The legal term "wrongful death" refers to a death caused by the negligence or misconduct of another. A wrongful death claim may arise in any number of circumstances. Examples include: nursing home negligence or abuse; medical malpractice; car, motorcycle or truck accidents; workplace accidents; and defective products. Our lawyers have handled wrongful death claims throughout Northeast Florida.
Wrongful death claims are different from other types of claims because the person who died is not the plaintiff. Instead, suit is brought by the victim's family members or estate, and the purpose of the suit is not to recover damages which are personal to the victim, but to compensate the family members who have been harmed financially and emotionally by their loved one's death. Thus, compensation may include an award for loss of emotional support, services or benefits of the deceased, loss of the deceased’s future wages, medical expenses, and funeral expenses.
What to Expect: The Wrongful Death Claim Process
In a wrongful death claim, there are specific steps that must be followed. The first step usually involves designating a personal representative. Once that is completed, survivors of the deceased person are identified. Survivors may include the decedent’s spouse, children and parents. Survivors may also include other blood relatives if they are dependent upon the decedent. Children born out of wedlock also may be considered survivors. The personal representative is also charged with identifying all medical bills and other expenses related to the cause of death.
The next step is to make a claim for damages against the defendant in a written demand. However, because wrongful death claims are typically complicated, these cases often do not settle, and a lawsuit is filed. When this happens, a formal legal claim, or complaint, is drafted and served to the defendant and to the court clerk, marking the beginning of the lawsuit.
A process called discovery takes place after the claim in filed. Each side requests statements, documents and admissions from the other side to support their claim. Witnesses are identified and deposed. This step serves to establish the facts of the case, including the cause of death, the circumstances surrounding the cause, and determining the extent of damages which may be awarded to the survivors.
Before a trial date is set, the parties will usually hold a mediation conference to see if the matter can be resolved without going to trial. If the two sides cannot agree, the parties will declare an impasse and proceed towards trial.
If a verdict is rendered in favor of the decedent’s estate, damages will be awarded to the estate, and primarily distributed to the survivors.
Wrongful death cases are lengthy and emotional, so it is especially important that you are represented by a law firm with the resources to thoroughly present your case. The Lawrence Law Group has handled many wrongful death cases, including claims arising out of car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, boating accidents, and nursing home negligence.
If someone suspects that their loved one was a victim of wrongful death it is very important that they act quickly. While most injury claims have a four (4) year statute of limitations, the Florida Wrongful Death Act generally requires that a wrongful death claim be brought within two (2) years from the time of death.
Contact us for a free consultation. If we accept your case you will pay us nothing unless we make a recovery for you.