We sincerely hope no one in the Orlando area will be forced to face the aftermath of the sudden and unexpected death of a family member. Disbelief can quickly turn to anger when we learn someone's negligence may have caused the death.
With offices across the state, the legal team of Orlando wrongful death lawyers at Dolman Law Group stands ready to make sure no family has to face this catastrophe alone. When the numbness becomes confusion, a personal injury attorney can assist you. An Orlando wrongful death lawyer can help when:
- Your spouse, child, or parent's life was cut short by someone's negligence
- The death was traumatic or violent
- The cause of death was preventable
- The family needs someone to be held responsible and accountable
When grief turns into fear and frustration, a legal advocate can help evaluate the economic impact of your loss and serve as a catalyst for fair financial compensation.
The Difference Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
Personal injury is a complicated and multi-faceted area of the law, and a “wrongful death” is typically a serious accident caused by somebody's carelessness, indifference, or oversight that results in death. When medical malpractice causes death, it can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit; however, not all wrongful death cases emerge from medical malpractice.
Similarly, although all personal injury claims involve a form of negligent, reckless, or intentional actions, a wrongful death claim is not the same as a personal injury lawsuit claim. The main differences between the types of claims are:
- Who can legally initiate a claim
- Who can recover compensation
- The possible types of compensation
Who Can Legally File a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim?
The person who was harmed in an accident can file an Orlando personal injury claim against whoever was responsible for the behavior that caused their injury.
In Florida, only a personal representative of the decedent's estate can file a wrongful death claim (Florida Statutes § 768.20). If the deceased had a will, they likely named an executor to administer their final details. If no will is on file with the state, the courts will appoint an executor. Although a judge can assign this responsibility to anyone, typically it will be the surviving spouse or closest heir.
Who Can Recover Compensation for Damages?
While a personal injury victim typically only recovers compensation for themselves, more people may be eligible to recover compensation in a wrongful death case. The Florida Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statutes § 768.21) restricts those survivors who can legally receive compensation in wrongful death claim to:
- Minor children
- Adult children who are dependent on the deceased for financial support
- A spouse
- The parents of a minor child
The contributory factors used in determining the amount of compensation these parties can receive include:
- The personal relationship between each survivor and the deceased
- The life expectancy of all claimants
- The replacement value of the deceased's services
What Damages Can You Claim?
Personal injury accident victims can seek to recover financial compensation for several different losses, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Property damage
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
When your family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may recover other types of economic and non-economic damages. Qualified survivors initiating a wrongful death claim may seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses the decedent incurred before death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of parental guidance
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of financial support
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of services
A surviving spouse may recover:
- Compensation for the loss of the decedent's companionship and protection
- Compensation for mental pain and suffering
Minor children may seek compensation for:
- Lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance
- Mental pain and suffering
Each parent of a deceased minor child may recover:
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- If there is no surviving spouse, each parent of an adult child may also recover compensation for mental pain and suffering.
- Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services.
- The survivor who paid for the decedent's medical or funeral expenses may recover those costs.
When the death of a loved one results from intentional misconduct or gross negligence, the courts may award punitive damages as a deterrent to similar offending and damaging behavior from others in the future.
Gross negligence is a deliberate disregard for the safety and welfare of others; it is conduct that is more than likely to cause harm. This may be particularly applicable in product liability cases, when it is discovered the supplier or manufacturer was aware of the potential for injury but still elected to sell or distribute with little or no concern for future victims.
Civil vs. Criminal Claims
There are also differences between civil and criminal claims. If a party's negligence causes your loved one's passing, intentionally or not, they may also face criminal charges from the state's prosecuting attorney. This is a stark contrast from your wrongful death lawsuit, which a personal injury lawyer brings forward.
If the prosecutor hopes to find the defendant guilty in a criminal case, they will need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in your civil wrongful death claim, your attorney will only need to prove liability based on a preponderance of evidence.
Other differences between criminal and civil claims include the consequences. If convicted of a criminal offense, the liable party will likely face fines and jail or prison time in addition to other criminal penalties. But if they are found liable in your civil case, they will be ordered to compensate you and your family for your damages.
Don't Try to File Your Claim Alone
Estimating the projected value of support services can be an arduous task, probate procedures can be complicated, and verifying claims made by creditors can be quite involved.
The legal team at Dolman Law Group has extensive experience helping families in the Orlando area and across the state deal with the complex legal and financial issues of wrongful death cases. You don't have to go through this difficult time alone—we are here to help you.
Grief Actually Hurts
Grief is a form of stress. Following the loss of a close family member, it is common to experience physical symptoms in the wake of overwhelming grief. When the immune system is taxed, the body may respond with:
- Muscle aches and pains
- A tight feeling in the chest
- Intestinal and digestive distress
- Frequent colds and persistent respiratory infections
The physical stress of grieving can lead to an increase in adrenaline, causing:
- An accelerated heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Involuntary shaking
When the grief you and your family are experiencing is overwhelming, and you are not sure where to turn for help getting through these difficult times, a wrongful death lawyer in Orlando can assist you in formulating an action plan to bring the liable party to justice, so you can mourn your loss without financial strain.
Injuries and Accidents That May Lead to Death
Negligence on the part of another is one of the most common ways wrongful death claims occur. Victims can often suffer a wide variety of injuries that they later succumb to, some of which could include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Third-degree burns
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Head injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Organ failure
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists accidents as the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. Many different accidents can cause injuries that may lead to death, including:
- Car accidents: According to a report issued by the National Safety Council, over 42,000 people lost their lives on U.S. roadways in 2020, which was an 8 percent increase from 2019.
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Theme park accidents
- Birth injuries
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Defective products
- Assault and violent crimes
- Negligence by a government entity
- Accidental shooting
- Medical malpractice: Johns Hopkins University estimates that medical errors cause more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
- Recalled or dangerous vehicles
- Work-related accidents
- Pharmaceutical products
Florida Shared Fault Laws
If the decedent shared liability for the injuries they sustained before their passing, your wrongful death lawsuit could be reduced to reflect the decedent's liability.
For example, suppose the decedent was found to share 10% of the liability for the accident. In that case, your wrongful death compensation could be reduced by 10% to account for Florida's pure comparative negligence laws found in Florida Statutes § 768.81.
To ensure you evaluate liability accurately, you may want to have an Orlando wrongful death lawyer handle the legal details of your case.
How Long do You Have to File Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Orlando?
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death, per Florida Statutes § 95.11. In theory, this is a hard-and-fast rule, but it is actually full of exceptions and exclusions, such as:
- Certain medical malpractice claims can often have a four-year window for filing a claim.
- Claims against government entities can have a four-year time limit.
- If the defendant passes away before the lawsuit settles, timely motions are necessary to change the claim to one against “the estate” of the original defendant.
Why Should You Choose Dolman Law Group?
Wrongful death requires proof of negligence to obtain compensation. With experienced litigators in Orlando, as well as in offices located from coast to coast across the state, we understand the importance of:
- Establishing the defendant had a legal duty of care to prevent harm to the deceased
- Proving the defendant failed to meet their duty of care
- Showing how the defendant's negligence ultimately caused your loved one's death
We cannot change the fact that a potentially preventable accident altered a family forever, but we can help a grieving spouse, parent, or child obtain a measure of justice for the life of their loved one by ensuring economic loss is adequately assessed and quantified. Following the untimely loss of a loved one, there is frequently an unanticipated and unwanted change in the family dynamic as survivors attempt to reorganize the family unit.
When someone you love dies, putting the survivors' affairs back in order is a mammoth task. The decedent's estate can pursue economic losses that will ultimately be awarded to the heirs. If a wrongful death settlement is listed as an estate asset, it may be subject to valid creditor's claims. This can be a particularly controversial area of the law and is often at the center of disagreements between creditors and family members.
Adjusting to life without a close family member often means a change in the standard of living provided by the deceased's earnings. Determining the extent of future economic losses is a complicated process and takes into account:
- The age of the deceased
- The deceased's chosen profession
- The educational background of the deceased
- The percent of household budget the deceased contributed before their death
- The relationship the deceased had with each claimant
At Dolman Law Group, we have the resources necessary to pursue all avenues in securing both economic and non-economic damages. We have access to forensic accountants and financial experts who can not only prove the amount of money the deceased was actually providing to their family, but also project the amount of financial support each claimant would have reasonably expected to receive from the deceased if the wrongful death did not occur. Some documentation used in these calculations may include:
- Income tax returns
- Social Security information
- Pension data
If the estate includes a business owned by the deceased, in addition to tax records, the experts will take into account:
- Corporate ledgers
- Balance sheets
- Statements of accounts payable and receivable
Call an Orlando Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Having access to legal guidance can often give a grieving family the upper hand when dealing with insurance carriers. If the deceased had life insurance, either via a personal policy or as a part of a corporate package, an attorney can help untangle the red tape that will often go along with applying for a death benefit.
Since 2009, our attorneys have gone the extra mile to ensure our clients receive a fair settlement or award. We are skilled litigators and do not hesitate to challenge an entity or an insurance carrier in a courtroom setting. We are proud of our reputation, our collective awards, and the positive feedback we receive from satisfied clients.
Whether your family is compensated by a negotiated settlement or awarded damages by a jury, no one should have to stand alone. Contact Dolman Law Group to schedule a complimentary consultation if you feel your loved one's death was caused by another person's negligence. You can easily reach us at (727) 451-6900 or write to us using our online contact page.
1701 Park Center Drive, Suite #240-G
Orlando, FL 32835
Phone: (407) 759-4565