Tampa Wrongful Death Lawyers
When a loved one dies, carrying on with your life and coping with loss and grief can be very difficult. If the death was caused by someone else’s negligent or wrongful action, however, this difficulty may be deeply intensified by serious questions about why your loved one had to die and how you can hold the responsible party accountable for causing the death.
It is, of course, impossible to turn back time and prevent the actions that led to your loved one’s death. However, you may be able to come to some acceptance and achieve a sense of justice by holding the responsible party accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you recently lost a family member and you believe his/her death was due to someone else’s wrongful action or negligence, talking with an experienced Tampa wrongful death lawyer can help you determine if you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The trusted Tampa wrongful death attorneys at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, PA have helped many surviving family members throughout the state obtain justice and are committed to helping you hold those responsible for your loved one’s death accountable for their actions.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Death in Florida?
According to Section 768.19 of the Florida Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death is the death of a person that is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any other person. In other words, almost any type of accident that was caused by someone else’s wrongful or negligent actions and resulted in a victim’s death could be considered a wrongful death.
A surgical error that resulted in a patient’s death, a fatal truck accident caused by a distracted driver, a fatal fall from a defective ladder, or a drowning at an unsafe pool, may, for example, all provide the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. In general, wrongful deaths occur due to:
- Car accidents – According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, car accidents are a leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S., with approximately 40,000 accident-related deaths occurring each year. When a fatal accident is caused by a distracted, impaired, speeding or in other ways negligent driver, these deaths are 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.
- Medical errors – Healthcare professionals make serious mistakes all the time. In fact, Johns Hopkins researchers (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) reported that 10% of all deaths in the U.S. are due to medical errors. These deaths could be considered wrongful deaths.
- Falls – Unintentional falls are also a leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S. When someone dies after falling due to unsafe conditions on someone’s property or due to using an unsafe product, their death may be considered wrongful death.
- Drownings – Despite pool safety regulations imposed by Florida’s Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act, Florida still leads the nation in drownings per year. When someone drowns because of inadequate pool safety measures, the death could be viewed as wrongful death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
Filing a wrongful death claim in Florida can be overwhelming for individuals and families. Getting help from an experienced Tampa wrongful death attorney can provide the support and guidance you need to act in your own best interest during this difficult time.
According to the Florida Wrongful Death Act, sections 768.16 – 768.26 of the Florida Statutes, 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 with a wrongful death lawsuit.
A surviving spouse has the first right to file a wrongful death claim, 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 partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services can also file a claim.
What Are the Standards of Proof for a Florida Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim must meet the standards of proof for a valid negligence claim. The exact proof of negligence varies with the circumstances surrounding the negligent or wrongful act and resulting fatal injuries, but in all cases, you have to be able to prove that:
- The negligent person(s) or entity had a legal duty to the deceased. For example, a doctor has a legal duty to provide healthcare services of the same quality as a reasonably prudent healthcare provider practicing in the same area of medicine would provide, and a property owner has a legal duty to keep his property in reasonably safe condition for invited visitors and others or, if not entirely possible, warn them of a danger.
- They failed to meet their legal duty. For example, if a doctor does not provide the same quality of healthcare services as a reasonably prudent practitioner of the same medical specialty would, then he could be found to have failed to meet his legal duty. Similarly, 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.
- Their failure to meet their legal duty caused fatal injuries. Injuries sustained because a doctor didn’t follow standard procedures could, for example, be seen as resulting from the doctor’s negligence. Similarly, injuries sustained because of the dangerous conditions on someone’s property could be attributed to the property owner’s and/or manager’s negligence.
Like 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 culpable party accountable.
What Compensation Can Be Provided in a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In the State of Florida, both the estate of the decedent and the decedent’s survivors may have a valid claim for damages. Damages awarded to the estate are compensation for injuries that occurred prior to death and/or are related directly to the death.
Because this compensation is paid to the estate, it will ultimately be distributed to the beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate, which will most likely include the decedent’s legal survivors. Compensation that may be awarded to the estate includes:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, including the value of lost earnings that 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 been expected to collect if the decedent had lived.
- Medical and funeral expenses that were paid by the estate directly.
In Florida wrongful death lawsuits, survivors also have a legal right to pursue additional damages to compensate them for the emotional impact of the decedent’s death. This compensation may include:
- Loss of support and services. The value of support and services the deceased person 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. The value of the support and services will depend on the cost to replace the services provided to the survivor, the survivor’s relationship to the victims, the amount of income available for the survivor, and the life expectancy of both the victim and the survivor.
- Loss of companionship. A surviving spouse may be able to get compensated for the loss of companionship, protection and support. Minor children may also collect compensation for their loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, whereas adult children can only obtain compensation if there is no surviving spouse.
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering due to the loss. Surviving spouses and minor children can be compensated for the mental pain and suffering they experience due to the death. Parents may also obtain compensation if the victim was a minor child.
Get the Help You Need from Experienced Tampa Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you believe that a family member’s death was caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party (or parties), the Tampa wrongful death attorneys at 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 help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.
We can assure you that all evidence will be gathered in a timely manner to prove negligence and that we will negotiate vigorously with insurance companies and defense attorneys on your behalf. We also assure you that we are committed to building a powerful case to prove wrongful death and your right to compensation for the financial and emotional impact of your loved one’s death.
Many personal injury lawyers will do everything in their power to settle out of court, but 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 for the compensation you deserve.
Call our Tampa office at 855-LAW-DENNIS 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
The 2020 Florida Statutes. Chapter 515. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0515/0515ContentsIndex.html