Regardless of the circumstances causing the death, when a loved one dies, it is an emotionally trying time. Often times, the family members who are left behind have relied on that person’s emotional or financial support. Maybe a child has lost the care and guidance of a parent, or a spouse has lost the love and companionship of a husband or wife.
If the death is the result of an unnecessary event, it can make the entire situation take on a new level of tragedy. These situations are called wrongful death cases and can occur through the negligence, wrongful actions, or inaction of a company, manufacturer, or other entity. Obviously, no amount of money can compensate a family for the loss of a loved one, but it can help alleviate some of the financial devastation suffered by the ones left behind.
Florida Statute 768.19 says that when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract of another person or some other entity, the estate of the deceased person may bring a civil lawsuit in Florida’s courts, seeking a legal remedy for that death and the losses stemming from it.
In the News
On March 16, 2018, six people were killed when a pedestrian bridge collapsed near the Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Some 950 pounds of rubble were removed while searching for victims and eight cars were eventually uncovered.
Alexa Duran, an 18-year-old freshman, was one of the victims, and her parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against MCM construction, FIGG Engineering, and seven other subcontractors that were involved in the project construction. The family’s attorney believes that the companies were negligent and reckless.
The construction of the bridge had been behind schedule and over budget, which resulted in a key change to the design and the placement of one of its support towers. Although the cause of the collapse is not clear, before the bridge collapsed, crews had been adjusting a tension rod at the north end of the bridge.
The university had just celebrated the opening of the bridge five days before its collapse. The bridge was quickly installed over a six-lane highway, and although the company that built it knew of design flaws and cracks in the bridge, they failed to close the busy street below it while they worked on the steel support rods.
The Duran family is not the only family seeking to be compensated for the wrongful death of their loved one. A handful of additional lawsuits have also been filed, including four before the Duran’s filed theirs.
Other Causes of Wrongful Deaths
While a variety of automobile accidents caused by distracted drivers, speeding, and impaired drivers are the primary cause of wrongful deaths in people under the age of 35, there are many other possible causes for wrongful deaths. These include, but are not limited to, things such as:
- Slip and falls.
- Workplace injuries.
- Motorcycle, truck, train, and boating accidents.
- Amusement park and swimming pool accidents.
- Birth injuries and medical errors.
- Fatal dog bites.
- Criminal assault.
In Florida, some 50 to 75 boating deaths occur each year and the drowning rate of children in the state is nearly three times higher than the average national rate. Florida ranks the third most dangerous state for truck accidents with between 190 and 300 truck accident fatalities each year. The elderly population is particularly vulnerable to slip and fall accidents.
Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The state of Florida is specific about who may file a claim if they believe their loved one has died as the result of a wrongful death. When someone dies, they leave behind what is called their “estate.” This is basically everything they own at the time of their death. Statute says that designated personal representatives and survivors may file wrongful death claims. These parties include:
- The spouse of the deceased person.
- The children of the deceased person (children under the age of 25 are entitled to higher damages).
- The parents of the deceased person.
- Blood relatives who were at least partially dependent on the deceased person for support, such as adoptive brothers and sisters.
A child of any age may file a claim to recover loss of support as well as loss of future support if the deceased person had no spouse. They may also be able to recover damages for mental pain and suffering and the loss of parental guidance and care. Parents may not recover damages for pain and suffering if their child was over the age of 25, except for under a few exceptional circumstances.
How Long do You Have to File a Claim?
The amount of time to bring a wrongful death claim is called the statute of limitations, and in Florida that limit is two years from the date of the person’s death. If a claim is not brought within this time period, the survivors may not be able to file a wrongful death claim ever. There is one exception to this rule, and it falls under the Jeffrey Klee Memorial Act, which says there is no time limit to file a wrongful death claim if the death was a result of homicide. This rule is because homicide investigations can sometimes take years before the guilty party is identified and brought to justice.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
There are a few things that must be determined in order for your loved one’s death to be considered a wrongful death. These elements include:
- A human life was lost as a result of another person’s actions.
- The action which resulted in death of the victim was an intentional or negligent act.
- There are survivors that have been harmed by the loss of the victim, and those survivors have suffered monetary damages as a result of the death.
Once these elements have been established and the necessary information has been gathered, an experienced attorney can make a demand for damages against one or more defendants. If the claim is not settled out of court, a complaint document will be filed with the court. If the case still does not reach a settlement, a date for trial will be set.
Get the Help of a Professional
If your loved one has lost his or her life due to the deliberate or negligent behavior of another person, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim. It is important that you speak to someone experienced with wrongful death claims and Florida law like the attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi. They will treat you in a compassionate, professional manner and use their experience and every resource available to get you the compensation you deserve. No one should have to suffer any more than they already have after the tragic death of a loved one.