A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed when the negligence or misconduct of a person results in the death of another. The intention of the Florida legislature when it passed the Wrongful Death Act was to allow the survivors of the deceased to recover damages for compensation for the loss of emotional or financial support they have suffered by the death. It is important to note that a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and is completely different to, and separate from, a criminal action for the same set of events. A person can be prosecuted for manslaughter after a hit and run accident, for example, and also be sued for his victim’s wrongful death by that person’s survivors. Because the proof standards are different for civil and criminal actions, it is possible for the wrongdoer to be found innocent at his criminal trial, but to be found liable at the wrongful death civil trial and ordered to pay compensation.
Who can sue?
The Wrongful Death Act sets out who can sue for a wrongful death. A spouse, children or parents can always sue. If they are wholly or partly dependent on the deceased for support or services, any blood relative can sue, as well as adoptive brothers and sisters. This includes a child born out of wedlock of a mother, but not a child born out of wedlock of a father unless the father has acknowledged financial responsibility for the child. It is important to note that non-relatives cannot bring a wrongful death suit, even if they were financially or emotionally dependent on the deceased.
What do you have to prove?
In order be successful in a wrongful death suit, the death must have been caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of the person. Wrongful acts are almost always actions where criminal charges result. Negligence is a little more complicated. In these cases, the plaintiff’s attorney must show the the wrongdoer had an obligation to behave in a certain way, such as to drive a car safely. He will have to show that what actually happened was not the proper way to act in the circumstances. Finally, the attorney will have to prove that the failure to act properly was the direct cause of the person’s death. In order to recover any money damages for the plaintiff, the attorney will have to set out exactly how the plaintiff has suffered from the wrongful death.
The most important thing to do when a loved one dies through the fault of someone else is to get expert legal advice from an attorney with experience in this area as soon as possible.
Call 1-800-535-2529 or contact Bryan Caulfield today to speak to an attorney about your rights in a wrongful death case.