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Did you lose a loved one in an incident that wasn’t their fault? Our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney can help you file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for expenses related to your loved one’s death.

When you work with Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey, and Fronrath, you’re working with a team of experts who have a history of obtaining full compensation for clients. To schedule your free, no-obligation case review, call our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at (561) 655-1990 or contact us online

fort lauderdale wrongful death attorney

What exactly is wrongful death?

Under Florida Statute § 768.19, a wrongful death occurs when:

  • Someone dies as a result of a person or company’s wrongful act, negligence, or breach of contract or warranty, and
  • The event would have entitled the injured person to a claim for damages had they not died. 

Examples of wrongful death include homicide, medical malpractice, or if a motorist passes away in a car accident caused by a drunk driver.

What are four things you should know about wrongful death claims in Fort Lauderdale?

In addition to alleviating some of the financial strain caused by the death, a wrongful death lawsuit might protect others from suffering the same fate.

Wrongful death actions are complex and have multiple requirements that must be met in order for it to be a successful suit.

1. Who may file

One complication of a wrongful death lawsuit is determining who’s eligible to file it based on the decedent’s estate plans.

If the deceased had a will

In this instance, the individual family members won’t file the lawsuit as the plaintiffs; instead, the plaintiff will be the estate’s representative. 

If the deceased did not have a will

If a valid will was not in effect at the time of their death, the court will appoint a personal representative for the estate, who may then file the lawsuit. 

In either scenario, any compensation received by the estate as a settlement or award from the court is paid for the benefit of the decedent’s survivors and dependents. When filing the claim, the estate’s representative must list every survivor who has an interest in the case and can legally claim a portion of the damages.

An attorney can help you determine who initiated the action and ensure that the claim lists all persons eligible to receive the damages.

2. Types of recoverable damages

The main purpose of filing a wrongful death action is to recover the financial losses caused by the death–these are called “damages.” Here are some examples of the more common types of damages.

Medical expenses

There are many instances where someone receives medical care after an accident before eventually succumbing to their injuries. The medical bills associated with that care, including the costs of lab work, imaging, and medications, are recoverable in a wrongful death action in Florida. In instances of death caused by medical malpractice, the medical expenses might go back further than in a case where someone died in an accident caused by a drunk driver.

Funeral and burial expenses

Funerals and burials can cost thousands of dollars, putting a severe financial strain on a family that didn’t have time to prepare for these kinds of expenses. Thankfully, these expenses are also recoverable in wrongful death suits.

Loss of the deceased person’s income

The estate also recovers the income, including wages, bonuses, commissions, and benefits, lost due to a family member’s death. This includes those lost between the time of the accident or incident and the time of their death, and it consists of those that they would’ve earned had they lived and continued to work and support the family. 

These damages can be difficult to explain and recover without the assistance of an experienced attorney because there are many factors to be considered, including the person’s age, role at their company, the likelihood that they would be promoted, inflation, and more.  

The deceased person’s pain and suffering before they died

The previous two examples are tangible, “economic” damages. Any attorney could easily look at the medical and funeral bills and figure out what to demand in a lawsuit. Comparatively, it takes a lot of experience to be able to calculate “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering, which are more subjective. 

Pain and suffering damages in a wrongful death lawsuit could include the pain associated with whatever treatment the deceased received, their trauma or loss of enjoyment of life, and more. These are much more difficult to calculate and require a very experienced attorney to prove and receive either in settlement or in a jury award.

Loss of companionship and services provided by the deceased

Of course, the deceased didn’t only provide financial support. They also helped raise the children in the family, provided companionship and emotional support, helped with household chores, and did much more. A wrongful death lawsuit can also provide compensation for the loss of that companionship and support. 

3. Who receives compensation

All damages are given for the benefit of the decedent’s survivors and family, called the beneficiaries. The following relatives are considered beneficiaries in a wrongful death action and are generally compensated in this order:

  • Spouse
  • Children 
  • Parents 
  • Dependent family members such as blood or adoptive siblings if they were partially or completely dependent on the deceased for financial support
  • Children of unmarried parents (This is more complex and should be discussed with an attorney before filing an action.

A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney with Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath can tell you more about who, in your situation, is eligible to receive benefits as a beneficiary.

4. Length of time to file

A statute of limitations is the deadline by which you must file a wrongful death action. In Florida, you have two years from the date of the victim’s death to take legal action. You won’t be able to file a case after the statute of limitations expires.

However, as a result of the Jeffrey Klee Memorial Act of 2010 (Fla. Stat. §95.11(10)), one exception to the statute of limitations is if the deceased passed away due to an act such as murder, homicide, or manslaughter. In those situations, there’s no time limit because the criminal investigation can take much longer to complete, sometimes years, when the perpetrator is unknown.

What steps will my Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney take to prove negligence?

Although two years may seem like a long time, you shouldn’t wait to meet with a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney or to file your case because a lengthy period between their death and the time you file your claim can be detrimental to your case.

Your attorney will need to investigate the case so that they have the information they need to build a strong case. The earlier you get legal help, the sooner that investigation can begin. 

The evidence gathered by your attorney will be key to proving the four elements of a wrongful death lawsuit: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

1. Duty

Your attorney will need to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim. For example, a motorist owes all other drivers and pedestrians a duty of care to drive safely and abide by all traffic laws. 

2. Breach of duty

Next, your lawyer must show that there was a breach of that duty. If the motorist were distracted because they were texting on their phone, that would constitute a breach.

3. Causation

The breach of duty, such as texting while driving, must have been the cause of the incident that resulted in the wrongful death. The investigation can uncover the evidence needed to prove causation.

4. Damages

It must be proven that the wrongful death resulted in a financial loss or damages, including those that were discussed earlier and others that weren’t addressed, such as property damage. 

fort lauderdale wrongful death attorney damages

Our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney is ready to help

At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we have extensive experience in wrongful death lawsuits. In fact, we’ve successfully handled hundreds of wrongful death cases. We’ll do everything we can to obtain a full and fair settlement on your behalf, or when settlement isn’t a viable option, we have the skills needed to win in court.

If you would like to find out more about how one of our experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers can help you, schedule a free consultation by contacting us online or by calling (561) 655-1990.

Discover your legal options today.

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