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Florida personal injury lawyers



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    When Personal Injury Becomes Wrongful Death: Understanding Florida Law

    Experiencing a personal injury is traumatic, but when such injuries result in death, the impact on families is devastating. In Florida, wrongful death claims provide a legal avenue for families to seek justice and compensation.

    What Constitutes a Wrongful Death in Florida?

    Under Florida law, wrongful death occurs when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another. Essentially, if the decedent could have pursued a personal injury claim had they survived, a wrongful death claim is viable.

    Common causes include car accidents, medical malpractice, violent crime and workplace incidents. These incidents often involve significant costs that can place a substantial financial burden on the family of the deceased.

    Costs Associated with a Wrongful Death

    1. Medical Expenses:
    • Immediate Medical Costs: Wrongful death cases often involve significant medical expenses incurred from the time of the injury until the time of death, including emergency room visits, surgeries, intensive care, and other medical treatments.
    • Ongoing Care Costs: In cases involving prolonged medical care, families might face extensive hospital bills and long-term care expenses.
    1. Funeral Costs:
    • Funeral Services: Funeral costs can be considerable, including expenses for the funeral home, service fees, caskets, and transportation.
    • Burial or Cremation: Burial plots, headstones, and cremation services can add to the financial burden.
    1. Loss of Income:
    • Immediate Loss of Earnings: The decedent’s lost wages from the date of injury to the date of death can be significant, especially if the deceased was the primary earner for the family.
    • Future Loss of Income: The anticipated future earnings of the decedent, reduced to present value, also impact the family.
    1. Loss of Benefits:
    • Health Insurance: The family might lose health insurance coverage if it was provided through the decedent’s employment.
    • Retirement Benefits: Pensions and retirement savings that would have been accrued by the decedent are also lost, affecting long-term financial stability.
    1. Loss of Services:
    • Household Contributions: The decedent might have provided valuable household services such as childcare, maintenance, and other daily tasks that must now be outsourced.
    • Emotional Support: Losing the decedent’s emotional support, companionship, and guidance can profoundly affect the family’s well-being.
    1. Legal Costs:
    • Attorney Fees: Many attorneys work on a contingency basis, but other legal costs can accumulate.
    • Court Costs: Filing fees, expert witness fees, and other court-related expenses are also part of the legal process.
    1. Psychological Impact:  The psychological toll of losing a loved one prematurely can lead to the need for grief counseling or therapy, which can incur additional costs.

    Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

    Florida’s wrongful death statute is specific about who can file a claim. The decedent’s personal representative, often appointed through the probate court, files the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate and surviving family members.

    The claim must identify all potential beneficiaries, including the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and any blood relatives or adoptive siblings who were dependent on the decedent for support or services.

    Types of Damages Recoverable

    The Florida Statutes outline various damages that survivors can recover:

    1. Loss of Support and Services: Survivors may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the injury to the date of death and future loss reduced to present value. This includes financial contributions and the value of services the decedent provided.
    2. Loss of Companionship and Protection: The surviving spouse is entitled to compensation for the loss of companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
    3. Loss of Parental Companionship: Minor children, and all children if there is no surviving spouse, can recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, as well as mental pain and suffering.
    4. Mental Pain and Suffering: Each parent of a deceased minor child can recover for mental pain and suffering. Parents of an adult child may also recover if there are no other survivors.
    5. Medical and Funeral Expenses: Survivors who have paid for medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death can recover these costs.
    6. Loss of Earnings and Net Accumulations: The decedent’s personal representative may recover lost earnings from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors. They can also recover the loss of prospective net accumulations of the estate.

    Limitations and Exceptions

    Certain limitations exist within the Florida wrongful death statutes:

    • Medical Negligence Claims: Adult children cannot recover damages for lost parental companionship, and parents of an adult child cannot recover for mental pain and suffering if the wrongful death resulted from medical negligence.
    • Creditor Claims: Awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors who comply with probate law requirements.

    The Importance of Legal Representation

    While no amount of money can replace a lost loved one, a wrongful death claim can provide financial support and a sense of closure for grieving families.

    An experienced personal injury attorney can provide invaluable assistance, ensuring that the rights of the decedent’s survivors are fully protected. They help accurately identify all potential damages, gather necessary evidence, and advocate on behalf of the family in court.

    If you are facing such a tragic situation, contact us for a consultation. We have obtained some of the largest wrongful death settlements and verdicts in Florida, and have experience in working with families who have lost loved ones.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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