Understanding Wrongful Death
You just found out your son died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Your father was murdered. Your mother underwent surgery and the doctor cut into an organ, causing her to die.
These are all devastating situations, and they are also examples of wrongful death. Wrongful death occurs when a person’s negligence or intentional acts cause someone to die. When this happens, the person’s heirs can file a wrongful death action against the liable party.
Types of Wrongful Death
There are many situations in which wrongful death can occur. A common example is a car accident. If someone was driving drunk or recklessly and their actions lead to a fatal car crash, then they could be sued for wrongful death. The same applies to other vehicle accidents, such as motorcycles, semi trucks and airplanes.
Other examples include falls, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse or neglect, dog bites and defective products. Even an intentional act, such as murder, can be classified as wrongful death.
Liability in Wrongful Death Case
Anyone can be sued for causing wrongful death. Individuals, businesses and government agencies can all be held liable for someone’s death. Wrongful death cases can be complex, so while most cases have just one defendant, some can have multiple parties involved. Your lawyer will be able to investigate your case and determine the liable parties.
A wrongful death claim must have four elements:
- A person’s death
- Due to someone else’s negligence or intentional behavior
- Family members who have suffered financial damages due to the person’s death
- A personal representative who has been appointed for the deceased person’s estate
Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
A family member can seek damages for their loved one’s unexpected death. They can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages and funeral and burial expenses. These awards are often determined by a jury, who will determine how much the surviving family members will receive based on circumstances such as the person’s age, income, loss of future earnings, their family situation (were they supporting young children?) and the services they provided for their household (such as childcare, cooking and cleaning, for a stay-at-home mom). Economists and financial planners may be used to provide expert testimony and estimate the loss of future earnings.
In some cases, punitive damages may apply in cases of egregious behavior. These awards are given to the plaintiff but they are used to punish the defendant. Many states have limitations that apply. For example, in Florida, punitive damages are limited to $500,000 or three times the amount of the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. This means that if compensatory damages were $1 million, a person could receive up to $3 million in punitive damages.
Get Legal Help for Your Florida Wrongful Death Case
It can be devastating to have a loved one die due to someone else’s negligence or malicious behavior. Make sure you get the compensation you deserve to pay for your loved one’s final expenses.
The Tampa wrongful death lawyers at Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Groupcan hold the responsible parties liable for their behavior. Get started with a free consultation. Fill out the online form or call (813) 803-6518.