Unintentional injuries are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and often become the basis of wrongful death lawsuits.
Losing a loved one—such as a parent, spouse, sibling, or child—can be a traumatic experience, wreaking enormous havoc on the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of those who are left to mourn the loss.
The loss of a loved one can also have financial consequences, leaving family members with significant difficulties moving forward as they navigate the trauma of losing a loved one and the effects of that loss on their livelihood. Parents who have lost their child may also experience unique difficulties, facing strains in relationships and having significant trouble attending to their own needs while grieving.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to the reckless or negligent behavior of another person, business, or institution—you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible.
You may have a limited time to file a lawsuit, depending on the statute of limitations for wrongful death in your state. Speaking to an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you determine your legal options and provide access to reliable and compassionate legal representation in seeking justice for your loss.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe death that has occurred due to the negligence of another party.
Negligence refers to reckless or careless action or inaction, such as an employer failing to adopt proper safety precautions in the workplace, or a medical professional misdiagnosing an illness—resulting in fatal consequences.
Wrongful death differs from murder in that the latter is committed with an intention to harm, whereas wrongful death is unintentional or an indirect cause of fatal injury.
Surviving loved ones of individuals who have suffered wrongful death—such as siblings, parents, children, and spouses—are eligible to take legal action against the liable party, with proof of the other party’s negligence.
Common situations of wrongful death that may require a lawyer include:
- medical malpractice
- motor vehicle accidents
- 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
- nursing home negligence
There are a variety of contexts and settings in which negligent action or inaction can lead to the wrongful death of one or more individuals. These can be further influenced by environmental factors, and certain populations may be at higher risk for fatal injuries than others.
However, the likelihood of wrongful death is highly circumstantial and can vary based on the cause of death, personal circumstances, and other unpredictable factors. The most common situations of wrongful death involve medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, and workplace fatalities.
Healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, go through intensive training to reach their position in the workforce. However, accidents do still happen—and these can be influenced by a variety of personal and contextual factors.
When these accidents lead to injury or fatal consequences, however, the question of negligence is likely to come into play—particularly if the death was unexpected, or there’s strong evidence to support that the cause of death was due to medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice refers to careless or negligent behavior in a medical setting that results in preventable injury or death. These medical errors account for as many as 251,000 deaths in the United States annually.
Common causes of wrongful death in medical settings include:
- birth injury
- maternal complications during the labor or delivery process
- pharmaceutical drug errors
- surgical errors
- delayed or improper treatment
- defective medical devices
Product liability refers to a subcategory of personal injury law that deals with injuries caused by defective products or services. The three main types of product liability cases are manufacturing errors, design errors, and marketing defects.
When a product or service is defective, or in violation of consumer protection laws, and consequently results in the injury or death of an individual, all parties involved in the manufacturing or sales process are subject to be held liable for the injury. This includes product manufacturers, retailers, and distributors.
Common situations where a defective product may lead to wrongful death include:
- defective drugs
- defective appliances
- tainted or contaminated foods
- inadequate drug warning labels
- defective automobile parts
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,250 total occupational fatalities across the country in 2018. Workplace accidents commonly become the subject of worker’s compensation claims and other personal injury claims—but perhaps more devastating are situations in which an accident at work leads to the wrongful death of an employee.
Transportation incidents remain the most frequent cause of workplace-related deaths, with other common causes of workplace deaths including falls, incidents involving machinery, slips, and exposure to harmful environments or substances. Depending on the circumstances, an employer—or other employees involved in the fatal accident—may be held liable for workplace fatalities.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
An estimated 38,800 individuals lost their lives as a result of traffic collisions in the U.S. in 2019, according to the National Safety Council. These numbers include drivers of motor vehicles, passengers, as well as cyclists and pedestrians involved in vehicle collisions.
Speeding, failing to properly signal, driving under the influence, and distracted driving are all common causes of vehicle fatalities that can become proof of negligence in wrongful death cases.
The primary element that must be present in a wrongful death case is proof of fault, which can establish the negligence of the party responsible—be it another driver, motorcyclist, or an entity such as the government, if the cause of death can be linked to poorly maintained road conditions or another cause for which local authorities can be held liable.
Elements Of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Not every death of a loved one, even under suspicious circumstances, can necessarily be tried for wrongful death. Wrongful death lawsuits comprise several key elements that are subject to be investigated and confirmed by an experienced wrongful death lawyer.
The concept of negligence is a key element of all wrongful death cases.
Loved ones must be able to prove:
- another party exhibited negligent or reckless behavior (includes action or inaction)
- the other party’s negligence directly resulted in fatal injury of the decedent
- monetary injury suffered by the surviving loved one(s) as a result of their loss
In medical malpractice suits, for instance, plaintiffs must be able to prove that the party responsible 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 inform the U.S. government of discovered dangers associated with the use of their products. Failing to do so may result in liability for resulting injury or death.
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
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 act that caused the fatal accident to file a lawsuit against the liable party.
Some states also have what’s known as a “discovery rule” which bases the deadline for taking legal action on the date that the loved one discovered the cause of the injury. A lawyer can explain to you the laws and statute of limitations that apply in your state.
In certain cases, the statute of limitations for wrongful death may be reduced to one year, with additional exceptions in some states for minors, individuals with disability, or cases involving fraud or intentional acts.
Awarded Damages In Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The impact of losing a loved one on the family, friends, and partners they leave behind is undeniable. When you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another party, filing a lawsuit is the primary way in which you can seek compensation to recover or otherwise compensate for emotional and financial losses.
Eligible surviving loved ones who decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit are eligible to recover certain damages, including:
- value of the loss of 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
- medical expenses related to the fatal injury of your loved one
Punitive damages, which are damages meant to punish or otherwise discourage the defendant from engaging in future negligent behavior, may also be awarded by a court on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to damages that may be recovered by eligible surviving loved ones, additional damages can be awarded to individuals based on their relationship to the deceased.
Not all “loved ones” can bring a wrongful death suit. In Florida, a spouse, child, or parent of a decedent can bring a wrongful death claim. Blood and legally adopted relatives can bring a claim if they can show they were financially dependent on the decedent.
Surviving spouses may be eligible to file for several additional damages based on the unique nature of the relationship to the deceased, including: loss of companionship and pain and suffering costs (including mental anguish).
Minor children of the deceased may be eligible to recover additional damages that include: 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 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, particularly when you’re up against a powerful individual or company, can be difficult without seasoned legal representation. If you believe your loved one suffered fatal injury at the fault of another party but are unsure how to prove your case, it’s 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, and consult with other relevant professionals to confirm the legitimacy of your case and help you seek justice for your loved one’s loss.
Wrongful death lawyers can also:
- collect witness statements
- gather relevant medical records
- provide reliable legal guidance throughout each step of the litigation process
- fight for fair compensation on your behalf
- use their expertise to secure the highest possible settlement based on the extent of your losses and other details of your case
- negotiate with insurance companies and other involved parties on your behalf
Wrongful Death Lawyers Serving The U.S.
With several law offices across the country, Florin|Roebig has been recognized as one of America’s top law firms, with specialized experience in handling small- and large-scale personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Our lawyers have secured over $1billion for clients nationwide and are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to effectively advocate for individuals who have been unlawfully harmed.
Our team of dedicated wrongful death lawyers include:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Michael L. Walker, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Find A Wrongful Death Lawyer Near You
The wrongful death lawyers of Florin|Roebig are committed to helping surviving spouses and family members seek justice for the unexpected and wrongful death of loved ones. Our lawyers are capable of serving clients out of our office locations in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligent or reckless behavior of another party, you are entitled to compensation. Our lawyers are ready to hear your story and help you secure compensation based on the extent of your losses. We understand how painful this process can be for loved ones and work diligently to ensure you are not forced to endure any unnecessary duress or pain.
Don’t wait to begin filing your lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our top-rated wrongful death lawyers to share your story and learn your legal options.