St. Petersburg Wrongful Death Lawyers
When a loved one dies from injuries suffered because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct, coming to terms with the death can be extremely difficult. Your sense of loss and confusion may be heightened by concerns about why your loved one had to die and how you are going to go on without them.
While you can never turn back time and prevent the events that led to your loved one’s death, you can possibly come to some form of acceptance and sense of justice by holding the responsible party accountable for their negligent or wrongful conduct. An experienced St. Petersburg wrongful death lawyer can help you decide on your best course of action.
The skilled attorneys at Dennis Hernandez & Associates have helped many surviving family members throughout Florida obtain justice and are committed to helping you hold those responsible for your loved one’s death accountable for their actions.
Wrongful Death According to Florida State Law
Was It Wrongful Death?
Under Florida State law, almost any type of accident caused by someone’s wrongful or negligent actions that results in a victim’s death can be considered a wrongful death. Section 768.19 of the Florida Wrongful Death Act defines a wrongful death as the death of a person that is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any other person.
For example, a doctor’s error that ultimately leads to a patient’s death, a fatal car accident caused by an impaired driver, a drowning at an unsafe pool, and a fatal fall from a defective ladder all have the basis for wrongful death lawsuits. In general, wrongful deaths occur due to:
- Medical errors – According to research from Johns Hopkins, 10% of all U.S. deaths are due to medical errors, including surgical errors, medication errors, and diagnostic errors. These deaths could be considered wrongful deaths.
- Workplace accidents – Fatal accidents can occur at any workplace, but they are especially prevalent among workers in the construction, transportation, and law enforcement industries.
- Falls – Falls are one of the leading causes of injury deaths in the U.S. When a fatal fall occurs because of unsafe conditions on someone’s property or because they were using an unsafe product, their death may be considered wrongful death.
- Drownings – Florida leads the nation in the number of drownings each year. When the drowning occurs because of inadequate pool safety measures, the death could be viewed as a wrongful death.
- Car accidents – The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports that car accidents are a leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S. When a distracted, impaired, speeding or in other ways negligent driver causes a fatal accident, the death is considered a wrongful death.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida
Should You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
After the sudden death of a loved one, thinking about pursuing a legal claim for wrongful death and trying to understand the legal process involved can be extremely difficult for individuals and families. However, with support and guidance from an experienced St. Petersburg wrongful death attorney, you may be able to take the steps necessary to act in your own best interest during this difficult time.
The Florida Wrongful Death Act clearly delineates who can file a wrongful death claim and recover damages (compensation). According the Act, the decedent’s personal representative (usually the Executor of the estate) must be the one to initiate the claim, but both the estate and survivors may be entitled to recover damages.
A surviving spouse has the first right to damages, followed by children of the deceased, and parents, if no spouse or children exist. Additionally, any blood relative and adoptive brothers and sisters who were dependent on the decedent for support or services may also be entitled to compensation.
Standards of Proof for a Florida Wrongful Death Claim
What Do You Need to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim?
A valid wrongful death claim must meet the legal standards of proof for negligence. The exact standards vary with the type of negligent or wrongful act and resulting fatal injuries, but in all cases, you have to be able to prove that:
- The negligent party or parties had a legal duty to the deceased victim. A property owner has a legal duty to keep his property in reasonably safe condition for those visiting the property, for example. Manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure the products they manufacture are safe when used as intended. Doctors and other healthcare providers have a legal duty to provide healthcare services of the same quality a reasonably prudent healthcare provider practicing in the same area of medicine would provide.
- The negligent party or parties failed to meet their legal duty. For example, if a property owner does not repair a structure he knows to be dangerous and does not adequately warn visitors to his property of the danger, he could be considered to have failed to meet his legal duty. Similarly, if a doctor does not provide the same quality of healthcare services a reasonably prudent practitioner of the same medical specialty would, then he could be found to have failed to meet his legal duty.
- The negligent party or parties’ failure to meet their legal duty caused fatal injuries. If dangerous conditions on someone’s property led to a victim’s fatal injuries, the property owner’s and/or manager’s negligence could be seen as causing the injuries. Similarly, injuries sustained because a doctor didn’t provide the same quality of healthcare services a reasonably prudent doctor of the same medical specialty would, could be seen as resulting from the doctor’s negligence.
As with most personal injury lawsuits, a statute of limitations applies to your right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Florida, this is two years. That is, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death, or you waive the right to hold the negligent party accountable.
Damages Recoverable with a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
What Compensation Is Possible with a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Florida, the estate of the decedent and the decedent’s survivors both have the right to file a claim for damages. Damages awarded to the estate are designed to provide compensation for injuries that occurred prior to death and/or are related directly to the death. This compensation, which is ultimately distributed to the beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate, includes:
- Lost wages and other earnings, including those the deceased person could reasonably have been expected to make if he or she had lived.
- Lost prospective net accumulations of the estate, or the value of earnings the estate could reasonably have expected if the decedent had lived.
- Medical and funeral expenses that were paid directly by the estate.
The victim’s survivors also have a legal right to pursue additional damages to compensate them for the emotional effects of the death, including:
- Loss of support and services. The value of support and services the deceased would have provided to the surviving family member(s) from the time of the injury until his or her death, as well as in the future.
- Loss of companionship. A surviving spouse may be able obtain compensation for the loss of companionship, protection and support. Minor children may also collect compensation for their loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance. Adult children can obtain compensation only if there is no surviving spouse.
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering due to the loss. Surviving spouses and minor children can be awarded compensation for the mental pain and suffering they experience due to the death. Parents may also obtain compensation if the victim was a minor child.
Help from Experienced St. Petersburg Wrongful Death Attorneys
What St. Petersburg Law Firm Has the Experience You Need to Handle Your Wrongful Death Claim?
If the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party (or parties) led to a family member’s death, the experienced wrongful death attorneys of Dennis Hernandez & Associates, PA want to help. We know how difficult handling financial and legal issues can be after the death of a loved one and want to see you obtain justice and get compensated for your pain, suffering and losses.
We ensure that the evidence necessary to prove negligence is gathered in a timely manner and are committed to negotiating vigorously on your behalf with insurance company representatives and defense attorneys. We also ensure that we prepare a strong case proving wrongful death and your right to compensation for the financial and emotional impact of your loved one’s death.
Many personal injury lawyers try to settle quickly out of court to avoid going to trial, but not us. We will never back down in our fight for your rights. We are dedicated to supporting you throughout the entire legal process and will leverage our extensive trial experience to fight in court for the compensation you deserve.
Call our St. Petersburg office at 727.697.0000 or fill in the FREE CASE EVALUATION form on our website to get started on your case.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2016, May 3). Study suggests medical errors now third leading cause of death in the U.S. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). 10 Leading causes of injury deaths by age group highlighting unintentional injury deaths, United States – 2018.
The 2020 Florida Statutes. Chapter 768. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/0768.html