When your loved one dies suddenly, it affects everything. An overwhelming sense of sadness and loss often makes it impossible for you to meet everyday responsibilities. As you adjust to your changed lifestyle, you may encounter multiple difficulties and emotional stumbling blocks.
If you lost a spouse or the family's primary breadwinner, financial issues often challenge you as well and may mean managing each day with increased expenses and a reduced income. When someone's negligence causes your loved one's fatal injuries, anger often prevents you from moving forward. Nothing can bring back your loved one, but Florida's wrongful death statute enforces your right to legal recourse.
The law provides a process for survivors to collect damages from the parties responsible for their loved one's death. A Bradenton wrongful death lawyer from our team at Dolman Law Group can help you seek compensation for your losses.
Responsible Parties Must Pay
At Dolman Law Group, we have worked with many grieving families. We have supported them in their efforts to recover compensation for their losses. We've always understood that wrongful death cases are legally complex. We accept the challenges and make a concerted effort to ensure responsible parties pay for their negligent actions. We focus on evaluating the relevant evidence and identifying all responsible parties.
Our investigators have examined accident sites, interviewed witnesses, and obtained formal reports. When necessary, we have worked with product experts and accident reconstructionists to assist us in proving our clients' cases. We believe it's important to present a comprehensive case on our clients' behalf. We accomplish this by identifying relevant laws and evaluating each client's recoverable damages.
Our lawyers understand that a wrongful death settlement can't bring back a client's loved one. Rather, a financial settlement benefits a grieving family by providing a financial resource to help the family maintain its current lifestyle.
Our Firm's Results
At Dolman Law Group, our attorneys have recovered millions in liability damages. In past cases, we have worked to produce the most beneficial results for our clients and their families. It's often difficult to resolve a wrongful death case without filing a lawsuit. When insurance companies, responsible parties, and their attorneys have cooperated, we've negotiated our clients' cases without formal legal action.
Our attorneys have participated in facilitated negotiation through mediation and other resolution forums. When a trial was the most prudent solution, we have presented our clients' evidence before a judge and jury. Each case is unique, so we can't promise a specific outcome. We believe our case results show our dedication to producing results.
For example, we obtained a $1 million settlement in a wrongful death case when our client's father sustained fatal injuries while he was a passenger in a rideshare vehicle.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A person or entity is responsible for another individual's wrongful death when the person or entity negligently causes fatal injuries. Fatal accidents happen in public venues, in the workplace, on private property, on the road, and in many other situations. They occur every day under common and uncommon circumstances.
- Vehicle accidents: National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) statistics show that 3,331 people died in Florida crashes in 2020. Vehicle deaths often occur because of accidents involving alcohol consumption, distracted driving, speeding, and other negligent acts. The chances of fatal injuries increase when a large truck or oversized vehicle strikes a smaller car or pickup truck accident. There is also concern for people's lives in other accidents like rideshare accidents and drunk driving accidents.
- Premises incidents: Deaths sometimes occur when people encounter a negligent situation on someone else's property. The Florida Department of Health documented 388 drownings in 2019. Many occurred in public and private pools. Florida Health also lists falls as the primary cause of fatal injuries for people age 65 and older. Falls may occur on steps, walkways, parking lots, and other surfaces. Improper or inadequate maintenance is often the cause.
- Workplace accidents: U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show that 306 Florida workers sustained fatal injuries on the job during 2019. Fatally injured employees may work in construction, agriculture, transportation, and other job specialties. Nationally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists falls, electrocutions, being struck by objects, and being caught in between objects as common causes for on-the-job fatalities.
- Medical errors: Johns Hopkins researchers determined that malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Research determined that instances often go undocumented due to death certificate coding issues.
- Other causes: People often sustain fatal injuries due to fires, defective products, dog attacks, and other injuries.
Who Is Legally Responsible for Wrongful Death Damages?
In a wrongful death claim, the person seeking damages must prove that the responsible party caused the fatal injuries. The burden of proof varies for medical malpractice and product liability cases. For most other wrongful death cases, plaintiffs must prove negligence based on traditional negligence standards, which are as follows:
- Someone owed a duty of care to the decedent.
- That individual breached their duty.
- The breach was the proximate cause of the incident.
- The breach of duty caused damages.
The parties responsible for wrongful death damages vary depending on the circumstances. Consider the following:
- Vehicle accident: The decedent's survivors may collect damages from a car, motorcycle, or truck operator or owner when the operator causes a fatal injury accident. Eligible survivors may also file a negligent entrustment action against a vehicle owner or employer with prior knowledge of an operator's bad driving history. Vehicle or component manufacturers, maintenance contractors, or repair companies sometimes share liability when a defect, malfunction, improper maintenance, or negligent repairs cause a fatal accident.
- Workplace injury: Workers' compensation benefits are survivors' primary damage recovery option when their loved ones are fatally injured on the job. Survivors may also file a claim against a negligent subcontractor, non-employee, or other company, as long as the third party is not an affiliate of the decedent's employer's company. Employees' survivors file lawsuits due to malfunctioning machinery, improper building maintenance, and other situations that cause fatal injuries.
- Premises liability: Property owners are legally responsible for conditions that cause fatal injuries. Premises liability incidents sometimes occur due to unsafe or unsecured pools, security problems, unsafe construction sites, unrestrained dogs, and other conditions. The owner's sub-contractors, construction contractors, and others share responsibility when they contribute to an accident. An owner's liability for a premises incident is based on the fatally injured person's status as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser when the accident occurs.
- Product liability: When a product defect causes a fatal accident, the manufacturer, designer, and distributor may share liability.
- Medical negligence: When a medical professional's treatment constitutes a “breach of the prevailing professional standard of care” (Florida Statutes § 766.102), the decedent's survivors have a legal right to recover damages.
Wrongful Death Compensation
Florida's wrongful death statute (Florida Statutes § 768.21) outlines a survivor's legal right to recover damages. It also explains the process that a survivor must follow. A wrongful death lawsuit must name each survivor. Each receives benefits based on their relationship to the decedent while the decedent was alive.
Survivor's benefits factor in the decedent's potential future net income, the replacement value of the services they would have provided, and the life expectancies of both the decedent and the beneficiary. Courts assess a minor child's wrongful death settlement according to how many years they have left as a minor.
Any settlement for future damages must reflect a reduction to its present-day value. Survivors' benefits include damages accrued after the decedent's injury until their death and damages expected to be incurred after the decedent's death. Below, we discuss what each category of survivors can expect to recover:
- Each survivor: Value of support and services from the injury until death, plus interest, and future loss of support and services
- Surviving spouse: Loss of companionship, protection, and mental pain and suffering incurred as of the injury date
- Minor children: Lost companionship, instruction, and guidance, as well as mental pain and suffering from the injury date
- All children: If there is no surviving spouse, all children receive the same damages as minor children.
- Each parent of a deceased minor child: Mental pain and suffering from the injury date
- Each parent of a deceased adult child: If there is no surviving spouse, parents of a deceased adult child receive damages for mental pain and suffering from the injury date.
- Decedent's personal representative: Lost income from injury to death, less the survivor's support, plus additional costs recoverable by the estate as outlined by Florida law.
Any survivor who paid the decedent's medical bills can recover those costs.
How Do Responsible Parties Defend Wrongful Death Claims?
Because of the potential for high wrongful death damages, responsible parties and commercial entities often settle into defense mode when a plaintiff reports a claim.
- Product liability: When a major corporation receives a product liability claim, it likely doesn't view it in terms of a single wrongful death claim. When a product causes fatal injuries, it often generates a bad reputation, more claim reports, and potential financial losses. Major corporations have additional incentives for avoiding settlement. Some companies are self-insured for their liability losses or have high retention limits. They must pay settlements or portions of settlements out of their assets.
- Medical error: Some malpractice liability insurance companies still grant physicians the right to approve a settlement or refuse to settle. For a medical professional, an at-fault malpractice claim sometimes affects their license, premium rates, and professional reputation. Those individuals have significant incentives to avoid settlements.
- Vehicle liability: Drivers often report major accidents as no-liability claims. Insurers often defend them accordingly. When an insurer pays a high-dollar claim, it usually causes increased premiums, canceled or non-renewed insurance policies, and an excess liability exposure that sometimes jeopardizes a driver's or corporation's assets. Commercial companies often self-insure their losses or have high retention limits. In addition to some of the above issues, they pay their own damages.
- Premises liability: Property owners often report premises liability claims as no-liability incidents. They sometimes report injured victims as trespassers to avoid any resulting legal responsibilities. Insurance companies often consider these cases defensible, especially when a slip and fall causes the injuries.
Our Bradenton wrongful death lawyers know how to attack these positions and prevent them from gaining traction during settlement negotiations or in courtrooms.
When negligent parties have minimal defenses to liability, insurance companies and independent claim handling agencies try to diminish the claim's value. They often dig up a decedent's personal information to use as a negotiation tool. They check work and credit histories and review lifestyle and family information. They conduct neighborhood and social media investigations, looking for adverse information with the potential to reduce a wrongful death claim's value.
Unfair Negotiation Tactics
Defendants and their insurers may use unfair negotiation to push plaintiffs toward settlement. Some plaintiffs accept low offers. These individuals sometimes view a low offer as a reasonable alternative to discovery and trial costs and the potential for a defense verdict.
Pushing a Case Toward Trial
Instead of negotiating, some insurance companies make unnecessary document requests and notice multiple depositions. They employ costly discovery tactics that either push plaintiffs toward trial or force them into settling for unreasonably low figures.
Courtroom Defense Strategies
Defendants assert affirmative defenses hoping to win in court or obtain a judgment that's lower than the plaintiff's demand. Some potential strategies defendants employ include:
- No negligence: Defendants pay nothing if they prove their actions don't constitute negligence.
- Assumption of risk: Premises liability defendants often plead that the injured person understood and accepted the risk.
- Trespassing: A property owner owes minimal duties to a trespasser. In such a situation, owners pay nothing if they can prove the decedent was trespassing when they sustained fatal injuries.
- No defect: Product liability defendants sometimes pay nothing if they can prove their product was defect-free.
- Damages: Defendants sometimes use a decedent's personal information to diminish a wrongful death claim's value.
Our wrongful death attorneys have handled defense challenges by preparing our clients' cases early on. We've relied on our firm's resources to investigate our cases, hire experts, evaluate our evidence, and keep pace with discovery demands. We have crafted winning strategies that allowed us to prevail during negotiations, mediations, and trials.
Bradenton Wrongful Death FAQ
Losing a loved one is an intensely painful experience. This experience is even more difficult if the carelessness or recklessness of another person caused your loved one's death. If you've lost a loved one in Bradenton due to an accident that someone else caused, you could seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Below are some of the questions we hear about wrongful death actions in Florida. You should reach out to a wrongful death attorney if you have more specific legal questions about your loss.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Florida defines wrongful death as the “death of a person caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person” if “the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.”
In other words, if a person died as the result of someone else's negligent or intentional act, and the deceased would have been eligible to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit had they lived, the death qualifies as wrongful. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action filed on behalf of the deceased's family members intended to recover damages caused by the death.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and Criminal Charges the Liable Party May Face?
When someone else is responsible for causing the death of your loved one, you may be able to take action by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against them. This is different from any criminal charges they may face. The Bradenton Police Department and other law enforcement officials may be able to pursue criminal charges against the liable party if they committed a crime that subsequently caused the death of your loved one.
The state's prosecutor will bring forward charges seeking criminal penalties such as fines, community service, registration as a sex offender where applicable, jail, prison time, parole requirements, and other consequences. For the defendant to be convicted criminally, the jury must find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Wrongful death lawsuits are considerably different. You may have the opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit with help from a personal injury attorney. You will be seeking compensation for the damages your loved one endured and your family experienced due to your loved one's passing.
If you hope to win your Bradenton wrongful death lawsuit, the jury will need to find the defendant liable based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means the evidence will need to show that the defendant in your case is more than likely responsible for causing your loved one's death and resulting damages. If you have additional questions regarding the differences between wrongful death and criminal charges, you may discuss your concerns with your wrongful death attorney.
What Kinds of Accidents May Result in a Wrongful Death?
Nearly every type of accident can result in a wrongful death. However, some of the more common types of accidents that involve wrongful deaths include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including those involving passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, rideshare vehicles, e-scooters, aircraft, watercraft, pedestrians, or bicyclists
- Medical malpractice, including birth injuries, missed diagnoses, wrong diagnoses, surgical errors, medication errors, or lack of appropriate follow-up care
- Premises liability, including slip/trip and fall accidents, swimming pool accidents, amusement park accidents, and accidents resulting from a failure to provide adequate building security
- Product liability, including defective medications, auto parts, appliances, or toys
- Nursing home abuse or neglect cases
- Intentional acts, such as assault
- A death that occurred during the commission of a crime, such as a death occurring due to a car accident caused by a bank robber who was fleeing from police
These are only a few of the more common ways wrongful deaths can occur. If you lost a family member or loved one in another type of accident or incident, do not hesitate to contact our office so you can explore your legal options further.
Who Can File a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Florida, only the executor of the decedent's estate can file a wrongful death claim, per Florida Statutes § 768.20.
Individuals who may obtain compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The deceased's spouse, children, or parents
- Any blood or adoptive sibling who was at least partially dependent on the deceased for support and services
Florida's wrongful death law states that a child born to unmarried parents may receive compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit following the death of their mother. However, the child may only recover damages related to their father's death if the father formally recognized the child as his own and contributed to the child's care.
How does a Claimant Prove Wrongful Death?
Claimants prove wrongful death by showing that the defendants in their cases:
- Owed a duty of care to the deceased. This duty of care depends on the facts of the case. For example, in a car accident case, one driver owes a duty of care to the other—to drive safely and lawfully. In a product liability case, the duty of care might be to design, manufacture, and sell a product that is safe for consumers when used according to its label or instructions.
- Breached their duty of care. The breach is the defendant's actions that led to the accident that caused the death. Again, the breach is dependent on the specific facts of the case.
- Caused the decedent's death, which led to damages to family members.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Florida allows compensation for damages in wrongful death claims, including:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased's final injuries
- Loss of support and services
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings
- Loss of the money the deceased would have earned in their career had they survived the accident
My PIP Policy Provides a Death Benefit. If My Loved One Died in a Bradenton Car Accident, May I Obtain Compensation from My PIP Policy As Well As a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
While it depends on the facts of your case, generally speaking, this is permissible. Personal injury protection (PIP) policies in Florida provide a $5,000 death benefit to cover the costs of funeral and burial expenses. Such policies do not provide coverage for other damages, including pain and suffering, lost wages, or loss of support and services.
I Lost My Unborn Baby in an Accident Caused By Someone Else. Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
No. In Florida, a wrongful death claim is not permitted in cases involving the death of a fetus. However, if the mother was injured in an accident caused by someone else, and that injury caused her to miscarry, the loss of the fetus would be considered a recoverable damage in a personal injury lawsuit.
My Loved One Died While Incarcerated Due to a Guard Using Excessive Force. Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
While an individual's eligibility to file a lawsuit depends on the facts of the case, in general, yes. A plaintiff may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the guard, as well as the state or municipality in which the decedent was incarcerated.
My Loved One Died in a Bradenton Workplace Accident. Am I Eligible for Compensation Through a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Generally, no. Florida's workers' compensation program generally covers workplace accidents. This coverage provides death benefits for the family members of workers who are killed on the job.
There are some exceptions, however, including deaths that are the result of accidents caused by a third party or deaths caused at workplaces where the employer failed to provide workers' compensation insurance for its employees.
Do Wrongful Death Actions Cover Deaths Caused By Intentional Acts?
Yes, intentional acts may result in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is true even if the individual who committed the intentional act that caused the death is incarcerated.
I Have Heard That Wrongful Death Cases Involving a Child or an Elderly Person Generally Result In Less Compensation. Why?
Many of the damages family members recover in wrongful death lawsuits pertain to lost wages, loss of benefits, and loss of financial support. This is because the wrongful death of an individual who has a family to support can cause a tremendous burden on those who financially depended on that person.
Children are not in the midst of careers, they are not financially supporting their families, and there is no way to calculate what they might have earned had they survived to adulthood.
Elderly individuals are often retired, which makes certain categories of compensation unavailable to their survivors, as well. While the loved ones of children and elderly people undoubtedly feel an intense loss, those individuals are generally not financially dependent on the deceased individual.
Regardless of the age of your loved one, we will fight for any compensation the law will allow you to recover.
Do Wrongful Death Cases Ever Settle Outside of Court?
Yes. In fact, like other civil matters, wrongful death actions are typically settled before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. One of the services your wrongful death attorney will provide is negotiating on your behalf with the at-fault party's insurance provider to obtain a fair settlement in your case.
My Boyfriend Died in a Bradenton Accident that Someone Else Caused. We Have a Child Together. Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Unfortunately, if you were not legally married, you cannot seek compensation for yourself through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, you can seek compensation for your minor child, provided your boyfriend formally claimed the child as his own and helped support the child.
What Is the Average Settlement in a Bradenton Wrongful Death Case?
There is no “average” settlement in wrongful death cases. Each case offers unique circumstances. Some of the factors your attorney will consider when establishing a value to your case—that is, how much compensation you are asking for—include:
- The age of the deceased
- The deceased's earning potential
- The type of accident that resulted in death
- The suffering the decedent endured before their death occurred
- The limits of the insurance policies held by anyone liable for the death
What Is the Difference Between Murder and Wrongful Death?
Murder is a criminal offense handled through a criminal court process. An individual charged with murder will be arrested and jailed while their case makes its way through the courts. A government prosecutor will prosecute the case. If convicted, the defendant will face criminal penalties set forth by the state, including fines and incarceration.
Wrongful death cases, on the other hand, are managed through the civil courts. There is no arrest, charge, or conviction. The state's criminal prosecutor is not involved. Furthermore, the burden of proof for a wrongful death action is lower than that of a murder charge, as it is based on the preponderance of evidence rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit is compensation for a family in need of assistance after the loss of a loved one rather than imprisonment. That said, the family members of a murder victim may be eligible to seek compensation for their losses through a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Those wishing to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida generally must do so within two years of the date of the deceased's death, per Florida Statutes § 95.11. There are some exceptions to this time limit, but generally, individuals must file their cases before the statute of limitations expires, or the court will dismiss them. Your attorney will advise you if there are time limit exceptions in your case.
My Loved One Lived for Three Years After the Accident Before Eventually Succumbing to Their Injuries. Can I Still File a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Yes, provided you file the lawsuit within two years of the date of their death.
If the Person Responsible for My Loved One's Death Files for Bankruptcy, does That Mean the Settlement or Award in My Case Will Be Discharged?
Not always. While some debts can be discharged, and a judge may even discharge judgments pertaining to an accidental death caused by ordinary negligence, judgments that result from particularly reckless behavior, such as driving while alcohol-impaired or committing an intentional act, cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.
Do I Have to Pay Taxes on the Settlement or Award I Receive in a Bradenton Wrongful Death Case?
No. According to the IRS, the compensation you receive for a lawsuit involving a physical injury or illness—including wrongful death—is not taxable. Exceptions include punitive damages, which courts award to punish at-fault parties for particularly egregious behavior, and compensation that the survivor or the estate chooses to invest in taxable accounts.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You are not legally required to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit. However, having an attorney may improve your chances of obtaining compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Attorneys provide essential services for their clients, including negotiating a settlement, establishing a value for the case, collecting the evidence needed to prove liability and damages, representing you in court, and guiding you through the legal process.
If you have lost a loved one in Bradenton due to someone's negligent or reckless actions, our wrongful death attorneys are ready to discuss your legal options for obtaining compensation.
What Evidence Can Be Used to Support a Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Bradenton?
When your attorney is working to build a strong wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party, many pieces of valuable evidence may be used to support your case. Some types of evidence may be more time-sensitive than others.
For example, if nearby homes or businesses caught the accident that caused your loved one's death on video, accessing the surveillance footage soon after the accident is paramount, as the video footage may only be available for a short time before being overwritten with new video footage. Other types of evidence that could help prove wrongful death liability include:
- Photos of the decedent's injuries
- Photos of the accident scene
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results
- Driving records
- Medical documentation of the decedent's injuries
- Medical documentation of the decedent's cause of death
- Cell phone records
- Expert testimony
- Witness statements
- Safety inspection reports
- Reports by accident reconstructionists
- Police and crash reports
Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawyers
If a person or commercial entity fatally injured your loved one, contact Dolman Lawn Group as soon as possible. We have attorneys in convenient offices on both Florida coasts.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 613-5747