Coping with the Wrongful Death of a Loved One

Losing someone you love is never easy, even when the death did not come as a surprise. Especially when a family member dies prematurely due to the negligent actions of another person, the grief and shock can seem unbearable. You may suddenly find yourself needing to cope with this loss without the emotional and financial support that your loved one normally provided. If you feel that your family member would still be here today if not for the negligent actions of another, you may wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

While money cannot change the fact that your loved one is no longer here, it can help you move forward in life without the plethora of financial and other contributions that he or she would have made to your household. Hiring a wrongful death attorney is the first step in pursuing the financial compensation you need and deserve.

Legal Definition of Wrongful Death

When you file a wrongful death claim, you bear the burden of proving that the defendant’s actions cause the death of your family member. That means you and your attorney need to demonstrate the following:

  • A person died
  • Another person caused the death due to a deliberate intention to cause harm or negligent behavior that someone of similar status would not have committed
  • The surviving family members struggle financially due to the loss of the deceased’s income
  • Members of the deceased’s immediate family obtained a personal representative to manage his or her estate

What is Negligence?

Negligence can take many forms. Most often, it is the act or omission of an act that results in the injury or loss of a person’s life, particularly when it is a violation of their duty of care. Negligence leading to death can occur in many ways. Some common examples include:

  • Surgical or medical error
  • A car accident in which the deceased victim shared no responsibility
  • On-the-job hazards that caused sudden accidental death or death due to illness after years of exposure to hazardous substances
  • The victim died due to a severe beating
  • Lack of supervision when it would be expected

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Each state sets its own wrongful death statute of limitations. This is the amount of time allowed from the date of the death to when a family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Florida, for example, is two years.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

Each state determines its own laws regarding who it permits to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Most states, including Florida, limit the people who can file to the estate of the deceased and close relatives, followed by anyone who depended on that person for financial support. Florida defines close relatives as a person’s spouse, minor or adult children, and parents.

It is up to the personal representative of the family to list each person who has an interest in the case as a party to the wrongful death lawsuit. The court will appoint a representative if the family does not do this in advance. After a judge approves a family representative, he or she obtains a wrongful death attorney to begin the process of filing a lawsuit.

Proving Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim

The first thing your attorney must do is prove that the person who caused your family member’s death had a legal duty of care towards him or her. This means the defendant had the obligation to act in a safe manner, such as a doctor treating your loved one or another motorist on the road. Your attorney will spend significant time researching how the incident happened to prove that the defendant failed in his or her duty and directly caused the death of your loved one.

wrongful death form

The last step in a wrongful death case is for your attorney to request a specific dollar amount on your behalf. One question that family members often have is, “How much can you sue for wrongful death?” The answer is complicated and depends on whether the state has placed limitations on damages. For example, Florida limits non-economic damages to $500,000 per claimant. Even so, proceeds from wrongful death lawsuits can be in the millions depending on the specific circumstances.

Wrongful Death vs Survival Action

Both types of cases refer to a person dying due to the negligence of someone else. A survival action differs in that it requests damages from the moment of injury until the time the person died. This can be the appropriate choice when a family member experienced prolonged suffering before succumbing to the actions of the negligent party. For example, it would cover medical expenses and lost wages while your loved one was still alive but incapacitated by the injury.

Types of Damages You Could Receive in a Wrongful Death Case                        

Juries consider both economic and non-economic damages in these types of cases. The first category includes actual losses such as medical expenses for the deceased, as well as his or her lost wages and retirement benefits. Non-economic damages are more subjective and refer to such things as loss of affection and companionship.

Additional examples of damages you could receive include:

  • Cost of funeral and burial
  • Physical pain and suffering of your loved one
  • Emotional damage to their family members
  • Financial compensation equal to the cost of services your family member would have contributed if he or she had lived, such as childcare, housekeeping, and outdoor maintenance

Some of the factors that a jury considers when determining a dollar amount include your family member’s:

  • General health before his or her untimely death
  • Earning capacity
  • Age
  • Typical life expectancy

A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

When you’ve experienced the wrongful death of a loved one, you need a lawyer who will argue for the maximum benefit you can receive and get the jury to see your family’s situation in the most sympathetic manner possible. At LawyerFriend, we can help you find a wrongful death attorney who cares. Simply click the above link to find a lawyer and complete our 60-second case evaluation to be connected to a compassionate wrongful death attorney in your area.

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