While most accidents result in only minor injuries, some accidents tragically result in death. For the family members and loved ones left behind, this can be emotionally devastating and present a financial crisis. While nothing can undo what has happened, there are steps that the surviving family members can take to protect their future. If you have lost a loved one in an accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you find a way forward. 

You Have Rights

When someone dies as a result of an accident, the emotional and financial loss to their family can be immeasurable. You have lost a provider and a companion. They may have incurred significant medical expenses from the accident prior to their passing. There are funeral and burial expenses. All of this is on top of the current and future lost income that you planned your life around. 

Thankfully, you have rights under Florida law. You can pursue a legal claim known as a wrongful death suit seeking compensation for your financial and emotional losses. There are two types of wrongful death claims: 

  1. Wrongful deaths caused by intentional actions such as an assault
  2. Wrongful deaths caused by negligence such as a car accident

Most of the wrongful death claims personal injury attorneys handle involve negligence. In addition to motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death claims can arise from premises liability claims, animal attacks, and medical malpractice cases. If you have lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your rights.  

What You Must Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim

In order to pursue a successful claim, you will have to prove that your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence. In other words, you will need to prove that the other party failed to meet their duty of care. This means that you will need to be able to prove what caused the accident that led to your loved one’s death and how the other party’s negligence played a role. Here are some examples of negligence that could give rise to a wrongful death claim: 

  • A truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel and causes a fatal car accident. 
  • A property owner fails to secure their swimming pool. A child enters the pool and drowns. 
  • A doctor administers the wrong medication that causes the patient to die from a heart attack. 
  • A construction company fails to provide safety harnesses and a worker is killed in a fall. 
  • A car collides with a motorcycle when they change lanes without looking. The motorcycle rider is severely injured and dies several weeks after the accident. 

In each of these examples, the surviving family members would be able to pursue a wrongful death claim based on the assumption that they can prove that their loved one’s death was caused by the other party’s negligence. If you have lost a loved one in an accident, a personal injury attorney can determine whether it was caused by the other party’s negligence and whether you can hold them accountable. 

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim? 

Unfortunately, pursuing a wrongful death claim in Florida is more challenging than in other states. This is because Florida law requires that the wrongful death claim be pursued through the victim’s estate. 

If the victim died with a will, the person named in the will as the personal representative can file the wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries of the victim’s estate. The personal representative may, and probably should be, represented by an attorney who is retained specifically for the purpose of the wrongful death suit. If successful, the compensation awarded in the wrongful death suit will be distributed to the heirs according to the terms of the victim’s will. 

If the victim did not have a will at the time they died, the situation is more complicated but not impossible. The family members of the victim or a lawyer on their behalf will have to have a personal representative appointed by the probate court. The appointed personal representative can then proceed in filing the wrongful death lawsuit just as they would if the victim had died with a will. If compensation is awarded, it will then be distributed to the victim’s heirs according to Florida’s intestate succession laws. 

Whether or not there is a will, an experienced personal injury attorney can provide guidance to the personal representative and your family. 

You May Be Entitled to Significant Compensation

Wrongful death suits can provide vital financial support to families who are reeling after the loss of a loved one. If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the following: 

  • Lost income in the form of the victim’s current and future earnings and benefits
  • Loss of emotional support, guidance, protection, and instruction
  • Loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering
  • Any medical expenses incurred prior to the victim’s death
  • Funeral and burial expenses

If the accident was the result of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, you may also be able to pursue a claim for punitive damages. Altogether, you may be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. A personal injury attorney will be able to provide an estimate of what your case may be worth very early in the process. 

Contact Powell, Powell & Powell if You Have Lost a Loved One Due to Someone Else’s Negligence 

If you have lost a loved one, the best time to take action is now. The sooner you get a lawyer on your side, the better your chances of building the strongest possible case. With decades of experience and a proven track record of success, the personal injury attorneys at Powell, Powell & Powell know what it takes to get results. To discuss how we can help protect your family’s future, contact us today at 850-682-2757 to schedule a free consultation.