The loss of a family member can leave survivors to cope with a range of difficult emotions: shock, pain, grief, anger, and more. Those emotions can be complicated and compounded by the stress, anxiety, and depression brought on by losing even more than a beloved spouse, child, or parent. When a family member dies, their contribution to household income may disappear, they may incur substantial medical bills for their care prior to death, and they may face other large expenses, including funeral and burial costs to cover.
If your loved one lost their life because of someone else's negligence or intent to harm, you might weigh your options: Should you hire a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer? Or should you just move on because the potential fight for compensation might just make everything seem worse?
The fact is you may not have to endure the added burden of financial stress while coping with the grief and related challenges that come with continuing life without your loved one. Depending on the circumstances of your loved one's death, you may qualify to recover damages for the losses that you and your family have suffered. A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney at Dolman Law Group can review your case and provide options.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Under Florida law, a wrongful death occurs when someone dies because of “the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters.”
Wrongful death can occur anywhere: at work, on the roads, in a hospital, at a beach, or in a place of business or public accommodation. If you are uncertain about whether the cause of your loved one's demise meets the legal definition of wrongful death, a member of our team will review your case at no cost or obligation to you. From there, we will advise you of the merits of your case and the probability of getting financial compensation from the at-fault party.
Every case has factors that make it unique, but these are some of the more common scenarios that may give rise to wrongful death claims.
Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are common, and unfortunately, victims of more serious accidents involving cars, trucks, or motorcycles often have greater risks of injuries and fatalities. Because of the severe impact of two vehicles colliding, death can result from any type of motor vehicle accident.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported 268 fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. The law holds negligent drivers liable for the damages they cause in any accident that occurs because of their violation of traffic laws, driving under the influence, driving distracted, or driving recklessly.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Falls are among the leading reasons for emergency room visits, hospitalization, and accidental deaths. Children and the elderly are especially at risk - the Florida Department of Health found that people older than 65 account for almost 90 percent of fatalities related to unintentional falls. Fatalities can result from same-level falls, falls down the stairs, and falls from significant heights.
Frequently when someone dies from a slip, trip, or fall, it is because they suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, people may also die when their initial injuries have subsequent complications or resulting infections.
Although slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere, when they occur because a property owner failed to maintain safe conditions that led to an accident, the family of a victim may have a wrongful death claim.
On-the-job injuries lead to hundreds of deaths each year throughout the U.S. Fatal injuries may occur in accidents caused by dangerous working conditions, exposure to toxic chemicals, motor vehicle accidents, or falls.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 275 workplace fatalities statewide in 2020. If a workplace accident caused the loss of your loved one, their employer, a property owner, or another third party may have liability for a wrongful death claim. When you trust our wrongful death team to handle your case, we help identify the at-fault party. We aim to ensure you get the compensation you deserve from the person or entity responsible for your family's loss.
Doctors and other medical professionals are charged with the highest duty of care to their patients. They are called upon to diagnose, treat, care for, and to “do no harm” to those suffering from diseases, illnesses, and injuries. When a medical professional breaches the duty of care, their negligence may cause devastating results.
Medical malpractice that may give rise to a wrongful death claim include situations such as a doctor who failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed an illness or disease, a medical professional or facility that provided less than the standard of care, a surgeon who acted negligently during surgery, or a pharmacist who erred in filling a prescription.
When the death of your loved one results from medical malpractice, our team completes the complicated process of compiling the necessary evidence for these claims. This proof can include medical records, a presuit investigation, and a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation as required by Florida law. Rather than tax you with compiling this information, we do it so you can concentrate on your family's emotional recovery.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
Florida has a two-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim. Under Florida law, only specific family members can file a wrongful death claim when the deceased person could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived. The wrongful death claim must be filed by a personal representative of the deceased on behalf of a:
- Child or children under 18, including those who were adopted, or another blood relative who was a dependent
- Child or children over 18 if their deceased parent was unmarried
- Parents of minor children
- Parents of adult children if there was no spouse or children
The legal line of succession can be difficult to unravel without legal guidance and familiarity with Florida's wrongful death laws. Depending on your relationship with the decedent, you could qualify to seek compensation even if you do not fit any of the criteria above.
What Kinds of Damages Could You Recover in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Damages available under Florida law for a wrongful death claim vary based on the financial situation of any surviving dependents, the predicted lifespan of the decedent, and the extent to which the deceased may have been at fault for their death.
If you are a qualifying surviving family member of a loved one whose death was caused by negligence, you can seek compensation. Any act of negligence that would have entitled your loved one to recover personal injury damages will also allow you to file an insurance claim or lawsuit for financial compensation.
If someone else's negligence or intent to harm caused a wrongful death, Florida law allows survivors to recover:
- Loss of support and services from the deceased. Calculated based on the relationship between the claimant and the deceased, the income available for distribution among surviving family members, and the replacement value of the services that were provided by the deceased. Future losses, based on the joint life expectancies of the survivor/s and the deceased, may also be considered. If the survivors include young children, the length of time until those children reach adulthood may also be a compensable damage.
- Loss of companionship and protection. Applicable when the survivor is a widow or widower.
- Mental pain and suffering. Available for a surviving spouse, minor children if there is no spouse, parents who survive a minor child, and parents of an adult child if there are no other survivors.
- Lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance. Applicable to minors when there is no surviving spouse.
- Medical expenses. For all costs related to the injuries that led to death, including ambulance, emergency department services, surgery, radiology, and medication.
- Burial and funeral expenses.
In some cases, a personal representative unrelated to the family may file a claim on behalf of the deceased's estate. The court may award these damages to the estate:
- Lost wages from the date the victim was injured until his or her death
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of an estate when there are no blood survivors or spouse
- Medical costs
- Burial and funeral costs
Common Defense Tactics in Wrongful Death Cases
Defendants in wrongful death cases will typically use the same tactics to avoid liability and limit financial responsibility for damages. Two major strategies frequently seen in Florida are defendants:
- Questioning the causal connection in the case
- Placing all or some of the blame on the victim.
Your wrongful death attorneys must prove the following elements to successfully litigate a wrongful death claim:
- The defendant must have had a legal duty of care to the deceased. Some examples of this duty are a property owner who must warn visitors of dangerous conditions on their property, a medical professional who must diagnose their patient correctly, and a driver who must follow traffic regulations and operate their vehicle safely.
- The defendant must have breached their duty of care. Using the former examples, these failures may include the property owner who knew they had a loose step but did not warn visitors, the driver who caused an accident by texting while driving, and the doctor who prescribed the wrong dosage or type of medication to their patient.
- The breach of the duty of care caused the injury that resulted in death.
- The decedent's estate suffered damages for which you can recover compensation.
Attorneys for the defense may argue against any of these elements by asserting there was no duty of care, no breach, or, if there was clearly a duty and it was breached, that the breach did not cause your loved one's death. Often, they'll make a causation argument to shift blame to the deceased.
Although Florida law allows surviving family members to sue for wrongful death, Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. Therefore, even if the court finds the defendant negligent, it could apportion a percentage of fault to other parties - including the deceased.
By successfully arguing the deceased shared blame for their fatal injuries, any award to the plaintiff may be reduced proportionately. For example, if the award is $1,000,000 and the court finds the deceased was 20 percent responsible, the judge will reduce the award to $800,000. Additionally, in cases where a survivor had partial responsibility for the wrongful death, they may lose the right to recover any damages.
How Defendants Assert Comparative Fault
Comparative fault laws give defendants an incentive to argue that the deceased or another party was partially or wholly responsible for the wrongful death. They may try to assert this claim in a variety of creative ways:
- If the wrongful death was caused by a motor vehicle accident, the defendant might claim that the deceased was speeding, driving distracted, or driving under the influence, and that contributed to the accident.
- If the wrongful death occurred at a workplace, the employer or their insurance carrier may claim the deceased was not following proper safety regulations, was using dangerous equipment outside of its intended use, or the employee was warned and assumed the risk of the dangerous conditions that led to their death.
- If the wrongful death was caused by a slip and fall injury, the property owner may claim that the dangerous condition was marked and the deceased ignored it, or the deceased was otherwise distracted and should have seen the hazard.
Because contributory fault laws can significantly decrease any financial award you receive, our team will work hard to prove your loved one did not contribute to their death. In addition, we work equally hard to prove your family qualifies for full compensation for your loss.
Your Family Deserves Time to Focus on Recovery
Recovering from the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one will affect every family member and loved one in different ways:
- Spouses may struggle to cope alone after they lose the person who they planned to build a life with
- Children may struggle to cope with the loss of a parent and navigate the world without them
- Parents may struggle greatly with the loss of a child - something no parent ever expects to happen
A lawyer can help you find resources to help you cope while fighting for compensation. They also can calculate the value of these intangible losses and include them in your compensation claim.
Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale
Successfully bringing a wrongful death claim often requires an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands Florida law and the complexities of the legal system. The Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers at Dolman Law Group know that losing a loved one through someone else's negligence or intent to harm is an emotionally challenging situation for survivors to endure.
It is our job to help people at the very worst moments of their lives, to analyze the facts, advise, negotiate, build a case for legitimate claims, and advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves. We will anticipate defense strategies and fight against the counterclaims and attacks used to avoid liability. If you have lost your loved due to wrongful death, contact Dolman Law Group today at (727) 451-6900 for a free consultation and learn more.
What Our Clients Have to Say:
“This firm is amazing! Very professional, they helped me with my case until the end. They were available and very flexible. Dolman Law Group would answer all my calls/emails and wouldn't hesitate on explaining all of my concerns. They represented me on my case, in which it turned out to have a successful result. Super recommend them!”
Fort Lauderdale Office
150 E Davie Blvd Suite 201-2
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130