Florida Wrongful Death Lawyers
Someone who is injured through the wrongful act of another, even unintentionally, is entitled to seek civil compensation for their losses. The victim of a car accident can sue or seek a private settlement from someone else who caused the accident by, for example, running a red light. But what happens when the victim dies in the accident? A wrongful death claim is appropriate in this situation.
When is a Death “Wrongful”?
Every U.S. state has enacted a wrongful death statute, and no two wrongful death statutes are exactly alike. The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows a claim to be filed when someone is a victim of the “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty” by another person. While wrongful death includes acts such as murder, it is not limited to criminal acts.
Who is Entitled to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Florida, only the personal representative of the victim’s probate estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative is selected in the following manner:
- If the victim left a last will and testament, the probate court will usually appoint the personal representative named in the will.
- If the victim did not leave a valid will, or if the will failed to name a personal representative, the court will choose a personal representative on its own (typically a close relative of the victim, such as the spouse or a parent).
Who Receives Compensation?
In a Florida wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative represents not only the probate estate of the victim, but also certain surviving family members:
- the victim person’s spouse, children and parents; and
- any blood relative or adopted sibling who was dependent on the victim for financial support or services.
The child of a male victim who was not married to the child’s mother can recover wrongful death damages only if the victim acknowledged the child and was obligated to provide financial support to the victim.
The Statute of Limitations
Under the Florida statute of limitations, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed, if at all, within two years of the date of death of the victim, except that narrow exceptions exist under certain circumstances that allow the deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit to be delayed. A Florida wrongful death lawyer can help you calculate the exact expiration date. Once the deadline has passed, however, even a private settlement will be impossible.
Surviving family members are entitled to compensation for the following losses, in amounts and proportions determined by the court:
- the value of financial support and services formerly provided to the survivor by thevictim;
- psychological damages such as the loss of companionship, guidance, and protection;
- the parents’ mental and emotional pain (if the victim was a child); and
- medical or funeral expenses actually paid by a particular survivor.
The victim’s estate may recover:
- the value of the earnings that the victim could have produced if he had lived;
- the value of earnings that the estate could have been expected to collect if the victim had lived (investment income, for example), and
- medical and funeral expenses already paid out of estate assets.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can a wrongful death lawsuit be filed if the defendant is charged with a crime?
Yes. In fact, it is easier to win a wrongful death lawsuit than it is to secure a criminal conviction, because the standard of proof in a lawsuit is different from the standard of proof in a criminal trial. It is also possible to win a wrongful death lawsuit even if the defendant is never convicted of a crime.
Does it matter if the accident was partly the victim’s fault?
Yes. Under Florida’s “pure comparative negligence” system, the victim will be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident, and compensation will be reduced by exactly that percentage. If the other party to the accident suffered damages, the victim’s estate must pay whatever percentage of these damages equals the other party’s percentage of fault.
Does the IRS tax wrongful death compensation awards?
Some of it. The IRS will tax:
- compensation for lost earnings (to the same extent that the wages would have been taxed if they had not been lost);
- punitive damages; and
- interest on any judgment or settlement.
The rest of the compensation is not taxed, since it.is considered compensation rather than income.
My loved one was killed in a car accident with an uninsured driver. Can I sue the bar that sold him alcohol?
Yes, if either of the following two circumstances apply:
- The driver was a minor (under 21) at the time the alcohol was sold. The bar cannot defend itself by claiming that it did not know the driver’s age at the time it sold him the alcohol.
- The driver was known by the bar to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol, even if he was over 21.
Under either of these two circumstances, you must establish that the bar’s provision of alcohol to the driver was a substantial cause of the accident. It is recommended you talk to Florida Wrongful Death Lawyers to see if you have a good case.
Can the manufacturer of defective automobile airbags be sued for wrongful death if the victim’s death was caused (at least partially) by the malfunction of the airbags?
Yes, and you can win if you can prove that the airbags were defective and unreasonably dangerous at the time they left the manufacturer’s hands. You don’t even have to prove that the manufacturer was at fault. If the other driver shared blame for the victim’s death, he can be sued as well.
You Either Win Your Claim or My Services are Free of Charge
My legal fees are based on a contingency system – in other words, they are calculated as a certain percentage of the amount of compensation that you eventually receive. Your fees will not become due until your compensation arrives – and if it never arrives, neither will your legal bill. Since I charge no upfront fees, you don’t need a dime to retain my services.
Now is the Time for Action
If your loved one has been killed as a result of the wrongful conduct of another, whether intentional or unintentional, you are going to need the services of Florida wrongful death lawyers to maximize your chances of victory in Florida’s complex civil compensation system.
Call Jimmy De La Espriella at (305) 363-7855 or fill out the online contact form today, for a free initial consultation on your case.