After the loss of a loved one, it is understandable to be concerned about the ability to pay medical bills, funeral expenses, and expenses to which the loved one previously contributed, such as a mortgage. Certain family members can sue for wrongful death if the negligence or wrongful act of another party causes the death of a victim in South Florida. If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one in a fatal car accident or another tragic event, you should consult the Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers at the Gainza Law Group.Asserting Your Rights Through a Wrongful Death Claim
Florida Statutes section 768.19 provides that if someone's death is caused by another party's negligence, wrongful act, breach of contract, or default, the decedent's estate can sue in a Florida court for various remedies. Only the personal representative of the decedent's estate is permitted to sue for wrongful death. A personal representative might be named in the decedent's will or estate plan. When there is none, the court can appoint one. The personal representative is filing the claim on behalf of both the estate and the decedent's survivors.
Survivors who can recover damages in a Florida wrongful death case include a spouse, children, parents, blood relatives, or adopted brothers or sisters who depended on the decedent for services or support. When a child is born to unmarried parents, the child is able to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit if a parent dies. When a child's father dies, the child is only able to recover damages if the father formally recognized the child as his own and was required to contribute to the child's support.
Each state has passed statutes of limitations, which are laws putting time limits on the right to sue someone for damages. In Florida, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. However, there are some circumstances in which the statute of limitations is tolled, and there is more time. It is important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney in the Fort Lauderdale area immediately after an accident, rather than waiting until close to when the statute of limitations period is about to terminate. Often, evidence vanishes, and witnesses lose their memories about what exactly happened and when it happened.
Wrongful death claims are separate from any criminal charges pursued by the government. While the government must prove a homicide charge "beyond a reasonable doubt," you will need to prove the defendant’s liability in a wrongful death lawsuit by a "preponderance of the evidence," a lower standard. A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney can help you pursue a lawsuit whether or not the government pursues criminal charges, and even if the defendant has been acquitted in a criminal case. Unlike criminal charges, wrongful death lawsuits are brought to secure money damages.
Most often, wrongful death lawsuits are brought under a theory of negligence. This means that the plaintiff will need to show that the defendant’s careless actions caused the victim’s death. For example, if someone drove drunk and T-boned your loved one's motorcycle, and your loved one died, you should be able to establish negligence for the purposes of a wrongful death lawsuit. Or, if a trucking company failed to conduct the proper drug and alcohol tests, and your teenage son is killed in a truck accident caused by one of its drunk truck drivers, it is likely that you could show negligence.
Damages that family members may be able to receive if liability is established include loss of companionship and guidance, the value of services and support given to the surviving family members, medical or funeral expenses that were paid by a family member, and mental and emotional pain when a child is lost. The decedent’s estate can also recover benefits, lost wages, and other amounts earned, including the value of earnings lost that the decedent would reasonably be expected to have earned had they lived.Discuss Your Case with a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale
If you lose a loved one in a tragically preventable accident, you should consult the Gainza Law Group. We provide vigorous advocacy to families in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties, as well as statewide. Our firm has served people in cities such as Pompano Beach, Miami, Hialeah, West Palm Beach, Coral Springs, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Sunrise, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Cape Coral, Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Daytona Beach. Contact us at (954) 463-1210 or via our online form.