The unexpected death of a loved one is always an emotionally traumatic time for the surviving family. In some cases, the deceased may have been the breadwinner for the family, and the sudden loss can immediately create a series of immense financial problems. Contact our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers today.
When a person’s death is the result of someone else’s negligence, certain surviving family members can be entitled to compensation for these challenges they now face. While legal action is not the first thing that comes to mind during these intense periods of grief, it remains critical to understand that families only have two years in most cases to commence wrongful death actions in Florida. Contact our personal injury lawyers today at (954) 231-1384 to get your claim started.
Table of Contents
Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer
For this reason, families absolutely should not delay in seeking Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney representation. It can take several months to complete an independent investigation into the cause of death for a loved one.
The wrongful death lawyers at Englander Peebles understand that families who have recently lost loved ones are not terribly interested in making court appearances and filing paperwork. That is why our firm can handle all of these requirements on your behalf so you can take the time you need to grieve and adjust to life after your loss.
Our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys are prepared to investigate the true cause of your loved one’s death and work to make sure all negligent parties are held accountable. Call us or contact us online today to find out how we can help you. The consultation is free and comes with no obligations on your part.
What is the Florida Wrongful Death Act?
Florida Statute § 768.16-768.26 contains the Florida Wrongful Death Act. These statutes contain important provisions relating to wrongful death claims, including important definitions, rights of action, and damages.
The following definitions relating to wrongful death claims under Florida Statute § 768.18 include the following:
A decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. The term survivors also include children born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
Children of the Deceased
Children under 25 years of age, notwithstanding the age of majority.
Includes contributions in kind as well as money.
Tasks, usually of a household nature, are regularly performed by the decedent that will be a necessary expense for the survivors of the decedent.
The part of the decedent’s expected net business or salary income, including pension benefits, that the decedent probably would have retained as savings and left as part of their estate if the decedent had lived their normal life expectancy.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
Under Florida Statute § 768.20, a wrongful death action must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased. The personal representative is often named in the deceased’s will. The court can appoint a personal representative if the decedent left no will.
The personal representative is typically appointed by the probate court in the jurisdiction where the deceased lived at the time of death. In many cases, the surviving spouse is named as the personal representative, but it may be possible for another party to receive this designation when the deceased did not leave a will.
The personal representative must bring the wrongful death suit for the benefit of the decedent’s survivors and estate. Florid law places certain restrictions on recovery for spouses, parents, and children of the deceased. When a wrongful death action is filed, it effectively ends any other personal action that could have been filed on behalf of the deceased.
A personal representative also has an important responsibility if the defendant in a wrongful action happens to die while the action is still pending (a distinct likelihood when a loved one is killed in an automobile accident). Under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260, the personal representative must file a motion for substitution within a certain amount of time of the defendant’s death. Failure to do so will result in the wrongful death action ultimately being dismissed.
What Compensation Is Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale?
Florida Statute § 768.21 outlines the specific types of damages that claimants can be entitled to in wrongful death actions. Damages can be awarded as follows:
Each survivor can recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value. The surviving spouse can recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection, and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, can recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Medical and funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by the survivor who paid them. The decedent’s personal representative can recover the following for the decedent’s estate:
- Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest
- Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present money value
- Medical and funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death that have become a charge against her or his estate or that were paid by or on behalf of the decedent
Florida Statute § 768.21(7) states that all awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors who have complied with the requirements of probate law concerning claims. Additionally, adult children are prohibited from recovering damages for lost parental companionship or pain and suffering in medical malpractice claims, and parents are similarly unable to recover damages for mental pain and suffering in medical malpractice claims.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Florida?
Under Florida Statute § 95.11(4)(d), an action for wrongful death must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. Multiple exceptions exist to this time limit though.
Actions for wrongful death resulting from medical malpractice, for example, are subject to the medical malpractice statute of limitations rather than the traditional statute of limitations for wrongful death actions. Florida Statute § 95.11(4)(b) states that an action for medical malpractice also must be started within two years of the date of the event giving rise to the action, but the limit can be extended to seven years when it can be shown that fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury.
Another type of defendant for which special rules apply is state governmental agencies. Florida Statute § 768.28 waives the state’s right to sovereign immunity, meaning it can be sued for certain personal injury actions.
When a person files a wrongful death lawsuit against a governmental entity in Florida, they must provide a notice of their claim to the agency within three years of the date of the incident that caused the death of the deceased. Furthermore, a lawsuit cannot be filed until the conclusion of a 180-day investigation period.
Common Wrongful Death Cases our Fort Lauderdale Lawyers Handle
Many different types of accidents can lead to a person’s death. The wrongful death attorneys at Englander Peebles has experience handling wrongful death claims arising from such incidents as:
Serious automobile accidents have the potential to cause fatalities. When a car crash is the result of another party’s negligence, the wrongful death lawsuit will be filed against the negligent driver and his or her insurance.
Commercial truck accidents are much more complex than traditional passenger vehicle crashes because multiple parties could bear liability. In such cases, wrongful death suits may name not only truck drivers, but also truck owners, maintenance companies, or parts manufacturers as defendants.
If a fatal motorcycle accident is the fault of other drivers, they would be named as the defendants in wrongful death actions. If a motorcycle crash was the result of a defective part or improper repair, then the part manufacturer or maintenance company could be named in the wrongful death suit.
Brightline Train Accidents
Brightline is operated by All Aboard Florida and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, both of which could be named in a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from a train accident.
Many fatal pedestrian crashes are the result of driver negligence, and those motorists ultimately become the defendants in wrongful death actions.
When a person is killed by a defective or faulty product, the manufacturer could be held liable in a wrongful death suit.
Similar to motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents caused by negligent drivers will usually lead to motorists being named in wrongful death lawsuits. Defective parts or improper repairs that cause fatal crashes will also make manufacturers or maintenance companies possibly liable.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Fatal falls that occur because of a dangerous condition on another party’s premises can make the property owner the likely defendant in a wrongful death action.
If a person is killed because of an establishment’s failure to provide adequate security measures, then the property owner and possibly the security company employed by the owner could become defendants in a wrongful death suit.
Unfortunately, some dog attacks can have fatal results, especially for children victims. Under Florida state law, the dog owner is strictly liable for these actions, and it’s usually their homeowners’ insurance company that will defend the dog owner in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Swimming Pool Accidents
With public swimming pools, the company or governmental entity in charge of the pool could be liable if any staff failure led to a swimmer’s death. In private swimming pools, the pool owners can be liable for the deaths of guests or possibly even children who were uninvited if the pool was not properly protected and an accident occurred.
Some prescriptions may get mixed up. In other cases, an improper dose is administered. Some drugs simply cause unexpected adverse reactions. The liable party for a person’s death as the result of these kinds of mistakes can vary, depending on the actual cause of death. The pharmacy itself could be liable for its own errors, but a drug manufacturer could also be named as a defendant in a wrongful death action if its product was unsafe.
Employees in certain industries work under dangerous conditions, but even people in seemingly safer professions can be killed because of the negligence of a business owner or other third party. In such cases, Englander Peebles can investigate to determine which person or people bear liability and file the wrongful death suit naming all negligent parties.
How Can a Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer Help Me?
If your loved one was killed by the negligence of another party, it’s in your best interest to retain a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Englander Peebles helps families in Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, and the surrounding areas in South Florida.
Our firm is prepared to conduct a full, independent investigation of your loved one’s death to secure important evidence and determine all negligent parties. We can negotiate with insurance companies to make sure that you receive a fair and full settlement that accounts for all of your past, present, and future needs.
Our lawyers can review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call us or fill out an online contact form to set up a free consultation. Gary B. Englander and Warren Q. Peebles make themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer all of your legal questions. If you need directions to our Fort Lauderdale office, click here.