional death, an attorney can advocate for the best possible outcome with your best interests in mind.
Florida Wrongful Death Law
To be clear, a wrongful death action is a civil lawsuit. Unlike criminal law, the civil system does not determine the wrongdoer’s guilt or innocence regarding the alleged crime. A wrongful death claim is intended to ensure accountability while providing compensation for the victims’ families and loved ones. A formal criminal charge or conviction is not required to bring a wrongful death claim.
Under Florida law, a wrongful death claim may be filed when the individual’s death was caused by “the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters.” Also, the state generally allows claims for damages incurred from when the injury occurred to the point of death, plus interest, in addition to projected future earnings.
To be successful, a wrongful death claim must establish three criteria: satisfy certain elements. The person bringing the lawsuit must establish three :
- There was a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty;
- The wrongful conduct caused the victim’s death; and
- The decedent would have had a cause of action for the injury if he or she had not died.
Who May File?
Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, only a personal representative of the decedent may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, this representative is named in the decedent’s will or estate plan. However, in cases without a will or plan, the court will appoint a representative. The representative will file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate and the decedent’s surviving family members. In Florida, only close relatives are entitled to wrongful death damages. Specific close relatives include:
- Dependent blood relatives; and
- Children born outside of wedlock of the mother or father (provided the father has assumed responsibility for the support of the child).
Survival Action versus Wrongful Death Claim
A survival action is based upon the legal claims of the person who died. If the person had lived, he or she would have been able to file a claim for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other such expenses that were a result of the defendant’s negligence. In Florida, these claims are extended to survive the victim’s death. The personal representative will also be in charge of filing survival claims.
Types of Accidents or Intentional Acts Giving Rise to a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death can occur in a wide variety of circumstances. The majority of deaths resulting from unintentional accidents are caused by another’s negligence. Deaths caused by work-related injuries are typically covered under the worker’s compensation system. If the worker’s compensation system provides compensation for the death, you will be barred from bringing a wrongful death claim. Some common circumstances that may result in a wrongful death include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional killing of another
- Construction or workplace accidents
- Premises liability
- Slip and fall injuries
- Defective products
- Nursing home neglect
- Supervised activities (e.g., daycare, adult care, and field trips)
- Products liability
- Firearm accidents
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
The burden of proof for a wrongful death claim is a preponderance of the evidence. You must show that the defendant owed a duty of care and that he or she breached that duty. The breach of duty must be the cause of death and death must be a foreseeable result of that breach of duty. In addition, you must prove the death resulted in the damages you have requested. The key to any successful case is not the quantity of evidence, but rather the quality and credibility of the evidence.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
The basic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit may include, but are not limited to:
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Amounts the deceased would have earned as income, and
- Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship and support.
The estate can also recover net accumulations. A net accumulation is an estimate of the amount of savings an individual may have had after paying all their expenses. To formula to determine net accumulation considers the deceased’s lifestyle, losses, and life expectancy. Survivors are entitled to the value of lost support and services.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets the time period in which someone may file a particular legal action. The time period for wrongful death in Florida is within two years of the date of death. Of course, there are exceptions, don’t hesitate to consult a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
How Can Our Ocala Wrongful Death Attorneys Help You?
The very idea of wrongful death seems strange, because anytime we lose a loved one, it feels wrong. We experience trauma, grief, and our lives are seemingly turned upside down. When a loved one dies because of someone’s negligence or intentional harm, we may also feel shocked and outraged. No amount of money can compensate you for your loss, but your loss matters.
If your loved one died because of another’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our experienced and compassionate team at Meldon Law at (800) 373-8000 or through our online contact form.
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Founder of the Meldon Law FirmEmail Jeffrey Meldon