Overview of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When a person dies in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, family members can seek compensation in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit did not exist until relatively recently, but every state now offers some kind of remedy for those left behind.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death cases are not like personal injury cases, as both result from accidents. Likewise, both require evidence of negligence or malicious intent, not simply an unavoidable mistake. The main difference is that in personal injury cases, the injured party most often files on his or her own behalf.

This is not possible in a wrongful death lawsuit, as the injured party is deceased. Rather, the purpose of this lawsuit is to compensate the surviving family members for their loss. For example, if a person is killed by a drunk driver and leaves behind a spouse and a child, the spouse must raise the child alone. The spouse could claim financial damages and, in some cases, emotional damages related to the loss of companionship.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit may only be brought by those most directly and materially impacted by the person’s death. These people are known in legal terms as the “real parties of interest,” a designation that varies greatly from state to state. The more dependent someone was on the deceased person at the time of death, the more rights they have in a wrongful death case.

  • Dependent children are entitled to a wrongful death lawsuit in all states. Likewise, parents may sue on behalf of dependent or unmarried children. Adult children may not be able to sue on behalf of their parents if they did not depend on them financially.
  • Spouses can always bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Some states afford this right to domestic partners and common law spouses.
  • Siblings and distant family members are less often entitled to compensation, but may be eligible in some cases. For example, a grandparent who raised a grandchild may have the same rights as a parent. Not all states allow this, however.
  • Others can rarely bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, some states allow a person unrelated to the deceased to seek compensation if they can prove financial damages.

How long do I have to file?

In any lawsuit, it’s important to know the statute of limitations, which is two years for wrongful death cases in the State of Florida. Usually, this means two years from the date of the incident. However, some cases of negligence, such as medical malpractice, may go unnoticed for a long time before the victim dies.

How do I get help with my case?

Wrongful death cases are often more complex than personal injury cases, and this only adds to the difficulties grieving families are facing. But if you’ve lost a loved one in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated.

Contact our offices for a free consultation, and we’ll help ease the pain of a wrongful death case. Don’t try to do it alone – let us help you today!