Wrongful Death Attorneys

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The passing of a loved one takes its toll on everyone involved even when they’ve prepared for the worst. But an unexpected or untimely death can be devastating to survivors as they grasp to cope with the tragedy.

In some cases, a person’s death may be caused by another person or circumstance. In those situations, it’s understandable that the surviving family members would want accountability in order to get closure on the matter. A financial gain certainly doesn’t heal the grief and pain people feel when they’ve lost someone dear to them, but demanding accountability from the person responsible for the death can provide some justice.

The Gainesville attorneys at Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A., understand the heartache and sorrow you feel during these times of loss, and we want you know that we’re here to help you reach closure if your loved one has lost his or her life due to willful or negligent acts.

What qualifies as wrongful death?

A wrongful death case may be pursued if a person’s life is taken through negligent or willful acts of another person or other people. It is the responsibility of the heirs or beneficiaries to bring a wrongful death action against those they feel have caused the death. Wrongful death cases fall under Tort Law which does impose statutes, such as:

  • Plaintiffs must show that the defendant had a lawful duty to behave or act in a certain way;
  • Plaintiffs must show that the defendant did not fulfill his or her duty; and
  • Plaintiffs must prove that a loss or injury was suffered as a result of the defendant’s failure to perform that duty.

Other requirements and limitations on wrongful death can vary from state to state, so we urge anyone who is considering taking legal action to consult us immediately. It may be very difficult to talk with an attorney during your grieving period, and we understand the social stigma that may be placed on the plaintiffs who pursue wrongful death cases. But, you should also realize that it is best to hold someone accountable for his or her actions so that others will be less likely to repeat those mistakes.

Who can sue in a wrongful death case?

Florida’s stipulations can be confusing, so it’s best to consult an attorney if you have questions whether you qualify to bring a case. In the event that you are not able to be a plaintiff, our attorneys will help you determine which heirs or beneficiaries may pursue the case. There are two categories that claimants fall under in the State of Florida.

  1. An estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. When a person leaves an estate, they are leaving their entire worth to beneficiaries as defined by a will or state statutes. In the case of an estate, there is typically one person who serves as the representative, and it is that representative who is qualified to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the beneficiaries.
  2. Survivors of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit through the estate’s personal representative. Survivors may be part of the estate but do not have to be listed in the estate’s beneficiaries. Instead, this category of wrongful death lawsuit would list every known survivor, and it is likely that not all of the survivors would be beneficiaries. In Florida, survivors can be limited to the spouse of the decedent, the children of the decedent, the parents of the decedent, and in some cases, blood relatives and adoptive siblings of the decedent.

Who can I sue in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Generally, you can sue any person who caused the death of your loved one through actions or non-action (negligence). There could be limitations involved if the person you believe to be at fault is a family member or if you are planning to file suit against the State of Florida. The process can get quite involved and frustrating when involving the government, so we advise you to contact our attorneys quickly in order to file a notice of claim in a timely fashion.

Do I have any responsibilities in filing a wrongful death lawsuit?

Our attorneys at Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A., can help you determine whether you qualify to file suit as a plaintiff, what your responsibilities are as a plaintiff, and what the best course of action is for you to take. Proving a wrongful death suit can be difficult because it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that a person, government or institution acted inappropriately and that those actions (or lack of action) caused the death. What may seem cut-and-dry to you might not be so simple under the law, and it is understandable that plaintiffs are often overcome with emotion during these trials. You need an attorney who you can trust during this difficult time of prolonged grief.

Damages Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

As we mentioned, two types of plaintiffs can file a wrongful death suit, and each type of plaintiff could be awarded different sets of damages.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by an estate, through a personal representative, may recover damages for:

  • lost earnings,
  • the loss of net accumulations, and
  • the expenses associated with the medical expenses and funeral expenses of the decedent.

Survivors may recover damages for more personal suffering. These include:

  • the medical expenses and funeral expenses that are paid by a survivor;
  • the loss of companionship and protection;
  • the loss of parental companionship, guidance and instruction;
  • the loss of support and services; and
  • mental pain and suffering.

What is considered support and services?

Support usually refers to any kind of contribution, monetary or otherwise, that the deceased provided for a survivor.

Services include actions and responsibilities the decedent performed, and these can range from the mundane, such as lawn maintenance, to more sophisticated services like those performed for a company or business.

Under Florida’s wrongful death act, the state sets out to compensate survivors for the loss of services or support they would likely have receive if the decedent had not died.

Florida Wrongful Death FAQs 

The attorneys at Warner, Sechrest & Butts P.A. provide helpful information and legal representation for wrongful death lawsuits in the state of Florida.

How is wrongful death defined?

Wrongful death refers to a death that occurs as a direct result of the carelessness, recklessness and/or negligence of another individual. Because of the nature of the death, survivors of the deceased person has the right to pursue a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. These involve civil proceedings.

As family members, do we have the right to file a wrongful death claim?

Yes. Family members, including surviving spouses, children and siblings have the right to file a wrongful death claim on the behalf of their loved one.

Who has the legal right to bring forth a wrongful death case?

Many survivors are eligible to bring forth a wrongful death case. These may include family members (including distant relatives), life partners and financial dependents.

I want to file a wrongful death suit. What do I do?

If you desire to file a wrongful death suit, you should visit our Gainesville wrongful death law firm to speak with one of our attorneys.

Is wrongful death the same as murder?

No. A wrongful death requires civil proceedings, whereas murder involves criminal proceedings. If a person is charged with wrongful death, he/she will only be responsible for providing the deceased individual’s family with monetary compensation to cover the damages. If a person is charged with murder, he/she will face significant jail time.

As survivors, what are we entitled to in wrongful death cases?

As a survivor, you are entitled to a proper wrongful death lawsuit. You can recover damages for your pain and suffering, loss of companionship, medical expenses, burial expenses, lost wages and other fees. Speak to a Gainesville wrongful death attorney for assistance with pursuing a wrongful death claim.

How do courts determine what the amount of a deceased person’s future earnings would have been?

Courts will consider a variety of factors to determine a deceased individual’s future earning capacity, including:

  • The deceased individual’s age
  • The education level of the deceased individual
  • The deceased individual’s mental and physical health

How can death be considered wrongful?

A death is considered wrongful when it could have been prevented or avoided altogether. Wrongful deaths stem from the reckless and negligent behaviors of other people.

What must be proven in medical negligence cases?

To prove medical negligence, there are three essential elements that must be demonstrated in a court of law.

  1. The existence of a relationship between a medical professional and patient (this implies that the medical professional was required to adhere to a professional standard of care)
  2. The negligence of the medical professional
  3. Injuries sustained as a result of the medical professional’s malpractice

How do courts determine the amount of damages?

After calculating the medical expenses, burial expenses, lost wages (including future earnings), courts will determine how much money is owed to surviving family members. They may also provide an additional estimate for non-economic damages, such as the pain and suffering of survivors.

If there are multiple heirs, how are damages divided?

If your wrongful death claim is successful and you are able to obtain a settlement, it is your family’s responsibility to determine how the funds will be distributed among the heirs. In the event that your case goes to trial, a judge will determine how the damages will be divided. Immediate and dependent family members, such as spouses and children, will receive a significant portion of the compensation for the damages. Then, the physical and financial status of the other heirs will be considered to determine how the remaining damages may be divided.

What is the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in the state of Florida?

After the wrongful death of your loved one, you have a maximum of two years to pursue a wrongful death claim or suit. Once this deadline passes, you will be unable to recover damages.

Is it possible to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death action?

No.

What type of economic damages are survivors entitled to?

  • Unemployment and lost wages
  • Medical expenses (including transportation services to and from medical facilities)
  • Burial expenses

Do I need to hire an attorney for a wrongful death case?

Yes. Wrongful death cases are often lengthy and technical. You will need sound representation, guidance and most importantly, evidence to support your case.

Are heirs able to hire separate attorneys?

Yes, but this may not be a wise idea. Multiple attorneys on a wrongful death case may result in unnecessary tension and delays.

What is the first step that I should take in order to pursue a wrongful death claim?

We recommend contacting a wrongful death attorney in Gainesville, FL. You will need to present details on your loved one’s death so that we can begin crafting an efficient plan to recover damages on your behalf.

How much should I expect to pay for an attorney evaluation in a wrongful death case?

At Warner, Sechrest & Butts, initial attorney evaluations are free of charge. Even if you decide not to hire one of our lawyers, we are happy to review your case and offer you guidance during an initial evaluation.

What sort of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit?

You may recover economic damages and noneconomic damages. Medical expenses, burial expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering are common damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

My deceased loved one was never employed. Does this harm my case?

Your deceased loved one’s level of employment holds no relevance to a wrongful death case at all. A wrongful death is a wrongful death. In other words, it does not matter if your loved one was unemployed or a head of employees. If another individual’s negligence caused your loved one’s death, you deserve compensation.

Can I bring a wrongful death action on the behalf of a child or an elderly person?

Yes. Please be aware that due to these rare age ranges, you may only be entitled to a modest compensation award if your wrongful death claim is successful.

If I bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit, will I be required to go to court?

In most wrongful death lawsuits, the goal is to avoid court. This is done by settling. However, if the at-fault party is unwilling to settle, your case may have to go to trial.

What qualities should I seek in a wrongful death attorney?

You should hire a wrongful death attorney that has experience in reaching successful settlements and dealing with wrongful death claims.

Is money earned from wrongful death damages taxable?

No. Federal and state laws prevent this.

In a wrongful death case, what can I sue for?

You can sue for economic damages (medical expenses, burial expenses, lost wages, etc.) and general pain and suffering.

In a wrongful death case, who affords medical bills and funeral expenses?

Your insurance company may initially afford these fees. However, once your claim is successful, the at-fault party is responsible for covering these expenses and/or reimbursing your insurer.

What happens if I am unable to afford legal representation?

Most law firms operate on a contingency basis, which means that you won't have to provide payment for legal services until, and unless, your case is successful.

Is it possible to sue a city or government agency for a wrongful death?

Yes. Speak to one of our attorneys today.

Does your firm handle cases against drug companies?

It is challenging to sue drug companies because they typically do warn customers of drug effects. However, we welcome you to discuss your issue with one of our attorneys.

Is a wrongful death at work only eligible to be covered by workers’ compensation?

No.

Do all states have synonymous wrongful death laws?

If my loved one died from a gunshot wound, is it best to pursue compensation via a criminal case or a wrongful death case?

It is possible to pursue both. A criminal case will ensure that the at-fault individual receives jail time. A wrongful death case will enable you to gain compensation.

How much time do I have to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit?

Two years following your loved one’s death.

How are personal injury claims and wrongful death claims different?

Personal injury claims are civil proceedings involving serious injuries.

What if the surviving heirs are minors?

A guardian will have to be assigned by a court of law in order for minors to obtain monetary inheritances.  

What should I expect during a wrongful death case?

You should expect a series of meetings, negotiations and potential court hearings addressing the specific details of your loved one’s death and the impact that the death leaves on your family.

In order to bring a wrongful death case forward, what elements are necessary?

The most important element is to demonstrate in a court of law that an individual is responsible for your loved one’s death because of negligence.

Contact a Wrongful Death Law Firm in Gainesville, FL

There are of course other stipulations and rules that govern a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. At Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A., we closely monitor any changes to Florida’s law so that we can provide the best counseling to our clients. When you’re grieving from a sudden and tragic loss, the last thing you want to worry about is the fine print. You can trust our personal injury attorneys to provide the best counsel and guide you through a wrongful death lawsuit so that you can receive proper compensation.