Melbourne Wrongful Death Lawyers
When a family member passes away, the grief can seem endless and unbearable. That grief is compounded if you have reason to believe that the death was preventable. While no amount of financial compensation can erase your grief, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the responsible party (or parties) legally accountable and provide you with financial security for the future.
If you believe the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party caused or contributed to the death of a loved one, the experienced Melbourne wrongful death lawyers at Layman Law Firm, P.L. can help. We are committed to using our vast resources and experience to pursue justice for you and your family by ensuring that the at-fault parties are identified and that you are compensated to the full extent of the law.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
When a loved one passes away peacefully of old age after a long life, we mourn the loss, but we take solace in knowing that it was simply their time. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, and under circumstances that appear to have been preventable, the grief that follows is also accompanied by a range of heightened emotions, including confusion, anger, and despair. The legal term for a death that could have been prevented is “wrongful death.”
In the State of Florida, the Florida Wrongful Death Act (FWDA) governs wrongful death actions. Section 768.19 of the FWDA defines wrongful death as “…the death of a person that is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters, and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued…”
Most wrongful death lawsuits are based on negligence, which requires your attorney to prove that a duty of care was owed to the decedent, that the defendant(s) breached that duty of care, and that the breach of the duty of care caused or contributed to the death of your loved one.
What Are Common Examples of Wrongful Deaths?
Most people are more familiar with the concept of a personal injury accident than a wrongful death. Because of that, the easiest way to understand what type of circumstances might give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit is to think of a personal injury accident that caused fatal injuries. By way of illustration, any of the following personal injury accidents could qualify as a wrongful death if the victim dies as a result of the injuries:
- Medical and surgical errors
- Birth injuries
- Workplace accidents
- Car accidents
- Boating accidents
- Swimming pool drownings
- Premises liability accidents
- Truck accidents
- Dog attacks
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Defective products
- Aviation accidents
- Intentional acts (such as assault)
Who Can File a Melbourne Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows surviving family members to recover monetary damages through a wrongful death lawsuit; however, the lawsuit must be filed by the decedent’s Personal Representative. If the decedent had a Last Will and Testament, the person named as the Executor in that Will acts as the Personal Representative for purposes of initiating a wrongful death lawsuit. If no Will was left behind, the court will appoint a personal representative, typically a spouse, parent, or adult child. The Personal Representative is entitled to collect compensation both for the estate of the decedent and for eligible survivors, including:
- The decedent’s spouse.
- The decedent’s children.
- The decedent’s parents.
- When partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives, and adoptive brothers and sisters.
- Children born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father, unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
How Long Do I Have to File a Melbourne Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Most types of litigation are limited by an applicable statute of limitations that sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit. The law does this with the intention of ensuring that evidence and witnesses remain available and accessible to both sides of the litigation. In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is usually just two years from the date of death. That does not mean the lawsuit must be resolved within two years; however, it does mean it must be initiated within that time frame or you lose your right to pursue the lawsuit. For this reason alone, do not hesitate to consult with a Melbourne wrongful death lawyer immediately if you suspect that the death of a loved one was preventable.
What Compensation Is Available in a Melbourne Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, both the estate of the decedent and surviving family members may be entitled to compensation (or “damages” in legal terms). Damages paid to the estate of the decedent represent injuries to the decedent prior to the decedent’s death and/or directly related to his/her death. While these damages are paid to the estate of the decedent, they will ultimately be distributed to the beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate, which may include the surviving family members. In a Melbourne wrongful death lawsuit, the estate may be entitled to damages for:
- Medical and funeral expenses paid directly by the estate.
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, including the value of lost earnings that the deceased person could reasonably have been expected to make if he or she had lived.
- Lost “prospective net accumulations” of the estate, or the value of earnings the estate could reasonably have been expected to collect if the decedent had lived.
While damages paid to the estate focus on injury to the decedent, damages paid directly to survivors focus on compensating those survivors for the financial hardship and emotional trauma caused by the death of the decedent. Compensation for these types of damages may include:
- The value of support and services the deceased person provided to the surviving family member
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection provided by the deceased person
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering due to the loss of a child
- Medical or funeral expenses any surviving family member has paid for the deceased person.
Contact the Experienced Melbourne Wrongful Death Lawyers at Layman Law Firm, P.L.
If you recently lost a loved one and you believe that the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party was wholly or partially responsible for your family member’s death, contact the experienced Melbourne wrongful death lawyers at Layman Law Firm, P.L. to discuss the possibility of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. We understand the grief, anger, and confusion you are experiencing and are committed to aggressively pursuing the responsible party(s) to make sure they are held accountable, and you receive the compensation your loved one would want you to have. Contact the team today for your free initial consultation by calling 321-773-2111 or by filling out our convenient Intake Evaluation Form online.