When a loved one’s life gets cut short, it can be a big shock for surviving relatives. When the death is due to someone’s negligence or deliberate action, families can be even more confused and angry. Not only do they lose the companionship of their loved one, but they may struggle financially without their support. Many families in St Lucie County face this reality and they turn to a Port St Lucie wrongful death lawyer to get compensation.
As you know, an individual who is injured because of someone else’s actions is entitled to seek compensation. For example, a person who slips and falls on a restaurant’s wet floor may be able to claim damages or a car accident victim may be able to get compensation from a reckless driver. If a victim dies in such circumstances, their survivors may be eligible to collect damages.
Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death claim can be filed when an individual is a victim of negligence, wrongful action, default, or breach of contract by someone else. This means wrongful death can cover criminal acts like murder but also civil acts.
A wrongful death claim must meet the four elements of negligence in order to be successful. This means you have to prove that:
- The defendant had a duty of care towards the deceased
- The defendant breached that duty
- The defendant acted in a way that led to the death
- The death caused monetary and emotional losses for survivors
You will need a knowledgeable attorney to assess your case, quantify your losses, and fight on your behalf.
- 1 Types of Wrongful Death Cases
- 2 Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Receive Compensation in Florida
- 3 Proving Fault in a Wrongful Death Case
- 4 Tactics Defendants Will Use to Avoid Paying Damages
- 5 Contact Gonzalez Levenson Today to Get the Help You Need
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Many types of situations can lead to wrongful death. Your wrongful death attorney will identify the correct defendant depending on the circumstances. Their first course of action will be to negotiate a settlement with the person or their insurer. If this fails, they will represent you in court.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths are:
If a driver causes death by distracted driving, driving under the influence, or reckless driving, they can be held responsible. However, drivers aren’t always the defendants since fatal car crashes can be due to manufacturing defects or problems with road design.
If your baby was injured at birth due to something a medical professional did or didn’t do, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
Sometimes the actions or omissions of a doctor, nurse or another medical professional lead to the death of a patient. Survivors can claim damages for this.
On-the-job injuries can be fatal. If your loved one was seriously hurt in the line of duty due to negligence, you may be able to get compensation.
Truck accidents often result in fatalities because of the force of the impact. If the truck driver or trucking company was responsible for the crash, you can pursue damages.
Not all wrongful death cases are due to accidents. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed when a criminal murder case ends. This can be done even if the defendant was not convicted. A skilled wrongful death attorney will use the evidence produced in the criminal case to seek damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Receive Compensation in Florida
The personal representative of the decedent’s probate estate is the only person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If your loved one left a will, the court will usually appoint the representative who was named in the will. If there was no will or the will didn’t name a personal representative, the court will choose someone. This is typically a spouse or parent.
This doesn’t mean that only the personal representative can receive compensation. They simply represent the probate estate and certain survivors. These are usually:
- The victim’s spouse, parents, and children
- A blood relative or adopted sibling who depended on the victim for financial support
Survivors can get economic and non-economic damages along with punitive damages in some circumstances. Economic damages typically include medical and funeral expenses, the loss of the deceased’s future earnings, and the loss of benefits. Non-economic damages cover intangible losses which are harder to quantify. These include pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, and loss of care and nurturing.
If the death was due to gross negligence or an intentional act, the court may award punitive damages as well. This sum is intended to punish the defendant and prevent similar actions in the future.
Proving Fault in a Wrongful Death Case
In order to get any of these benefits, you will have to prove the defendant was truly at fault. In some cases, this is easy but sometimes wrongful death attorneys have to work really hard to build a case. The defendant will put a lot of effort into evading liability so you need to have an experienced attorney who can stand up to them. Your attorney will use a range of resources including:
- Accident reports
- Witness statements
- Accident reconstruction
- Surveillance camera footage
- Accident scene photos
- Past complaints about an individual or business
The tools necessary to prove fault will depend on the nature of the accident. Work injuries will not be investigated in the same way as a vehicular accident or medical malpractice case. However, wrongful death lawyers will investigate your case regardless of what the specifics are. They will seek advice from experts where necessary to show that you deserve to be compensated.
Your attorney will take charge of the entire legal process so you can focus on grieving the loss of your loved one and rebuilding your life. However, there are a few things you can do to assist your wrongful death lawyer or least, avoid jeopardizing your own case. You should:
- Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your loved one dies
- Avoid interactions with attorneys or insurance representatives for the defendant
- Refuse to accept a settlement without first talking to your lawyer
- Keep medical bills, receipts and other documents which could serve as evidence
If you reach out to an attorney as soon as you suspect your loved one died due to negligence or reckless action, we can begin to advise you. We understand that emotions will be running high and you may not be able to think logically. We will try to make the process as easy as possible for you and treat you with empathy and compassion.
Tactics Defendants Will Use to Avoid Paying Damages
Sometimes defendants accept liability and it is relatively easy to negotiate a settlement. However, it is more likely that they will try to avoid paying what you ask for. They may not even want to pay anything at all. They will try various tactics including:
- Offering extremely low settlements
- Dragging out the case in the hope that you will give up
- Refusing to pay compensation
- Ignoring your calls and emails
- Constantly asking you to fill out unnecessary paperwork
When you have an attorney representing you, the likelihood of these behaviors occurring is much lower. Defendants and their insurers know lawyers won’t give in as easily as a grieving spouse, parent or child. They will put more effort into negotiating a fair amount of compensation since going to trial will be even more expensive and time-consuming.
Settlements can also be beneficial to you. The case gets closed faster and since both parties agree to the amount, the defendant can’t appeal the settlement like they would if it was ordered by the court. You also get to maintain your privacy since you don’t need to participate in a public trial. Because of all this, the mental stress and emotional impact are likely to be reduced.
The one advantage of a trial is that a judge may order punitive damages and thereby increase the amount of money you get. However, this can be a painful process to go through and it can delay your healing. Most people find an out-of-court settlement to be more appropriate. The only way your wrongful death attorney will recommend going to court is if negotiations are getting nowhere. It is always up to you to decide whether to accept a settlement or not and your attorney will explain the pros and cons.
Contact Gonzalez Levenson Today to Get the Help You Need
If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness or willful action, you deserve compensation. We know it can be difficult to figure out how to go about this but we are here to help you. We will guide you through the entire process and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.
We will also make sure that your case is handled within the statute of limitations. In Florida, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit or seek a settlement. Once the deadline has passed, you have little recourse except in specific circumstances.
If you are considering seeking compensation, contact our office as soon as possible so we can outline the available options and ensure you don’t miss important deadlines. We offer a free initial consultation and we only get paid when we win your case. Call the Gonzalez Levenson law offices today at (800) 800-6500 and let us work for you.