Unintentional deaths happen a lot more than we might care to admit, and these fatalities happen for a host of different reasons. For example, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were an estimated 146,571 unintentional injury deaths, 33,381 unintentional fall deaths, and 37,757 motor vehicle traffic deaths nationwide in 2015. Some of these tragic accidents are unavoidable while others are caused by the negligent actions of another person. This is further demonstrated by the fact that John Hopkins University found that roughly 250,000 are killed in the U.S. every year due to medical errors. To put this into perspective, this means that more people are killed every due to medical errors than unintentional injuries, unintentional falls, and motor vehicle accidents combined.
When a family member is killed due to the negligence of another person or entity, Florida law allows the family members of the deceased to seek damages from the negligent party for the death of their loved one, but wrongful death claims can be extremely complex. For example, a wrongful death claim arising out of a car accident would be pursued under Fl.Stat.§768.19, but a wrongful death suit arising out of a case of medical malpractice would be initiated under Fl.Stat.§766.102. Cases that are initiated under each of these statutes are very different, and are controlled by procedural guidelines that are unique to the type of claim being initiated, which is why you should always consult with a wrongful death attorney prior to initiating any type of wrongful death suit.
Wrongful Death Claims due to Negligence in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Most wrongful death cases occur due to an act of negligence. The type of act determines what type of wrongful death claim will be initiated. For example, a car accident that results in a fatality is generally considered an act of negligence on the part of the at-fault driver, but a defective product created by a company that causes a fatality is a negligent act that falls under a different standard. Did the company know the product was dangerous? Was the product being used for its intended purpose? These are just a few of the key questions that must be answered for a product liability claim that are generally not applicable in the context of a car accident.
Wrongful Death Claims Involving a Car Accident Fatality
In the case of a car accident fatality, the jury must determine if the negligent actions of the at-fault driver resulted in the death of your family member, and if so, to what degree did the other driver’s actions contribute to your loved one’s death. Negligence itself is defined by the Florida Supreme Court as a failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. In order to prevail, the plaintiff must prove:
- That the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care
- That the defendant breached their duty of care
- That the defendant’s breach of their duty of care was a direct and proximate cause of the deceased’s passing.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Once these elements are proven at trial, the jury must determine the degree to which the at-fault driver’s actions caused the death of your loved one. This element becomes extremely significant when an award is being issued for damages. In general, there two types of damages that can be awarded by a jury, compensatory damages, which consist of economic and non-economic damages, and punitive damages, which are awarded to punish the defendant.
Generally, punitive damages are not awarded in a case of simple negligence. However, when a plaintiff prevails in a negligence suit, the jury will normally award the plaintiff economic damages, non-economic damages, or a combination of both. Economic damages consist of compensation for things such as future wages, medical expenses incurred by the deceased’s family members, funeral expenses, et cetera, while non-economic damages consist of compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Florida
If the jury finds that the deceased was partially responsible for the accident that resulted in their death, they will assign a percentage of fault to them which in turn results in an award that is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the deceased. For example, if a jury awards $40,000 to the deceased’s family members for damages and finds that the deceased was 20% responsible for the accident, the award will be reduced by 20% under Florida’s comparative negligence statute, Fla.Stat.§768.81.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Due to the complexity of wrongful death cases, you should always hire a wrongful death attorney that will defend your legal rights and the rights of your family members. 1-800-INJURED is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects wrongful death victims with attorneys in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Don’t face this difficult time alone. Call 1-800-INJURED today.