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Wrongful Death Attorney

  • A driver looks down to send a text, and hits and kills a pedestrian in a crosswalk
  • After a nurse fails to perform proper tests, a hospital patient is left unmonitored and goes into cardiac arrest
  • While a lifeguard is talking to friends and not paying attention, a young child drowns at a community pool

These are all examples of wrongful death.

Wrongful death occurs when an individual’s death is caused by the negligent or reckless behavior of another. When someone is killed, there is obviously the impact of a tragic loss of life, but the family of the deceased also faces a host of new challenges:

  • Funeral expenses, plus any medical expenses related to the death
  • Loss of the victim’s expected earnings
  • Loss of victim’s benefits, such as medical coverage
  • Mental anguish and pain and suffering
  • Loss of protection, love, society, guidance, advice, etc., from the deceased

To seek compensation for their losses, and to find peace of mind by holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions, the loved ones of the victim may file a wrongful death claim. Usually, these claims are filed by a spouse of the deceased, or an immediate family member, like a parent or child. In some states, a distant family member, like a grandparent or sibling, may also have a right to compensation.

Dealing with a Wrongful Death?

While dealing with the loss of a loved one, you will have many responsibilities. While you may want to hold the responsible party accountable for their reckless or negligence actions, it may be hard to do so, with so much already on your plate. That is why an experienced wrongful death attorney is essential to your case. We understand that you are going through an incredibly difficult time, and are here to see you through every step of this challenging process. While you deal with the hardship of losing a loved one, let us help you find justice and compensation.

wrongful death

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes (formerly Perenich & Carroll) was founded in 1955. We are exclusively invested in helping personal injury victims — and their loved ones — win compensation and find justice. We approach every case with passion, experience, and dedication, and strive to provide the answers you need, when you need them.

If you are seeking help after a wrongful death, please contact us. We’ll see you through.

Questions & Answers

The losses or damages vary somewhat from state to state. They also are dependent upon the relationship of the survivor to the deceased. One example: a spouse is usually entitled to be compensated for the loss of the love, affection, companionship, support, and services of the deceased for the period of their joint life expectancy. Another example: a “minor” child (who might actually be in his or her twenties) is usually entitled to recover for the loss of the guidance, affection, support, and services of the deceased. In each instance the law seeks to allow compensation for the actual losses that have been experienced by each individual survivor. It is also common for the Estate to have the right to seek compensation for the loss of the prospective estate that would have accumulated had the wrongful death not intervened. Lastly, medical and funeral expenses are normally recoverable by the Estate or the survivor who has paid or is obligated to pay them.

In order to be certain that there is proper compensation for each survivor or beneficiary it is common for the governing statutes to provide that a particular category of person has this right and responsibility. In Florida, the statutes require that the Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased bring any claim and assure that the interests of each survivor are protected. The Personal Representative is frequently a spouse or parent of the deceased. In situations where no Estate is needed for probate purposes, it is necessary to open an Estate to accomplish the appointment of a Personal Representative.

The laws of each state identify the persons entitled to compensation for a wrongful death. It is common for the list of survivors (sometimes called “beneficiaries”) to include the spouse and minor children of an adult deceased. Sometimes, as in Florida, the definition of minor children includes persons older than 18. It is also common for the survivors to include the parents of a minor child deceased. Again, Florida uses an expanded definition of “minor children”. The estate of a deceased usually has rights to compensation as well. Florida and some other states also recognize the rights of relatives other than those mentioned if they were dependent upon the deceased for support or services.

Yes, there are many unique issues to confront in a claim for a Wrongful Death. First, it is obviously necessary to prove that the death was caused by the misconduct of another person or company. This can be complicated at times when other potential causes are present. An example would be the seriously ill person who is given improper medication in the hospital. In that circumstance, the defense would likely be that the death was really just the natural progression of the underlying disease or condition. Second, it is always necessary to prove the life expectancy of the deceased in order to determine what the future losses would be. This is not a major problem when the deceased was in perfect health at the time of the misconduct. But, it becomes complicated when the deceased had a life-threatening or life-shortening disease or condition. Third, it is likewise necessary to prove the life expectancy of each survivor or beneficiary. After all, the future relationship would only have existed during the period of the predicted joint life expectancy of the deceased and the survivor. Fourth, the nature of the relationship between the deceased and the survivor, in all of its relevant aspects, must be fully developed and presented. Sometimes the relationship is almost storybook perfect and sometimes it is quite different. In either event, it needs to be understood and documented in order to support the individual claim of the survivor. Fifth, much of the true loss in a wrongful death claim is non-economic or emotional in nature. This requires special skills and care in the development of the proof and in its presentation. It is a matter quite different from just permitting an injured person to describe his or her back pain. Sixth, it is mandatory that each survivor’s claims be developed and presented fairly without favoring or appearing to favor one survivor over another. This is especially true in those situations where, for example, the widow is the Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased with the responsibility to present a claim on her own behalf and another claim on behalf of a stepchild. There are many other situations that require a special effort be made to assure a fair process at every step of the claim for each survivor. These are some of the unusual issues that an experienced attorney will understand and confront in making a claim for a wrongful death. These examples demonstrate why the emphasis should be on selecting a well-qualified attorney with significant experience in wrongful death claims, negotiation, and litigation.

When a death is caused by the misconduct of another person or company it is called a “wrongful death”. The misconduct can range from an act of momentary negligence or carelessness to an intentional or reckless act. It can be the act of a single person or of a corporation, such as a drug company. The law provides for the compensation of the survivors when a wrongful death occurs, just as it provides for the compensation of a victim who has been injured by similar misconduct.

You should expect the attorney and his staff to be sensitive to your particular emotional state. This does not mean that the attorney or his staff should express condolences repeatedly during every conversation (because that may only tend to worsen your grief or sadness), but it does mean that the attorney should generally do the following: Keep initial interviews and questioning to the essentials needed from you at that particular time. Avoid assigning unpleasant tasks (such as, searching for family photographs) to you during your time of deepest sorrow. Provide assistance in making related claims (such as, life insurance claims) if necessary. Provide you with a general overview of the anticipated steps that will be taken in properly investigating and making the claim on behalf of the survivors. On a more substantive level, you should expect your attorney to be familiar with the governing statutes and cases that concern wrongful death claims. He or she should be very familiar with the categories of survivors and the rights of each category concerning compensation for losses, for example. Your attorney should be able to guide you through the requirements of the appointment of a Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased, if your state requires that this be done. He likely will engage outside counsel for the official creation of the estate, however, since the probate law and rules are extremely precise. The thorough investigation of the underlying facts that demonstrate the misconduct as well as those that prove the wrongful death occurred as a result of the misconduct would be the likely focus of your attorney almost immediately. This may involve consultation with experts with knowledge in accident reconstruction, product defects, medical malpractice, pathology, and other fields. It may require personal research by the attorney and his staff in law libraries, on the Internet, and in special databases. Your attorney should also devote considerable time to understanding and developing the losses experienced by each of the survivors. The eventual presentation of these losses in negotiation or litigation in a complete and persuasive manner is the goal. Obviously, you have the right to expect that your attorney will seek to maximize the compensation of you and all other survivors to the extent permitted by the law. If a settlement is reached your attorney has the obligation to obtain the necessary court approval (which is required in Florida) of the total sum and its distribution among the survivors. This is a critical step to assure that your rights and the rights of all survivors have been protected.

Any person who believes he or she may be a survivor or beneficiary entitled to compensation because of a wrongful death would have the right to consider starting the investigation of a potential claim. Sometimes the most logical person to investigate or start a claim, such as a widow, is not willing or able to look into the matter. In such a situation, any survivor or beneficiary should contact an attorney experienced in handling serious injury or wrongful death claims. The attorney can ascertain whether the claim would have merit and what categories of compensation would be permitted under the law. He or she would also be able to determine who should be appointed as Personal Representative of the Estate of the deceased if the Estate has not been previously opened.

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