If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you may be wondering what options you have to try to get restitution for the harm that’s been caused. When someone dies as a result of someone else’s accidental or intentional actions, it could be considered a wrongful death. Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Miami? Let’s take a closer look at the details.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death refers to a death that occurs because of the negligent actions or misconduct of someone else. These actions can be accidental or intentional. The main point of the lawsuit is to provide justice for the family or the estate of the deceased.
Family members of people who die under such circumstances are often facing not only immense grief but also the financial burden of this sudden and unexpected loss. Often, the monetary compensation recovered in a lawsuit is used to help offset the costs of funeral services, end-of-life care, and medical treatments. It may also help provide for the deceased person’s minor children or spouse in their untimely absence.
What Types of Actions May Result in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit can apply to a wide range of negligent acts or misconduct. Some common instances that may result in a wrongful death lawsuit are the following:
- Vehicular accidents in which the responsible party is found to be negligent
- Medical malpractice in which the health care provider is found to be negligent
- Defective product manufacturing if the defect is responsible for the death
- Criminal actions or other intentionally harmful acts that result in death
Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit the Same as a Criminal Trial?
There may be a criminal trial associated with the acts that led to a wrongful death. If the deceased was killed during a drunk driving accident, for instance, the intoxicated driver will likely face criminal charges. Likewise, a criminal trial will likely take place following a homicide.
It’s important to understand that a wrongful death lawsuit is separate from these criminal proceedings. In fact, it’s a completely different kind of law. Rather than being handled as a criminal procedure, a wrongful death lawsuit is considered part of a civil procedure.
One big difference between criminal and civil procedures is who brings the charges. In the case of a criminal act like a DUI accident or a homicide, the defendant will likely face criminal charges brought by the state. For a civil wrongful death lawsuit, someone else will have to bring charges against the defendant.
A defendant could be found not guilty in the criminal trial and still be found responsible in a civil procedure since the burden of proof is different for these types of cases.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Miami?
Since a civil wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by someone else, you may be wondering who is eligible to start such a case. In some states, any family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit, but that’s not true of Florida. In Florida, only the executor of the estate is given the power to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
As Florida Statute §768.20 explains, the personal representative of the victim’s estate may bring the suit in order to recover damages on behalf of surviving family members and the estate at large.
The following types of surviving family members will be considered as beneficiaries:
- Those who can demonstrate a reliance on the deceased individual’s financial support
- Parents of the deceased (but only if no other beneficiary is identified)
In addition, children under the age of 25 are considered minors for the sake of a wrongful death suit. These beneficiaries are eligible for a higher rate of benefits since it is assumed they had a greater dependency on the deceased’s financial support.
When Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim, and these have a two-year statute of limitations in the state of Florida. This means that you have two years from the date of the person’s death to file.
However, it is often advantageous to file as early as possible since it can be difficult to gather the best and most accurate evidence as time goes on. Being able to conduct interviews, maintain records, and get the clearest picture of the incident leading up to the wrongful death will lead to a stronger case.
How Are Wrongful Death Lawsuit Amounts Determined?
It’s impossible to put a price on the value of an individual’s life, and the calculations used to determine the amount awarded in a successful wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated. There most obvious and direct costs are those that the estate or a surviving family member paid for funeral services and medical care.
More challenging to determine is the amount that the estate lost because of the deceased person’s shortened lifespan. If the individual had remained living, they likely would have continued to contribute to the estate through wages and investments. Wrongful death lawsuits will often attempt to estimate this missing financial contribution based on the past amounts and expected lifespan.
In special circumstances, such as gross negligence or intentional harm, punitive damages may also be awarded.
How a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You
Navigating a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated and time-consuming, but having an experienced wrongful death attorney help you with the case can make it much more manageable. We understand that navigating Florida’s legal processes while you are grieving is immensely difficult, and we want to relieve you of the burden. Call us today to speak with a compassionate lawyer with a free consultation. We collect no fees until we win your case.