In cases where someone’s death is the fault of another person or an entity such as a car manufacturer or drug maker, the survivors of the deceased may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These types of lawsuits usually seek compensation related to the death, which may include funeral expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship and, in some cases, negligence or negligent emotional distress.
Wrongful death can refer to any situation where a person, company or government agency is legally at fault for the death of someone else. There are many types of wrongful death claims, including medical malpractice, product liability, car accidents, workplace accidents and other fatal incidents.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A representative, usually the executor of the deceased person’s estate, must file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the survivors who are seeking damages. The rules regarding who can be represented in a wrongful death suit vary from state to state. Some of the people who may be eligible to file a claim include:
- Immediate family members: Spouses, children (including adopted children) and the parents of unmarried children are able to seek damages for wrongful death in all states.
- Financial dependents, life partners, “putative spouses”: Some states allow domestic partners or life partners, putative spouses (someone with a good faith belief that they were married to the deceased), or anyone who was financially dependent on the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Blood relatives, not immediate family: In some states, distant family members such as grandparents, brothers or sisters may seek damages through a wrongful death claim.
- Anyone who suffers financially: Occasionally, a person who is not related to the victim by marriage or blood may be able to bring a wrongful death action in some states, if the person suffers financially due to the death.
In the state of Florida, the laws regarding who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit are complex, with special rules regarding issues such as remarriage or intent to remarry, intent to divorce, common law marriages, illegitimate children, adopted children, biological versus stepparents, children born out of wedlock and more. If you’re considering a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced attorney to determine how the laws apply to your situation.
What Types of Damages are Available?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, there are three types of general damage that may be available for survivors: economic, non-economic and punitive.
Economic damages refer to the total financial value of contributions the survivors would have received from the victim if the death had not occurred. These can include:
- Loss of expected earning
- Loss of inheritance due to an untimely death
- Loss of benefits, including medical coverage and pension plans
- Medical and funeral expenses directly related to the death
Non-economic damages are difficult to quantify with dollar amounts and are often viewed at higher values than economic damages. These can include:
- Loss of love and companionship from the victim
- Loss of consortium from a deceased spouse
- Loss of guidance, advice, protection, care and nurturing
- Mental anguish or pain and suffering due to the death
Punitive damages, which are not available in many states or not recoverable against certain categories of defendants, are awarded to punish the at-fault party in cases of particularly bad conduct that led to the victim’s death. One example of this is damage recovered against nursing homes in cases of elder abuse.
The Miami trial lawyers at Baron & Herskowitz have successfully represented many clients in wrongful death lawsuits. Our attorneys know the laws governing wrongful death lawsuits in Florida and can help you and your family recover financial compensation for the loss of your loved one. To learn more, contact us today.