The Basics of Wrongful Death
At its core, the concept of “wrongful death” might seem relatively simple. Defined as “when someone dies due to the fault of another person or entity’s recklessness or negligence,” wrongful death essentially refers to any death that likely would not have naturally occurred if not for the actions of another person.
The Many Faces of Wrongful Death
But when you really think about it, this definition can refer to many, many situations. Take these examples:
- While a lifeguard chats with their friends, a young child drowns in a community pool
- A texting driver runs through a red light, striking and killing a pedestrian in the crosswalk
- Even though a patron is clearly intoxicated, a bartender continues to serve her alcoholic drinks; when the drunk patrons gets in her car to drive home, she causes an accident that kills another driver
- Relentlessly bullied at school, a middle school student kills himself
- A nurse accidentally writes down the wrong number when prescribing morphine to a patient, leading to a fatal overdose
While these examples concern many different areas of personal injury law, all these cases might also fall under wrongful death.
Coping After a Wrongful Death
When someone dies in a sudden or unexpected manner, it has a serious impact on their loved ones. Along with coping with the loss of someone special, surviving family members or loved ones might also be confronted with financial challenges, such as:
- Funeral expenses
- Any medical expenses related to the death
- Loss of the victim’s income and expected earnings
- Loss of the victim’s benefits, like medical coverage
If the victim was the main source of income for the family, the surviving family members might suddenly be scrambling to make ends meet, or might be unable to pay for funeral expenses. When paired with grief and loss, financial troubles can lead to an incredibly distressing situation.
This is one of the reasons why the loved ones of a decreased person might file a wrongful death claim. Not only do they want to hold someone accountable for their loved one’s death, but winning compensation can also help them get through tough financial times, allowing them to focus on their grief and recovery instead of medical bills or insurance disputes.
Who Can File a Claim?
However, not just anyone can file a wrongful death suit. While many people may be affected by a wrongful death, the ability to sue is generally reserved for immediate family members. This includes spouses, children (both biological and adopted) and if the deceased was unmarried, their parents.
On the other hand, some states allow non-immediate family members or other affected parties to sue. In some states, non-immediate family members, which including siblings and grandparents, can file a wrongful death claim, and some allow life or domestic partners to file a claim on behalf on their decreased partner. Other times, anyone who suffered financially as a result of the wrongful death can file a claim.
Who can file a wrongful death claim really varies from state to state. In Florida, the people who may sue for a wrongful death include:
- Children, including biological and adopted children, and in some cases, children born out of wedlock
- Dependent blood relatives, like a sibling
Along with determining who is able to file a claim, another factor that complicates wrongful death cases is the statute of limitations. This refers to the time frame in which someone is able to file a lawsuit. In Florida, for example, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. So if an eligible party wants to hold someone accountable for the death and win compensation, they have two years to file a claim. After that, they lose the ability to sue.
While the concept of wrongful death might seem simple, the complications of filing a claim—and the emotional and financial burden—can be anything but easy! But with the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney, no one has to be fully alone through this complex process.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.