Wrongful deaths are deaths caused by the negligent or willful conduct of another. These deaths occur as a result of car accidents, defective products, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse or neglect. Martinez, Manglardi, & developed this webpage to assist those who face the life-altering emotional and financial consequences of losing a loved one because of another’s negligence.
Our statewide litigation firm has protected the safety of Florida’s families since 1988. Over the past 15 years, we have recovered hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements for our clients – among the highest in Central Florida. Insurance companies are aware of us and our successful trial record, and know that we can fully fund even the most complex wrongful death claim. Although we remain sensitive to our client’s emotional needs during this difficult time, our priority is taking care of their future financial requirements.
What is Wrongful Death?
In legal terms, wrongful death refers to a fatality that occurs because of the negligence or misdeeds of another person, corporation or entity. Part of the “personal injury” tort family, wrongful death holds an individual, group or corporation (defendant) accountable for causing injury to another person (plaintiff). The primary goal of a personal injury tort is to provide relief (damages) to the plaintiff and to deter the defendant from inflicting further harm to others. In a wrongful death action, consideration is given to the earnings the deceased would have provided to their family had they lived and damages are awarded to survivors based on this monetary loss. Survivors may also receive damages for medical and funeral expenses for the victim, estate administration expenses, survivor’s emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages (intentional harm judged to be exemplary).
State laws vary as to who may pursue a wrongful death claim. Generally, it is the immediate family members (spouses, children and parents); however, some states allow grandparents, legal dependents or members of the extended family to file suit. The amount of damages awarded will depend on the plaintiff’s relationship to the deceased, while the compensation for damages may include compensation for the following:
- Reimbursement for all medical expenses incurred as a result of the negligence.
- Reimbursement for the loss of any future income.
- Reimbursement for property damage, if applicable.
- Reimbursement for any future services normally provided to you by the person who has died.
- Reimbursement for loss of consortium, meaning a spouse’s right to the companionship, help and affection from the person who has died.
- Reimbursement for any punitive damages if the negligence was found to be criminal.
Negligence Must Be Proven
Typically, wrongful death suits involve motor vehicle accidents (automobile, truck, motorcycle), defective products, medical malpractice (birth injuries, doctor negligence , hospital error , misdiagnosis), pharmaceutical liability, prescription dangers , pharmacy errors and a number of other situations. The common element in most tort actions is negligence, which is characterized by inattention, thoughtlessness, inadvertence, and mistakes. Negligence must be proven in wrongful death cases and Martinez, Manglardi, & is skilled in helping clients prove that the four critical components of negligence exist in their claim:
- The defendant had a duty to the deceased;
- The defendant failed in that duty (breach of duty);
- That the fatality was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty; and
- That the survivors are entitled to damages as a result of the loss of their loved one.
In addition to establishing negligence, the joint life expectancy of the deceased and the survivor or beneficiary must be presented (to establish the loss of future earnings) and the relationship of the survivor and deceased must also be shown. Finally, effective presentation of the non-economical or emotional loss suffered by the survivor is critical to a fair award of damages.
Wrongful death cases are always emotional. While you are grieving, you should not make any major decisions that will limit any future recoveries without consulting an attorney. You should not enter into any settlement, sign any release or accept any money in exchange for releasing an individual, corporation or insurance company from liability without first knowing what insurance coverage or other redress is available to you and your family.
Attorneys Trial Group is on your side, and we are prepared to help you through this difficult transition period, while seeking financial compensation for your loss. Our cases are handled by a team of professionals, including nurses, doctors, engineers and other experts. State-of-the-art technology is utilized to effectively present claims. Lawyers, judges and clients recognize Attorneys Trial Group as one of the top civil trial firms in Central Florida. If you feel you have the basis for a wrongful death suit, contact us today via our online contact form, or call our Orlando, Apopka, Kissimmee, Palm Bay or Ocala offices at 1-800-741-2243. One of our lawyers will promptly be in touch with you, and give you all the help you need.
1. What is a wrongful death claim?
In general terms, a wrongful death claim refers to a cause of action that may be brought by certain family members of a decedent whose death was precipitated by the wrongful conduct of another. The wrongful act that resulted in death may have been intentional, reckless, or negligent. In cases where a dangerous product caused the death, it may not be necessary to show wrongful conduct in order to recover.
2. Who can file a wrongful death case?
A surviving spouse can bring a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the children may bring the death claim. If there is neither a surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the decedent may pursue the wrongful death claim. Absent a surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents, the administrator of the decedent’s estate can sue on behalf of the estate.
3. Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job?Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, they may have contributed in some other way to the family. A good example of such a decedent is a housewife, who contributes services, guidance and nurturing to her family. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.
4. Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?
Yes, in addition to the wrongful death, a decedent’s family may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death.
5. What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?It depends on whether a person dies as a result of injuries from the accident or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person’s heirs may recover money through a lawsuit. If a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
6. What kinds of damages are recoverable in these cases?
Normally, the following are recoverable:
> Expenses associated with the death (medical & funeral)
> Loss of victim’s anticipated earnings
> Loss of victim’s benefits (pension, medical coverage, etc.)
> Loss of inheritance
> Pain and suffering of the survivors; and
> Loss of care, protection, companionship to the survivors.
7. When someone dies, what is the difference between the civil and criminal cases that can be brought regarding the death?
A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish an individual for an act that has been classified as a crime. A civil case, on the other hand, usually has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties that individuals and organizations legally owe to each other. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case, and the penalty imposed is a criminal sanction, whereas, in a civil case, the defendant will typically have a monetary judgment entered against him/her.
8. What is the first step in pursuing a wrongful death claim?
Given that wrongful death claims and survival actions generally involve a variety of complex legal issues, the first step is to contact a wrongful death attorney. A wrongful death lawyer should be consulted as soon as reasonably possible because there are statutes of limitations and possibly other critical deadlines that may impact the case.
9. What about the costs involved in pursuing a case?
Many attorneys will agree to handle wrongful death cases and survival actions on a contingency fee arrangement. This means that the attorney will not charge an hourly rate for his or her services, but instead will be paid a percentage of the recovery in the event of a settlement or judgment.
10. How long will my wrongful death case last?
The vast majority of all cases, including wrongful death cases, are settled prior to trial. Some cases are settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit, while others are settled during litigation or even on the “steps of the courthouse” just before trial. A wrongful death case, if litigated to trial, could last a number of years. One who pursues a wrongful death case should understand from the outset that a quick resolution cannot be guaranteed.