Wrongful Death Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale

Losing a loved one under any circumstance is devastating. However, losing a loved one due to the negligence of another is particularly distressing. Fortunately, surviving family members of the deceased may be eligible to file a wrongful death suit against those responsible for the tragedy. A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer from our firm can help you navigate the Florida court system and assist you with your case.

Call the professionals at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. in Fort Lauderdale to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today: (954) 524-2820. We want to help you recover the compensation you and your family deserve.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim allows surviving family members and the decedent’s estate to recover damages related to the death.

Wrongful death claims stem from a death caused by negligent behavior or misconduct by another person, e.g., car accident, medical malpractice, slip and fall, etc.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim?

The personal representative of the decedent’s estate is the only person who is legally able to bring a wrongful death action. To be a personal representative, one must be a Florida resident with interest in the estate who is not under legal disability. Unless the decedent designates a personal representative in his will, the surviving spouse will have preference for appointment.

What are the elements of a wrongful death claim?

In order to be successful in court, you will have to prove the following elements:

  • The death of a person
  • Negligence of another person
  • Causation
  • Loss by surviving family members

Death

The representative must first show that the decedent is, in fact, deceased. The representative can do so with a death certificate.

Liability

Proving liability in a wrongful death case is similar to proving negligence in any other personal injury case. The plaintiff will have to prove four elements:

  • Duty: The representative will need to prove that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of due care. Generally, this means that the defendant had a duty to behave responsibly and refrain from acting in a way that would harm another person.
  • Breach of Duty: Once the representative has established the defendant’s duty, the representative must prove that the defendant breached that duty. The representative will need to show that the defendant acted irresponsibly or recklessly in some way.
  • Causation: The next step for the representative will be proving that the breach of duty is what caused the decedent’s injury. In other words, the negligence of the defendant must have played a role in the death of the decedent. Proving causation can be the most difficult part of a wrongful death case.
  • Damages: To recover damages, the representative must be able to prove that the surviving family members suffered loss. This loss can be monetary or emotional loss.

What damages can you recover?

Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, survivors and the decedent’s estate may recover different types of damages. In general, pecuniary injury, or financial injury, is the main source of recovery in wrongful death suits.

Survivors’ potential damages

  • Medical and funeral expenses: The survivor who has paid these expenses may be able to recover them.
  • Pain and suffering: These damages are limited to the mental pain and suffering of the surviving spouse, children and parents of the decedent.
  • Loss of companionship: A surviving spouse may recover damages for the loss of the relationship and all the intangibles that come with it. A minor child may also recover for the loss of parental companionship and guidance.
  • Loss of past and future support and services: Survivors may recover damages based on the financial contributions the decedent would have made to the household. Damages may also cover household chores and other services that the decedent was responsible for.

According to Fla. Stat. § 768.21(1), each survivor’s damages will rely on his or her relationship with the decedent, the life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent, the decedent’s available net income, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services.

Estate’s potential damages

  • Loss of net accumulations: These damages include the money the decedent would have left to the estate. The jury will consider the decedent’s earning potential based on past income and life expectancy, and subtract what they would have spent on personal expenses.
  • Medical and funeral expenses: If the decedent paid any of these expenses, the estate may recover damages for them.
  • Lost earnings: This is the amount of money the decedent would have earned between the date of injury and date of death.

Punitive Damages

Courts award punitive damages when the defendant’s actions were especially wanton, malicious, or intentional (e.g., driving while intoxicated, intentionally running someone off the road, etc.) Courts award these damages, not to compensate the decedent’s family, but rather to punish the defendant.

To recover damages, the personal representative will provide evidence that shows the effect (financial and emotional) the death has had on the family. The representative may also use testimony from experts that show the financial impacts of the decedent’s death.

What is a survival action?

A personal representative can also file a survival action on the decedent’s behalf; however, the survival action benefits the estate, not the survivors directly.

A survival action is a continuance of a case the decedent had prior to death. It is important to note that, in Florida, a claim filed by the decedent will not survive if it is for personal injuries that ultimately caused the decedent’s death.

For example, if the decedent was in a car accident in 2016 and files a personal injury claim, but dies from those injuries, that action will not survive.

However, if the decedent also suffered whiplash injuries in a 2015 car accident and had an ongoing claim for those injuries, that claim would survive.

The court will base the damages awarded in a survival action on numerous factors relating to the decedent’s condition. These factors include:

  • Severity of pain
  • Degree of consciousness
  • Apprehension of impending death
  • Conscious pain and suffering
  • Duration of pain and suffering

If successful, the decedent’s estate may recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and funeral costs.

A personal representative can file wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions together.

The loss of a family member can change your entire world. In addition to emotional turmoil, you may find yourself facing financial difficulties. The attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. in Fort Lauderdale want you to know you are not alone. With the help of their compassionate and knowledgeable staff, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation.

While no amount of money will bring back your loved one, it can allow you to focus on your emotional recovery instead of worrying about unpaid bills. Call us today for a free consultation: (954) 524-2820.