Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and often become the basis for wrongful death lawsuits. Losing a loved one, whether it’s a parent, spouse, sibling, or child, can have a devastating impact on the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of those left behind. It can also bring about financial hardships as families navigate the trauma of loss and its effects on their livelihoods. Parents who have lost a child may face additional challenges, such as strained relationships and difficulties in caring for themselves while grieving.
If you have lost a loved one due to the reckless or negligent actions of another person, business, or institution, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. It’s important to understand that there may be a limited time frame within which you can file the lawsuit, depending on the statute of limitations for wrongful death in your state. Consulting with an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your legal options and provide you with compassionate legal representation to seek justice for your loss.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used when a person dies due to the negligence of another party. Negligence refers to reckless or careless actions or inaction that result in fatal consequences. It’s important to note that wrongful death differs from murder, as the latter is committed with the intention to harm, while wrongful death is unintentional or an indirect cause of fatal injury.
Family members who have lost loved ones due to wrongful death, such as siblings, parents, children, and spouses, have the right to take legal action against the party responsible by providing proof of negligence.
Common situations that may require the expertise of a wrongful death lawyer include medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, fires, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, construction accidents, boating accidents, unintentional falls, workplace accidents, defective medical devices, defective products, dangerous drugs, accidental poisoning and overdose, daycare accidents, birthing complications, negligent security, and nursing home negligence. Negligent actions or inaction can occur in various settings and contexts, and certain populations may be at higher risk for fatal injuries than others.
Healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, undergo extensive training to fulfill their roles. However, accidents can still occur, influenced by various personal and contextual factors. When these accidents result in injury or death, questions of negligence arise, especially if the death was unexpected or if there is strong evidence supporting medical malpractice as the cause.
Medical malpractice refers to careless or negligent behavior in a medical setting that leads to preventable injury or death. Shockingly, these medical errors account for as many as 251,000 deaths in the United States each year.
Common causes of wrongful death in medical settings include birth injuries, maternal complications during labor or delivery, misdiagnosis, pharmaceutical drug errors, surgical errors, delayed or improper treatment, and defective medical devices.
Product liability is a subcategory of personal injury law that deals with injuries caused by defective products or services. There are three main types of product liability cases: manufacturing errors, design errors, and marketing defects.
When a product or service is defective or violates consumer protection laws, and subsequently leads to injury or death, all parties involved in the manufacturing or sales process may be held liable. This includes manufacturers, retailers, and distributors.
Common situations where a defective product may result in wrongful death include defective drugs, defective appliances, tainted or contaminated foods, inadequate drug warning labels, and defective automobile parts.
In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 5,250 occupational fatalities across the country. Workplace accidents often lead to worker’s compensation claims and personal injury claims. However, accidents resulting in the wrongful death of an employee are even more devastating.
Transportation incidents remain the most frequent cause of workplace-related deaths, followed by falls, incidents involving machinery, slips, exposure to harmful environments or substances, and other causes. Depending on the circumstances, an employer or other employees involved in the fatal accident may be held liable for workplace fatalities.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In 2019, an estimated 38,800 individuals lost their lives in traffic collisions in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council. These numbers encompass drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians involved in vehicle collisions.
Speeding, failure to properly signal, driving under the influence, and distracted driving are common causes of vehicle fatalities, which can serve as proof of negligence in wrongful death cases.
The primary element in a wrongful death case is proof of fault, which establishes the negligence of the responsible party. This can be another driver, a motorcyclist, or an entity such as the government if the cause of death can be linked to poorly maintained road conditions or other causes for which local authorities can be held liable.
Elements Of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Not every suspicious death can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits consist of several key elements that need to be investigated and confirmed by an experienced lawyer.
The concept of negligence is a crucial element in all wrongful death cases. Loved ones must be able to prove that another party exhibited negligent or reckless behavior (includes action or inaction) and that this negligence directly resulted in the fatal injury of the deceased. Additionally, they must demonstrate the monetary injury suffered by the surviving loved ones as a result of their loss.
In medical malpractice suits, for instance, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the responsible party breached standards of care or neglected their duty of care. Manufacturing companies, such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, are also required to adhere to consumer protection laws and report discovered dangers associated with their products. Failure to do so may result in liability for resulting injury or death.
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The deadlines for filing wrongful death lawsuits, known as the statute of limitations, vary by state. In many states, loved ones have up to two years from the date of the fatal accident to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.
Some states have a “discovery rule,” where the deadline depends on when the loved one discovered the cause of the injury. It’s essential to consult a lawyer who can explain the laws and statutes of limitations specific to your state.
In certain cases, the statute of limitations for wrongful death may be reduced to one year. Additionally, there may be exceptions for minors, individuals with disabilities, or cases involving fraud or intentional acts.
The Top Three Biggest Wrongful Death Lawsuits of the Last Five Years
The Helicopter Crash Involving Kobe Bryant (2020): One of the most widely publicized accidents in recent years, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash. The families of some victims filed wrongful death lawsuits against Island Express Helicopters, the company that owned and operated the aircraft. These suits alleged that the company was negligent in various ways, including allowing the flight to proceed in dangerous weather conditions. In such tragic and high-profile cases, experienced wrongful death attorneys guide families through evidence gathering, proving negligence, and seeking just compensation.
The Duck Boat Tragedy in Missouri (2018): Seventeen people lost their lives when a “Ride the Ducks” boat sank in a Missouri lake during a severe thunderstorm. Numerous wrongful death lawsuits were filed against the tour company, alleging that they ignored weather warnings and failed to provide adequate safety measures for passengers. Wrongful death attorneys play a crucial role in these situations by identifying liable parties, demonstrating negligence, and ensuring that the victims’ families receive appropriate compensation.
The Surfside Condo Collapse in Florida (2021): The partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida led to the death of 98 individuals. Multiple wrongful death lawsuits were filed against the condominium association, alleging that they failed to properly maintain the building and ignored warnings about structural issues. Wrongful death attorneys help victims’ families navigate complex litigation involving a large number of victims, shared liability issues, and extensive investigations into building practices and regulations.
Awarded Damages In Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Losing a loved one has significant emotional and financial impacts on the family, friends, and partners left behind. When you experience the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another party, filing a lawsuit is the primary way to seek compensation and recover from emotional and financial losses.
Eligible surviving loved ones who file a wrongful death lawsuit may recover damages, such as the value of lost support or services from the date of the injury (with interest), projected value of future losses (including loss of earning capacity), funeral and burial costs, and medical expenses related to the fatal injury.
On a case-by-case basis, punitive damages may be awarded by a court. These damages aim to punish or discourage the defendant from engaging in future negligent behavior.
In addition to the damages that eligible surviving loved ones may recover, additional damages can be awarded based on the relationship to the deceased.
Not all loved ones can file a wrongful death suit. In Florida, a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased can bring a wrongful death claim. Blood and legally adopted relatives can also bring a claim if they can demonstrate financial dependence on the decedent.
Surviving spouses may be eligible to receive additional damages based on the unique nature of their relationship with the deceased. These damages may include compensation for loss of companionship and pain and suffering costs, including mental anguish.
Minor children of the deceased may be eligible for additional damages, which can include compensation for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of guidance, instruction, and parental companionship.
Each parent of a deceased minor child is eligible to sue for individual pain and suffering costs from the date of the injury. Parents of deceased adult children may be able to sue for mental pain and suffering if there are no other surviving loved ones.
Do I Need To Hire A Lawyer To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Proving wrongful death, especially when going up against powerful individuals or corporations, can be challenging without experienced legal representation. If you believe your loved one suffered a fatal injury due to the fault of another party but are unsure how to prove your case, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
A wrongful death lawyer can evaluate the details of your case, conduct an investigation into your loved one’s death, consult with relevant professionals, and help you seek justice for your loss.
Wrongful death lawyers can collect witness statements, gather relevant medical records, provide reliable legal guidance throughout the litigation process, fight for fair compensation on your behalf, secure the highest possible settlement based on the extent of your losses and case details, and negotiate with insurance companies and other involved parties.
Wrongful Death Lawyers Serving The U.S.
With multiple law offices across the country, Florin|Roebig has established itself as one of America’s top law firms, specializing in small- and large-scale personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Our team of dedicated wrongful death lawyers, including Wil H. Florin, B.C.S., Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S., Chase P. Florin, B.C.S., Shaun M. Cummings, Luca G. Esposito, Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M., Michael A. Ossi, O.C., Lawrence J. Najem, O.C., Andrew M. Leone, O.C., and Nollys R. Solarte, O.C., has secured over $1 billion for clients nationwide. Equipped with knowledge, skills, and resources, our lawyers advocate for individuals who have suffered unlawful harm.
Our wrongful death lawyers are ready to listen to your story and help you secure compensation based on the extent of your losses. We understand the pain experienced by loved ones in such situations and work diligently to ensure you are not subjected to any unnecessary duress or pain.
Don’t wait to start filing your lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our top-rated wrongful death lawyers. Share your story and learn about your legal options.