Losing a loved one is always hard, but experiencing that loss because of someone else’s negligence or intent to harm exponentially increases the difficulty for survivors. The grief and emotions that accompany the death of a loved one are just part of the burden; there may also be serious financial consequences, such as loss of income, medical expenses, and funeral and burial costs. Particularly for spouses and children, there may also be the intangible loss of a partner’s or parent’s support, guidance, and companionship.
Nothing can bring a loved one back, but a personal injury lawyer with experience in wrongful death cases may be able to help survivors get the compensation they deserve and need to be able to move forward with their lives. Contact the lawyers at Sibley Dolman at (305) 676-8154 or online and learn if we may be able to help you if a loved one died from a wrongful death in North Miami Beach.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a civil suit filed against the individual or entity whose negligence or wrongdoing caused the death of another.
Accidents that cause death in Miami-Dade County, where North Miami Beach is located, occur at a fairly low rate for Florida—more than 45 out of 100,000 persons will die from accidents here.
Not all of those deaths are wrongful. According to Florida law, certain survivors can file a wrongful death claim if the deceased would have qualified to recover damages in a personal injury suit had the death not occurred due to the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract.
The difference between murder and wrongful death is murders are committed by someone who has both the intent and does the act to kill another person. Wrongful death most often occurs due to an accident, without intent, that may have been caused by either a negligent or reckless act. It is worth noting that, depending on the circumstances, a wrongful death claim may be filed against someone who is also facing or has faced criminal charges for the same act.
What Kind of Situations Can Lead to a Wrongful Death Claim?
Any situation where a person has died because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing may lead to a wrongful death claim. Some common situations in which such claims may arise include:
- Automobile accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Boat accidents
- Aviation disasters
- Pedestrian accidents
- Unsafe conditions on a property
- Defective products
- Pool accidents
- Hospital errors
- Medical malpractice
- Work-related accidents
Who Bears Liability for Wrongful Death?
In addition to the party whose negligence caused the death, others may also have liability for a wrongful death. Depending on the facts of the case, this may include:
- An at-fault owner in a motor vehicle accident, even if the owner was not the person driving the car at the time of the accident
- The insurance carrier for uninsured or underinsured motorist claims
- Vehicle maintenance providers
- The makers, distributors, or sellers of defective products
- The employer of negligent employees
- Commercial insurance carriers
- Homeowners, business owners, and agencies who have responsibility for maintaining property
- Liquor store or bar owners and staff who knowingly served a minor or someone who was intoxicated
- Gun owners whose weapons were involved in shootings
- Hospitals and medical providers
- Homeowners, camps, schools and others entrusted with the care of others
Who Can File the Claim?
A wrongful death claim may be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, and is made on behalf of the survivors. Family members who may be eligible to recover damages for a wrongful death depend on the circumstances, but may include the spouse, parents, and/or children of the deceased, as well as any adopted child or blood relative who was dependent on the deceased for support.
What Damages Can the Families of Victims Recover?
The damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death suit include:
- Medical costs, and funeral and burial expenses that survivors or the decedent’s estate are liable for on behalf of the deceased
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Minor children who have lost a parent may recover for loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, as well as for mental pain and suffering
- Compensation for the loss of support and services that the deceased provided
- Compensation for the loss of companionship, guidance, and protection that the deceased provided to a spouse
- Lost wages and benefits that the deceased would have received if he or she had lived
If the circumstances of the case warrant it, the decedent’s estate may also receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally reserved for cases where the at-fault party engaged in egregiously reckless behavior.
How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
Under Florida law, the distribution of compensation received through a wrongful death claim must be disbursed equally. The survivors of a decedent in a wrongful death claim will often be adults that can determine themselves how a wrongful death settlement is to be distributed but there are some cases where exceptions may complicate this process.
- If a settlement is agreed upon before a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, the court must approve the settlement, especially if the settlement includes compensation collected on behalf of minor children.
- Dependent adults who were wholly dependent on the deceased for financial support have the same priority as minor children. For example, a disabled adult or a parent with dementia may need compensation to pay for the support they lost.
- Minor children must be allocated an adequate amount to meet their needs until they reach an age of majority. Often, a guardian ad litem will be appointed to administer the disbursement of funds until the child becomes an adult.
- Liens against the deceased’s estate will be deducted from the portion of the settlement or award received by the estate. Liens do not attach to compensation received by individual survivors.
- Attorney fees are typically paid by the personal representative and deducted from the awards for survivors and the estate. The amount of fees paid is proportionate to the individual allocation received.
- When the spouse is also the decedent’s personal representative, an administrator ad litem may be appointed by the court. The administrator serves to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the funds if there are other survivors eligible to recover.
Support and Services Defined
The terms support and services have special meanings when used for a wrongful death claim. Support is defined by statute as “contributions in-kind and financial support.” Services are defined as “household tasks that were usually performed by the decedent that will now create an expense for the survivors.”
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
Florida law places a time limit of two years from the date of death for a personal representative to file a wrongful death claim. While there are exceptions to the statute of limitations, those are limited to rare circumstances.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases in the News
Miami-Dade County, where North Miami Beach is located, has its share of accidents serious enough to cause death—a rate of 45.67 persons out of 100,000. Not all of those deaths were wrongful, but plenty in or near North Miami Beach were.
According to a report from ABC 10 News in Miami-Dade, the family of a man who was killed by a police detective was preparing to file a wrongful death suit in late October 2018. The 23-year-old man was shot to death while Florida City police were conducting an investigation in his apartment complex in May 2018. Although the man was armed with a weapon, witnesses reported that they did not see the weapon, and that the detective shot him through a closed door. The lawyer of the family stated that the wrongful death suit will be filed against the detective and the police department. Family members said that the man and the detective knew each other before the shooting, and believed that the detective wanted the man dead.
The Florida Record reported a widow in Pinellas County is suing medical providers at Northside Hospital. She claims they breached the standard of care and treatment, and caused the death of her husband. The complaint alleges that the deceased came to the hospital seeking treatment in May 2016. When medical providers failed to diagnose his condition, he developed renal failure, acute kidney injury, and septic shock, before dying six days later. The plaintiff seeks damages exceeding $15,000, and claims the loss of the deceased’s companionship, guidance, support and services, caused her mental pain and suffering.
The website SouthFlorida.com reported that the family of an award-winning filmmaker who died while making a documentary about endangered sharks is suing a Fort Lauderdale-based scuba diving company, along with the company who provided the boat that the filmmaker was using at the time of his death. The man disappeared shortly after completing his third dive of the day and was found three days later, about 3,000 yards from where he was last seen. At the time of his death, he was using a rebreather, an apparatus that allows divers to stay beneath the water for longer periods of time and eliminates bubbles that may scare fish during filming. He was trained by the scuba diving company on how to use the rebreather. The lawsuit, filed in Broward Circuit Court in March 2017, seeks unspecified damages.
According to a report from the Bradenton Herald, the family of a registered nurse is suing a mental health hospital. He had checked into the hospital while on vacation in Manatee County in March 2018, and then hanged himself in the bathroom of his room there. The man suffered from depression, insomnia, paranoia, and other issues, and checked into the hospital voluntarily. A day later, the hospital petitioned a court to have him held involuntarily. He was on suicide watch for three days before he committed suicide by using a sheet to hang himself from the wires of a smoke alarm. Despite a doctor’s order to keep “close watch” on him, no one checked on the man for about ten hours. The suit alleges negligence of hospital staff for not following its own suicide watch protocols, and for failing to remove anything from the room that the man could use to harm himself. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the man’s death and found a “clear failure” by hospital staff. A detective stated the tragedy was either a policy failure or the consequence of laziness.
In April 2018, The Sun Sentinel reported that a father of one of the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The suit named a number of individuals, including a former Broward Sheriff Deputy who was working as a school resource officer at the time of the shooting. The resource officer, who had more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, resigned from his job after security footage revealed that he never attempted to enter the building after the gunman opened fire. The suit states that the resource officer was the only individual on the campus that day who was armed and trained to deal with an active shooter. The suit alleges the officer heard the screams of teachers and students, and the blasts of repeated gunfire, yet failed to fulfill his duty to respond. The suit also named the couple with whom the shooter was living with at the time of the incident, the shooter himself, and a behavioral health center that knew or should have known the shooter was suffering from mental health issues and failed to warn others. The suit sought unspecified damages and the claimant requested a trial by jury.
As reported by The Sun Sentinel in June 2018, multiple lawsuits have been filed against a South Florida drug maker accused of distributing contaminated drugs. Among the victims were three infants who died after being given a stool softener made by the company. At the time the lawsuit was filed it was unclear if the company was still in operation. It closed its Davie plant in 2017, following an inspection by the Food and Drug Administration that found numerous quality control deficiencies in the manufacturing process. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the contaminated liquid stool softener contained a waterborne bacteria, and affected 63 people in 45 states.
According to NBC Miami, the mother of a victim of an Everglades plane crash filed a wrongful death claim in July 2018, against the flight school that operated both of the planes involved in the crash. The planes collided head on, about 1,500 feet in the air, approximately nine miles from the Miami Executive Airport. Two instructors and two students of the flight school were killed in the crash. The plaintiff was the mother of one of the students, and her complaint alleges that the flight school failed to warn either of the student-instructor pairs that there was another pair flying in the same area and at the same altitude. The suit also states that the school sent the student on a flight that he was inadequately trained for. One week after the collision, the school announced it was planning to close, pointing to the crash and fewer students attending as reasons for the decision. Before the crash that prompted the wrongful death suit, the school had been associated with 29 other accidents or incidents, including five fatalities.
How We Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Case
Attorney Matthew Dolman is an experienced personal injury lawyer from Florida’s west coast. Personal injury lawyer Brent Sibley established his law firm on Florida’s southeast coast. The two successfully worked together on a number of cases before deciding to join forces to form a statewide law firm that could offer clients the pooled resources and individual experience that each has to offer.
Sibley Dolman now has multiple offices in southeast Florida, including in North Miami Beach. The firm embraces the newest technologies available and employs efficiencies to keep cases moving quickly. Most importantly, Sibley Dolman strives to treat every client with compassion and respect. Our lawyers know the importance of obtaining the best outcomes for personal injury victims and wrongful death survivors.
We know that while nothing can replace your lost loved one, if the lawyers at Sibley Dolman agree to take your case, we will work hard on your behalf to ensure a result that honors your loved one’s memory and protects the rights of their survivors. Contact us today at (305) 676-8154 or use our online contact form and schedule your free consultation.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
1820 NE 163rd St #306,
North Miami Beach, FL 33162