Wrongful death actions fall under a category of personal injury lawsuits, but Florida law treats wrongful death claims differently in some key ways. In this post, we will discuss some of these differences.
The most important difference between the two types of claims is that the injured in a personal injury lawsuit is still alive. In a wrongful death claim, the injured party has died. This difference has big implications for the legal process of the case.
Before going further, we must acknowledge that wrongful death is a sensitive topic. People who are considering filing a wrongful death claim are undergoing terrible grief and emotional pain. They may not like to talk about the financial aspects of the loss of their loved one. However, the sudden loss of a loved one can deal a devastating blow to a family’s finances, as well as its emotions. When handled professionally and sensitively, a wrongful death claim can help a family through the long aftermath of its loss.
Who files a wrongful death claim?
Florida law provides for surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim after they have lost a loved one due to the negligence or willful act of another party. The other party may also face criminal charges related to the death, but those legal proceedings are separate from the civil wrongful death claim.
The right to file a wrongful death claim is limited to surviving spouses, children or parents of the deceased, or siblings who were wholly or partly financially dependent upon the deceased. A representative of the estate of the deceased files the lawsuit on behalf of these family members.
What damages may be available?
The primary goal of most lawsuits is to restore the injured party to the position they would be in, had it not been for the negligence or willful acts of the other party. And so, in a personal injury case, the injured party seeks to be compensated for everything they lost as a result of the injury. In legal terms, this means the injured party seeks to hold the defendant liable for their damages. These damanges can include medical bills, rehabilitation costs and lost wages, as well as less tangible things like pain and suffering.
A wrongful death claim seeks to compensate the estate of the deceased for its damages, and family members for the damages they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death. For the estate, the damages can include things like medical expenses and lost wages from the date of the injury to the date of death.
For the family members, the available damages may include medical and funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of emotional support and more. Noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering are not available in most wrongful death claims.
Calculating these damages is not easy. A skilled lawyer can help families project how much income their loved one would have brought to the family over the course of the rest of their career, had it not been for their untimely death. Experienced lawyers can also show how loss of companionship can translate into a financial loss.
Careful and compassionate representation
There is nothing that can replace a loved one who has been taken from us too soon. However, a grieving family should not suffer financial disaster on top of their personal pain after losing their loved one due to the negligence or wrongful acts of another party.
Those who have lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else should speak to a lawyer about their options.