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Can I Sue For A Wrongful Death In Florida?

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Jason Turchin - Personal Injury - General - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Jason Turchin

Located in Weston, FLLaw Offices of Jason Turchin

Weston, FL
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Yes in many cases. Losing a loved one in a wrongful death in Florida may be devastating and incredibly overwhelming. When someone dies in a fatal accident in Florida, you may be thrust into unfamiliar territory trying to cope with the accidental death, dealing with insurance companies and wrongful death claims, planning a funeral, and dealing with probate and creditor claims. Part of our job is to help you sort through the giant cloud of uncertainty.

I’ve handled more than 5,000 accident, injury and wrongful death claims throughout all of Florida. A wrongful death claim can arise under several circumstances, including Fatal car accidents, Fatal truck accidents, Fatal motorcycle accidents, Dram shop/liquor liability deaths, Traumatic brain injuries/death from falls, Accidental shooting, Theme park accidental death, Biomedical device failures, Drug interactions, Murder/Crime victim’s rights, Accidental birth death, Medical Malpractice, and Nursing Home abuse/negligence. Often, wrongful death and accidental death claims may also lead to life insurance disputes, which our office also handles.

What insurance coverage for wrongful death is available in Florida?

Insurance may cover various parts of a wrongful death claim, depending on the type of accident. Our goal is to investigate the wrongful death and determine who caused or contributed to the death in any way, and to get answers for the victim’s family.

In a car accident, for example, we look for insurance with the person who died, the vehicle they were in, the vehicle that struck them, the driver of the vehicle who caused the accident, any corporate owner or employer of the at-fault driver or vehicle owner, product liability claims against the vehicle manufacturer, vehicle maintenance negligence against car mechanics, and many other possible avenues.

In a slip-and-fall accident, which causes someone to die, there may be claims against a property owner, manager, maintenance company, cleaning company, and others. In an accidental shooting case in Florida, the gun owner and homeowner may be responsible for the wrongful death, and homeowner’s insurance may apply, among other possible claims. If someone is killed by a drunk driver who is a known alcoholic or a minor, the company or person who served him or her alcohol may be responsible for the death under his or her homeowner, liquor liability or general liability insurance policies, among other possible claims.

Who can make a claim for wrongful death in Florida?

Florida’s Wrongful Death Act dictates who qualifies as a “survivor” and who is entitled to make a claim for wrongful death. Typically, one person is appointed as the Personal Representative of the Estate of the person who died. This is done through Probate Court. If the person who died had a will, the will often designates who the representative should be. If there was no will, Florida has a law that specifies the order of priority or preference for who should be the personal representative. The personal representative then brings the wrongful death claim on behalf of all survivors.

Claims for survivors who qualify may include reimbursement for funeral expenses, payment of any medical bills and expenses of the person who died related to the accident or incident, payment for lost support and services which the decedent was paying a survivor, lost net accumulations for the estate of the person who died, and emotional pain and suffering for the loss of a loved one for those who qualify, like a child, spouse or parent depending on the circumstances. There are other possible damages too depending on the type of case and the facts of the specific wrongful death incident.

What are common wrongful death claims in Florida?

As a Florida wrongful death attorney, some of the more common accidental death cases include:

Fatal car accidents – Survivors of the person who died may have a claim against the at-fault driver, at-fault vehicle owner, underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage, death benefit, vehicle maintenance claims, products liability claims, and other claims.

Fatal truck accidents – Fatal truck accidents may require more complex investigation than a typical car accident, as there are Federal and State rules that govern truck drivers and truck owners. There may be commercial insurance policies in place, employer liability claims, and first-party claims against the decedent’s own insurance policies, among other claims.

Fatal motorcycle accidents – When someone is killed in a motorcycle accident, there are several claims that may apply. Many motorcycles are not insured in Florida, which leaves the family of the deceased motorcyclist to make claims against the at-fault driver, at-fault vehicle owner, possible homeowner claims if a tree, for example, blocked an entryway or exit, product liability or vehicle maintenance claims, and others.

Dram shop/liquor liability deaths – Over the years, I’ve handled many dram shop and liquor liability cases. These claims may allow you to recover money for wrongful death damages against a homeowner, bar, company, restaurant or anyone who served a minor alcohol or knowingly served an alcoholic. The law in Florida for liquor liability may allow a claim for any damages that arise from the intoxication.

Traumatic brain injuries/death from falls – A simple fall on a wet or slippery substance can cause serious injuries or death. If someone dies following a slip and fall, the victim’s family may be entitled to money under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act for pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of earnings, loss of support, and other damages.

Accidental shooting – A gun owner may be responsible for any death that occurs because of his or her gun, and a homeowner may be responsible for allowing a gun in his or her house or business without adequate safety precautions in place. We’ve handled a number of accidental shooting cases in which the shooting was preventable, or someone was negligent.

Theme park accidental death – Theme parks are supposed to be safe, and are regulated by the State of Florida, and other entities. If someone dies at a theme park, we can investigate the incident or accident to determine who caused or contributed to the accidental death, and fight to hold all who contributed responsible. These cases against theme parks may occur, for example, when someone falls off a roller coaster or ride, or slips and hits his or her head. Claims may be able to be brought against the theme park owner, like Disney World, Universal Studios, or Busch Gardens, and against any maintenance company, ride manufacturer, and others.

Biomedical device failures – A victim’s family may be able to pursue a wrongful death case in Florida if a biomedical device failed and caused or contributed to their death. Claims may be made against pharmaceutical companies, drug manufacturers, medical providers, and others.

Drug interactions – A wrongful death caused by a drug interaction may occur when a pharmacy gives the wrong dosage or prescription, or a hospital or doctor fails to consider all of the medications taken by the patient and ultimately prescribes medications that cause a fatal drug interaction.

Murder/crime victim’s rights – Over the years, I’ve represented many families of murder, shootings, stabbings, traffic homicide, and other crimes. Crime victims may have rights in Florida to pursue wrongful death claims for the death. Crime victim wrongful death claims typically involve negligent security investigations into how the crime occurred, why it occurred and whether it was foreseeable and preventable. Much of the murder investigation is to get answers for the victim’s family and to pursue justice against any person or company who caused or contributed to the death in any way.

Accidental birth death – Hospitals and doctors may be negligent during the birth of a baby, leading to brain damage and death of a child. If you had a baby die during childbirth, you may be entitled to pain and suffering and other damages as a result of the malpractice.

Medical malpractice – When a medical provider, hospital or doctor deviates from the normal standard of care in the community and causes or contributes to someone’s death, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim against them. Damages may include pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, funeral expenses, loss of support and services, and other damages.

Accidental pool drowning – Homeowners, camps, schools, and gyms may be responsible if someone drowns in their pool. Pool owners often have a duty to use reasonable care and provide reasonable and adequate safety measures to prevent children from drowning in their pool. Regulations and posted rules may apply to show what safeguards the pool owner had in place or should have had in place, and whether there was adequate supervision of the child who drowned.

Life insurance disputes – When someone dies and has life insurance, the life insurance will often look for any reason to deny or delay life insurance coverage. This is frequently seen when the person dies within two years of obtaining life insurance coverage in Florida. They will look for any material misrepresentation or coverage defense and may try to void coverage. There are several ways we may be able to still establish coverage, even when it is denied.

How does a Florida wrongful death attorney get paid?

Typically, an experienced wrongful death attorney in Florida works on a contingency fee, which means he or she waives all fees and costs if there is no recovery and gets a percentage of the total recovery for the survivors. The great benefit for the victim’s family is that they do not have to pay the Florida wrongful death lawyer any money out of pocket to represent them in the case, and they don’t lose any money in attorneys’ fees or costs if for some reason there is no way to get a settlement or collectable verdict.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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