Losing a loved one at any point in your life is devastating. However, if your loved one dies due to the negligent actions of another party, it is especially traumatic. When this happens, you may not know your legal options for holding the person responsible accountable for their actions.
At Barrett, Nonni, Homola & Ferraro, we understand the pain and suffering that families experience in these moments. That’s why we use our decades of combined experience to advocate for families who lose someone dear to them through wrongful death claims. Whether the action was intentional or unintentional, we believe families deserve justice.
When a loved one is lost due to the carelessness of another there are several issues that arise regarding who can bring a claim for damages against the at-fault party, what damages are recoverable, and time limits on when the claim can be brought. Wrongful death claims can arise out of any type of personal injury claim, the only difference being the individual involved suffers a loss of life as opposed to a fatal injury.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is any loss of life that happens due to the negligent or intentional acts of another person.
There are several circumstances in which a victim of negligence may die, including but not limited to:
In some cases, families file wrongful death lawsuits even in the case of murder. However, wrongful death is a civil matter primarily focused on providing compensation for the losses of the surviving family members. This means that, in cases of wrongful death due to heinous, illegal acts like murder, the family sometimes pursues a wrongful death claim alongside a criminal case.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
Every state has its own rules regarding who may file a wrongful death claim, and Florida is no different. Under § 768.20 of the Florida Statutes, only the deceased’s personal representative may bring an action for wrongful death. If the deceased loved one had a will, this is usually the executor of the estate. Without a will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative, typically a spouse, child, or parent.
If you need assistance with filing a wrongful death claim, please contact our legal team to get the help you need
Who Does Florida Consider a Beneficiary?
Even if the personal representative of the deceased is a third party, there are laws that entitle certain beneficiaries to obtain damages under their claim.
In fact, the state of Florida considers the following people beneficiaries in wrongful death cases:
- A surviving spouse;
- Any children of the deceased;
- The deceased’s parents or legal guardians; and
- Any family member who was dependent on the deceased’s support.
While the type of damages claimable by each survivor differs, they may seek damages as long as they depended on the deceased. For example, if the deceased took care of a grandparent who lived with them, that grandparent may pursue damages for that loss of support.
Elements Needed to Prove Wrongful Death
Like other types of injury cases, there are certain elements needed to prove wrongful death. This is somewhat difficult to do alone, but it’s not always impossible. Different types of evidence help show each element, such as medical treatment records, bills, personal testimony, etc.
The four elements of proving wrongful death are as follows:
- Duty of care—the party responsible had a duty to act with reasonable care and safety;
- Breach of duty—that party’s actions unnecessarily went against their duty of care;
- Causation—the negligent actions of the party directly led to your loved one’s death; and
- Damages—surviving family members had financial and emotional damages due to the death.
While these elements of wrongful death are consistent throughout every case, this doesn’t mean that every claim is the same. The specific circumstances surrounding the wrongful death aren’t always straightforward or known. This is why we encourage you to reach out to a Tallahassee wrongful death lawyer to discuss your situation.
Types of Compensation You Can Pursue
No amount of money or recompense can replace a human life. However, we also recognize that the loss of a loved one is financially and emotionally devastating for families. For this reason, Florida allows surviving family members to pursue compensation for losses related to their loved one’s death. These losses usually fall into one of two categories: economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are the financial losses of a wrongful death case.
Generally, this includes both past and future costs sustained by the family, such as:
- Loss of the deceased’s future income and benefits,
- The value of services the deceased would have provided,
- Medical expenses before death, and
- Funeral and burial costs.
Calculating these damages is relatively simple compared to other losses. Despite this, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney. While future losses aren’t as apparent now, they have the chance to greatly affect the wellbeing of your family down the road. Thus, it’s important to keep those losses in consideration.
The other type of losses, known as non-economic damages, consist of intangible, emotional loss.
Essentially, they are losses that don’t have a monetary cost, including:
- Mental anguish,
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of support and guidance, and
- Loss of companionship or consortium.
Of course, these expenses vary from case to case due to how personal they are. However, it’s important to note that these damages don’t apply in all circumstances. For example, minor children may receive damages for loss of support. In contrast, adult children may not claim the same losses if they have a surviving parent.
The Statute of Limitations
In Florida, personal representatives have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim. Under § 95.11(4)(d), a family must file within two years from the date of death. If they do not file before this date, the court may dismiss the case. This is why it’s essential to start building your case from day one. Our wrongful death attorneys in Florida can help with that.
How We Help Families of Wrongful Death Victims
The wrongful death attorneys at Barrett Nonni Homola & Ferraro have handled numerous wrongful death claims in both Florida and Georgia. The laws in Florida and Georgia differ regarding who can bring a wrongful death claim and damages those individuals are entitled to claim. It is also important to know the time limit in which to file a wrongful death claim is shorter than with a standard negligence claim with a 2-year time limit for wrongful death claims as opposed to a 4-year limit in a standard negligence claim.
Wrongful Death Legal Process
- Call us, email us or message us via our website
- Describe your case and the circumstances surrounding your injuries
- Schedule a visit to our office for a free consultation
- Give us time to build the case: collect evidence, interview witnesses, review police reports
- Partner with us to bring justice to your situation
Speak with an Experienced Tallahassee Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
The loss of a loved one can leave emotional and financial scars that last a lifetime. When faced with tragedy, first, take time to grieve and be with your family and friends. Only after you have had time to process the loss should you seek out legal advice to determine whether there is a potential legal claim. At Barrett Nonni Homola & Ferraro, we understand the difficulties that families experience after a sudden loss. While pursuing a wrongful death claim is a complicated process, know that you aren’t alone.
For us, our top priority is protecting our clients and providing them with honest, competent care. That means using our extensive resources and knowledge to help build your case and advocate for your family. With an AV Preeminent rating for professional excellence as well as recognitions from both Super Lawyers and The National Trial Lawyers, we approach every case with integrity and compassion.