The unexpected death of a family member is one of the most painful and challenging events in a person’s life. The situation is made even more difficult when it results from the negligence of another party or entity. In the legal realm, this is referred to as a wrongful death. When placed in this difficult situation, surviving loved ones may not fully understand their options. They are often faced with significant hardships, including funeral costs, emotional struggles and a possible loss of financial support. The impact of these concerns can become overwhelming and the assistance of an experienced lawyer can not be overstated. Contact our experienced wrongful death lawyers at Tison Law Group in Tampa for help in your time of need.
Wrongful Death in Florida
The state of Florida operates under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. Under this law, a personal representative is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on negligence against the responsible party on behalf of persons defined as survivors. The Florida list of survivors includes:
- Surviving spouses;
- Surviving minor children;
- Surviving adult children with some exceptions;
- Surviving parents of a minor child; and
- Surviving parents of an adult child with some exceptions, when the child did not have a surviving spouse.
These are the only parties who may recover under a wrongful death lawsuit against the persons and/or entities responsible for the death of their loved ones . However, there are numerous rules regarding the timing of the lawsuit. Generally, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death filing is two years from the date of the death. In cases where medical malpractice is the cause of death, the two-year statute of limitations may not begin until the cause of death is discovered. For example, if a party dies due to a physician’s negligence, the statute of limitations may not in some circumstances begin until the surviving parties learn about the negligent act.
An additional statute of limitations exception relates to deaths that result from intentional torts. If a party is found criminally responsible for the death, under a murder conviction in any degree, the statute of limitations does not apply. Therefore, the Personal Representative may institute a wrongful death suit on behalf of the State and defined survivors at any time.
When representing a client in a wrongful death matter, an lawyer must prove all elements of the case, which include:
- some conduct amounting to a wrongful act or negligence;
- a breach of duty to the decedent; and
- the conduct proximately caused the death.
It’s important to note that these elements are not cut and dry. What constitutes wrongful conduct to one person is often viewed differently by another party. In addition, the levels of duty or care and the decedent vary greatly depending on the totality of the circumstances, the parties and decedents involved, and the relationship between them. For example, a doctor owes a level of responsibility to a patient that is different from what a stranger owes a trespasser. Causation is another hurdle of proof because the alleged wrong behavior must be directly related to the death.
Once the elements are proven, the next challenge for the lawyer is proving proper damages. These amounts vary greatly, depending on the relation of the decedent to the survivors. Awarded damages may include burial expenses and medical bills. They may also include compensation for mental anguish, suffering, future loss of monetary support and loss of companionship.
Contact Our Tampa Wrongful Death Lawyers for Help
The Tampa wrongful death lawyers at Tison Law Group are experienced in the litigation of wrongful death cases. Let us use our extensive knowledge to help you gain the monetary compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.