When a loved one dies because of another’s carelessness or misconduct, our legal system offers the surviving family members the option to file a wrongful death claim.
What is a wrongful death claim? A wrongful death claim is a civil action, separate from any criminal trial that may or may not be present. While a criminal investigation may arise from the same situation, neither proceeding has any bearing on the other.
These types of claims assert that a life was taken due to the willful or negligent actions of the defendant. In this case, the “defendant” refers to the person or group of people you believe are responsible for a loved one’s death.
A lawsuit of this nature allows the victim’s estate to recover financial compensation for their loss. Through this suit, survivors can receive monetary reparations for expenses such funeral costs, hospital bills, and lost wages. Though no amount of money can replace a loved one, recompense can help loved ones to avoid financial hardship and get back on their feet.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
When filing a wrongful death claim, a representative of the deceased person’s estate is chosen. If the victim left a will, they may have already specified a representative of their estate, and the duty would fall on this person. If there is no will, or if no representative was specified, the issue of who will file the claim becomes more complicated.
The laws of the specific relatives who can file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In Florida, the laws regarding wrongful death claims can be found in statutes section 768.16.The first right of this duty is offered to the decedent’s spouse. If the decedent was unmarried, or if the spouse is for some reason unable to perform this duty, the representative is chosen by majority vote among the decedent’s heirs. If this is not possible, the court will appoint a representative to file the wrongful death suit on behalf of the beneficiaries.
Common Examples of Wrongful Deaths
Below are a few common examples that may help you decide if you have a case for wrongful death. These are meant to be general guidelines, and are by no means a comprehensive description of every situation that could be a successful claim. The best way to figure out if you have a strong claim is to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.
As one of the of the most common causes of death and injury in America, it’s not surprising that car accidents are also one of the most common sources of wrongful death claims. If the victim was killed in a car accident due to the negligence of another—for example, if a loved one was struck by a driver who was distracted or intoxicated—this could be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit.
As stated above, the criminal proceedings following a death are separate from the civil action of a wrongful death suit. Thus, even if a criminal investigation is being conducted for an intentional murder, the estate of the victim can also sue the guilty party for damages in a separate case. The most recognizable example is the OJ Simpson trial—though Simpson faced criminal charges, he was also sued for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Medical malpractice asserts that a medical professional—like a doctor, nurse, or surgeon—failed to provide a reasonable standard of care. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the estate asserts that the malpractice of a medical professional resulted in death. This could mean that a doctor failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed a patient’s illness, prescribed the wrong medicine, or was negligent in the level of care and attention they provided.
If you believe a loved one was killed by another’s wrongdoing or negligence, we would like to hear from you. Our law firm has successfully provided compassionate and knowledgeable legal counsel and representation for a number of wrongful death claims in Florida, and we can help you as well.
About the Author:
Steven Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of The Injury Law Firm of South Florida in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers’ Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.
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