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    The Ultimate Guide to Wrongful Death Claims

    Accident victims can pursue damages for injuries and other costs related to the incident, but what if the accident is fatal? In wrongful death claims, an expert wrongful death lawyer helps surviving family members bring a claim or file suit to win compensation from those liable for the death of a loved one. 

    Wrongful death happens when someone or an organization fails in their legal responsibility, and someone dies as a result. It can also happen who someone acts intentionally and kills someone, whether they intended to kill them or not.

    There are many causes of wrongful deaths each year in America. But, sadly, people die every day because businesses fail to perform property maintenance or are negligent in their security efforts to protect customers and other guests. 

    Wrongful death happens when property owners fail to post signs of hazards or prevent guests from accessing dangerous construction sites. Serious accidents often result in death, leaving families picking up the pieces. 

    Click here to speak with an attorney. We’re here to offer you the support you and your family need.

    Speaking to a wrongful death lawyer specializing in wrongful death claims can help you know whether you can seek damages after the death of a loved one. Knowing if you have a case is the first step in winning the compensation your family deserves. 

    Here is your ultimate guide to wrongful death claims. 

    What Is Wrongful Death?

    People die in accidents, but those accidents frequently happen when an entity or individual fails in their legal responsibility. 

    For example, a company is legally responsible for providing safe conditions for its visitors or customers. If a business knows or should know of a hazard on its property and fails to eliminate it or warn visitors, and someone is injured, they may be held liable.

    It’s always hard to lose a loved one, especially if you feel like it was due to someone else’s mistake or negligence on the part of a business or organization. 

    However, proving a wrongful death claim is usually complex. In this case, the deceased person’s family must prove that what happened rises to wrongful death. 

    Here’s what you typically need to show in a wrongful death claim:

    • Death results from a someone’s negligence or wrongful actions (negligence or intentional act)
    • The actions or negligence directly caused the death.
    • The death caused damages (financial, emotional, physical, etc.)

    Proving these is often challenging because businesses and other entities will fight against your claim. In response, working with an expert wrongful death lawyer is often the best way to win the compensation you and your family deserve. 

    In Florida, like many other states, wrongful death is governed by a series of statutes that specify who can bring a case and what the restrictions are.  In Florida it is Florida Statutes section 768, Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

    Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims

    The most common forms of wrongful death claims include the following:

    • Negligent wrongful death claims
    • Intentional wrongful death claims
    • Medical malpractice wrongful death claims

    Intentional Wrongful Death Claims

    Most wrongful death claims are tied to negligence, while intentional acts involve murder or assault that end in death. 

    One example is when a fight escalates, and someone’s injuries eventually kill them. 

    Negligent Wrongful Death Claims

    However, wrongful death tied to negligence is more common. Here are some common types of negligent wrongful death claims:

    These are typically bad situations gone wrong. When someone’s carelessness leads to another person’s death, they are liable to pay damages related to the incident. 

    An excellent example of this is a dog attack that kills a child. If a person’s dog gets out, attacks a young child, and kills him or her, they must pay compensation for a wrongful death claim. 

    Professional Tip – It’s challenging to sue an employer for wrongful death when an accident happens while working. These types of deaths are typically covered by workers’ compensation claims instead, which provides an exclusive remedy for workplace injuries and death. 

    Medical Malpractice

    Doctors and other medical professionals have a duty to provide the best possible care to patients in ways that avoid harm or unnecessary death. 

    Unfortunately, health care providers and hospitals sometimes make mistakes that kill people. For instance, incorrect prescriptions or mistakes in surgery result in death. Preventable medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States.

    In the medical world, professionals must deliver a standard of care patients would reasonably expect across the industry. When a physician or hospital falls below that standard of care intentionally or due to negligence, they’re liable for damages. 

    Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

    Many family members feel angry and confused after someone dies. Emotions, though entirely normal, can cloud how people approach seeking damages. 

    Knowing who can file a claim and how to file it is essential. Depending on the case and facts, generally the following people can file a wrongful death claim:

    • A spouse
    • Parents
    • Children
    • Immediate family members
    • Estate representative

    Speaking to a wrongful death lawyer will help you know who can file a claim and how to approach the case most effectively. In many cases, laws around who can file and when are determined at the state level, so find an attorney in your state to learn more. 

    The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim & Personal Injury

    The main difference between a wrongful death claim and a personal injury lawsuit is that someone died. 

    Personal injury claims typically involve the person injured and their lawyers. They file a lawsuit after a fall or accident and seek a settlement payment via negotiations or in court. Any compensation awarded usually covers things like medical bills, lost income, and long-term pain and suffering. 

    However, close family relatives handle wrongful death claims because the victim is deceased. They, along with their legal team, seek compensation for costs for the above expenses up until the time of death. In addition, the family can sue for the future impact of the death, like loss of income, emotional pain and suffering, loss of parental support, and other related damages. 

    How to File a Claim with a Wrongful Death Lawyer

    Filing a lawsuit, especially one tied to the wrongful death of a family member, is not something people do regularly. 

    The legal process is confusing, and there is a lot of paperwork and litigation to navigate. Filing a lawsuit with an expert wrongful death lawyer makes things much more manageable. Here are some factors to consider:

    The Statute of Limitations

    Not everyone files a wrongful death lawsuit immediately after someone dies. It takes time for the family to process emotions, handle funeral arrangements, and gather themselves before their next steps. 

    Statutes of limitations vary by state, but most have a two-year limit from the time of the accident or the time when the family discovered some negligent or intentional act that led to their family member’s death. In Florida the statute of limitations is one year but in cruise ship cases it is usually as little as one year based on the contract (ticket).

    Assigning Liability

    Deciding who to sue or name in your claim is a significant part of any wrongful death suit. Again, a wrongful death lawyer will work with you to gather evidence and assign liability to responsible parties. 

    For example, liable parties can include:

    These are just some possible liable parties in a wrongful death claim. 


    Families must generally file wrongful death lawsuits where the case happened. Whichever court has jurisdiction over the case must receive the claim in time with the proper paperwork. 

    Settlement Negotiations

    Once you file a claim, you and your lawyer may attempt to settle the case out of court. Negotiations and your lawyer’s experience have a significant impact on settlement outcomes. Working with the right attorney can mean a difference of millions of dollars, so you must choose a lawyer with experience and a proven track record. 


    If you can’t reach a satisfactory settlement, then your lawsuit will likely go to court. 

    How Much Should People Win in Compensation for Wrongful Death?

    It’s reasonable to wonder how much families can expect in a wrongful death lawsuit. After all, a breadwinner’s death in a car accident usually leaves the family reeling as they wonder what the future holds and how they will survive. 

    Death is always shocking, but doubly so when caused by someone’s negligence or intentional act. There are future expenses to pay for, emotional stress, and other costs. In addition, families must deal with medical costs from trying to keep their relatives alive for as long as possible. 

    Here are some of the categories a successful wrongful death claim should cover:

    Medical Bills

    Your claim should cover medical costs related to the accident up until the time of death. This can include ambulance trips, surgeries, medications, hospital stays, post-op care, and physical therapy. 

    Loss of Income

    Wrongful death claims should account for lost income while the victim was still alive and not working after the accident. It can also cover lost lifetime income for the family. 

    Loss of  Support and Services

    What type of role did the relative play in the family? What services did they provide? Again, a good wrongful death lawyer will help you win compensation for loss of services. 

    Funeral Costs

    Anyone liable for your family member’s death should contribute to the funeral costs. This can cover the casket, funeral venue, and other expenses. 

    Emotional Distress

    Liable parties should also pay for loss of companionship, trauma, etc. 

    Loss of parental Consortium and Guidance

    When a child loses a parent they lose the guidance and love (consortium) that the parents would provide for the rest of that child’s life.

    If you need attorneys for a wrongful death case, make sure you find a lawyer or firm that has substantial experience handling these cases.  Many lawyers who advertise as personal injury or wrongful death lawyers have handled or tried few if any substantial wrongful death cases.  These are complex and expensive cases to handle, as you are best served by having experienced, skilled and successful lawyers represent you.  You don’t want to be a lawyer’s test case or practice case.  Find out what verdicts and settlements they have obtained for clients in other cases, and whether they have litigated and tried wrongful death cases.

    Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit vs. a Criminal Case

    Is a wrongful death lawsuit the same as a criminal case? 

    Typically, the victim’s families must file a wrongful death claim separately from any criminal proceedings. 

    For example, if a drunk driver hits a car and kills someone, the state will likely file manslaughter or similar charges. In addition, they’ll typically seek jail time or some other form of legal punishment. 

    Civil cases like lawsuits are how families win compensation for the financial toll of the crime, and it’s a separate process that requires an expert wrongful death lawyer. 

    Another significant difference is that state or federal prosecutors must prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning cases must be air-tight to win. 

    Civil cases, including wrongful death lawsuits, do not have to meet that standard. Instead, they have to demonstrate a preponderance of the evidence, or, in other words, enough proof that the defendant caused the death and damages were associated with it. 

    In several high-profile cases, a defendant was acquitted of murder but then found guilty in a civil matter and forced to pay large settlements. Click here for some examples.

    How to Find a Good Wrongful Death Lawyer

    When you can, you should reach out to a wrongful death lawyer to discuss how to approach your case. The earlier you find a good attorney, the better you protect your family after losing a loved one. 

    A skilled wrongful death lawyer will help you avoid mistakes in your case and win maximum compensation for the victims. Here’s what you should expect:


    Lawyers have the resources necessary to gather evidence for your cases. Whether talking to eyewitnesses or securing company records, they know where to build an ironclad case. 

    Settlement Negotiation

    Liable parties frequently offer fast settlements to families that pale compared to what they deserve. They want to avoid legal proceedings and save money, though they typically mask it in trying to do the right thing. 

    A good lawyer will calculate all the compensation you deserve and work to a fair settlement that leaves your family in a good position. 

    Court Experience

    You should hire a lawyer with courtroom experience in case you fail to reach a fair settlement. That means lawyers who have litigated and gone to trial in cases like yours.  You would be surprised how many personal injury lawyers do not spend time inside a courtroom.

    Case Management

    Importantly, your legal support team will handle correspondence, paperwork, and deadlines related to your wrongful death lawsuit, so you can focus on your family and grieve. 

    At Leighton Law, we help families of wrongful death victims win the compensation they deserve after the death of a family member. Our experience in representing families in wrongful death cases is extensive and spans 38 years.  If you or someone you know needs to speak with a wrongful death lawyer, schedule a free consultation with our team to hear whether you have a claim and what you should do next. 

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