Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Attorney
Assisting survivors after the accidental death of a loved one
Losing a loved one in a fatal accident caused by the negligence, wrongful acts or substandard care of others is one of the most devastating experiences for surviving family members. During your time of grief, it may be difficult to consider the benefits of legal action, but a wrongful death lawsuit can provide the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.
At Boone & Davis, Attorneys at Law, our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys provide compassionate, accessible and reliable representation for surviving family members who have lost loved ones because of the carelessness of others. With their more than 40 years of experience, our lawyers provide comprehensive support in your time of need, helping you recover compensation ranging from funeral costs to loss of income or benefits to your own mental suffering.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, survivors may sue to recover compensation for the death of a loved one when by a wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract, or warranty of any other kind, a person or company causes the death. As long as the deceased could have sued for personal injury damages had they lived, then the negligent person may be held liable for damages. Only certain survivors may sue to recover compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one, such as:
- Any blood relatives or adopted siblings who were partly or totally dependent on the deceased for support or services
- Certain children born out of wedlock
What causes most wrongful deaths?
Our clients can sue whenever the defendant’s negligence or wrongful act led to the death of a loved one. In our experience, we see many wrongful death cases stemming from:
- Car wrecks
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Dog attacks
- Premises liability claims, such as falls
- Negligent security
- Violent crime
As you can see, wrongful deaths can be either intentional or unintentional. The majority are probably unintentional accidents, like car and truck accidents, but a violent crime will also qualify. Even reckless acts, which fit somewhere between intentional and unintentional conduct, can also support a wrongful death claim in Florida.
If a loved one has died, meet with a lawyer just to review the circumstances surrounding the death. Some people have no idea why a loved one passed, but a little digging sometimes reveals suspicious information that warrants an even closer look.
What compensation is available in wrongful death actions?
Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the personal representative of the deceased, who recovers compensation for the benefit of the survivors and the estate. Depending on the specific circumstances, our wrongful death lawyers assist family members in recovering compensation for a broad range of losses, including:
- Loss of support and services
- Future loss of support and services
- Spouse’s loss of companionship and protection
- Children’s loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance, and for mental pain and suffering
- Mental pain and suffering of the survivors since the date of the injury
- Medical or funeral expenses
The estate of the deceased may also recover additional damages, such as:
- Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of the injury to the date of death
- Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate
- Medical or funeral expenses paid by the estate
How much will we receive in a wrongful death lawsuit?
The amount of compensation our clients can receive will differ dramatically depending on the circumstances. For example, if your 35-year-old husband died, then the family has lost out on 30 or more years of wages and benefits. That is a substantial sum of money. By contrast, if your husband was in his 60s when he died, then the earning potential is likely much lower. Other relevant factors include your loved one’s education, work history, and salary at death.
Trying to figure out how much you are likely to receive is difficult, which is why we recommend meeting with a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney. Because many clients can receive compensation for emotional harms, we want to document those as fully as possible. For example, we might want evidence to show that a child was very close with his deceased father.
Ultimately, there is no “average” settlement amount that is meaningful for all clients. At Boone & Davis, we will carefully review the full case file to figure out a fair amount of compensation for you and your loved ones. Then we employ a negotiation and litigation strategy to achieve just that.
How long do I have to sue for wrongful death in Florida?
Florida statutes of limitations restrict the time you have to sue for the accidental death of a family member. In most cases, such as a fatal car accident, medical malpractice that results in the death of a patient or a catastrophic injury accident that ultimately results in the death of the victim, you must sue within two years. If more than two years passes, you may lose your right to sue for compensation for the loss of your loved one.
If you have suffered a personal injury but did not lose a loved one, you may have up to four years to sue. In certain cases, such as if you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a cruise ship accident, the statute of limitations is only one year.
These are hard deadlines. We have seen many grieving family members run to the courthouse after the deadline has passed, only to watch as the judge dismisses the case at the request of the defendant. Without the ability to sue, many people find that it is impossible to negotiate a settlement, and they end up with no compensation.
In any case, it is important to act quickly to preserve essential evidence and witness testimony that may otherwise be lost, destroyed or impaired. Contact our experienced Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys today.
Why doesn’t the local prosecutor file this claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action for money damages. It is not a criminal prosecution. Admittedly, some crimes (like murder or DWI) can also give rise to civil lawsuits. But the civil and criminal courts have different purposes. In the civil court, the goal is to compensate victims for their losses—here, family members who have lost a loved one. In criminal court, the goal is to punish the defendant and deter him (and others) from committing similar bad acts.
There are key differences between a wrongful death civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution. One obvious difference is who files the lawsuit. As mentioned above, the estate’s personal representative files a civil suit. A prosecutor, as representative of the community, brings criminal charges.
Another difference is the evidentiary standard. In a civil lawsuit, defendants are liable if the evidence shows they more likely than not caused or contributed to the death. This “more likely than not” standard is called “preponderance of the evidence.” In a criminal case, by contrast, a defendant can only be found guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt—a much higher standard.
Some conduct might not rise to the level of a criminal offense, even if it supports a wrongful death claim. For example, the defendant might have been merely negligent. Imagine someone who backs up in a parking lot without checking all their mirrors and ends up running over a person. That’s enough to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. But a prosecutor might not charge homicide or manslaughter unless the defendant’s conduct was more culpable.
If there is an ongoing criminal trial, then consider when to file your lawsuit with an attorney. There are advantages to waiting for the criminal process to play out. For example, we might gain access to high-quality evidence which connects the defendant to your loved one’s death. Waiting can prove beneficial when litigating or negotiating. In other situations, however, you might want to file your civil case immediately. A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney knows more about the right strategy to take depending on your facts.
What is negligent suicide prevention?
Medical professionals have a duty to provide patients with a level of care, skill and treatment that is recognized as acceptable and appropriate, given the circumstances, by reasonably prudent and similarly situated healthcare providers. When a breach of this duty of care results in injury or death to the patient, including the patient’s own suicide, the medical professional may be held responsible for wrongful death resulting from their malpractice. If your loved one’s psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or other party was negligent in preventing a suicide, our firm is fully prepared to be of assistance. Gaining access to medical records of this sort is hard, especially for lay people. Some doctors and hospitals only turn them over reluctantly, perhaps after receiving a court order. The records received might be incomplete or conflicting with other evidence. Let a seasoned wrongful death attorney in Fort Lauderdale obtain the evidence needed to make a claim and review it carefully.
What evidence is helpful in a wrongful death case?
The evidence really depends on the facts and circumstances of the death. In many ways, a wrongful death claim is like other personal injury cases. If your loved one died in a car accident, for example, we need to prove that the other driver was negligent or reckless. We would rely on much the same evidence as we would if your loved one had survived the wreck and brought the lawsuit herself.
Speaking generally, many wrongful death cases turn on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence. If your loved one died in a slip and fall, then we might seek out surveillance video which captured the incident. If your loved one died after receiving improper medical treatment, we will probably rely on medical records to help piece back together what happened.
One disadvantage with wrongful death cases is that the deceased is no longer with us to tell us what happened. Witnesses might also not have seen anything, or the defendant is the only witness. For this reason, our lawyers double down and seek all available information to help us tell the story of your loved one’s final days.
Which wrongful death attorney in Fort Lauderdale is right for you?
There are literally hundreds of personal injury attorneys in south Florida who could represent you and your family in a wrongful death lawsuit. What should you look for when choosing one? This is an important decision, and we encourage everyone to approach the process deliberatively.
We highly recommend hiring an experienced attorney. Wrongful death cases are much more difficult than your ordinary fender bender claim. Wrongful death attorneys often end up working with expert witnesses, including medical experts, and not every firm is positioned to find credible experts to present in court. When interviewing lawyers, ask how many wrongful death cases they have handled.
Your attorney should also have experience litigating cases before a judge and jury. Not every wrongful death case gets settled. In fact, there are often strong incentives which push parties to go to court—the large amount of money at stake being one of them. The attorney you hire must understand the intricacies of litigation to effectively seek compensation.
Also trust your gut when choosing an attorney. You should have faith in the lawyer’s skill and ability to communicate with you about the case. Remember, the client should make critical decisions in a case, such as whether to settle. And you can only make meaningful choices if your legal counsel communicates important information to you.
Seek caring, compassionate representation from skilled Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys
For more than 40 years, our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys at Boone & Davis, Attorneys at Law have helped families in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and throughout the state of Florida recover compensation for fatal accidents caused by negligence that result in the death of their loved one. To speak with our seasoned attorneys today, contact us online or call us at 954-566-9919 for a free initial consultation. There is no obligation, and our firm charges no fees until we recover for you.