Riverview Wrongful Death Law Firm
Tragically, in some cases, the personal injury suffered by an accident victim is fatal. Statistics vary, but is estimated that between 100,000 to 150,000 people in the United States lose their life each year as a result of preventable fatal accidents. About 37,000 of these wrongful death accidents are auto accidents and another 6,000 fatal accidents were pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents.
“Wrongful Death” is legal term used to describe personal injury cases in which the victim of the accident or intentional act loses his or her life. “Wrongful death” is used in the context of “civil” cases. Civil cases are the kind lawsuits in which one party is suing another person for money. Civil cases are contrasted with “criminal” cases in which the government prosecutes individuals for crimes. Wrongful death fatal accidents are often caused by auto accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, drowning, gas explosions, boat accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, workplace injuries, and defective products and drugs. In some cases the person who is at fault in an accident will both be prosecuted as a criminal and sued in civil court.
We take great care in choosing our words when describing a wrongful death accident because we understand that the audience reading this page may have recently lost a loved one. Our mere words cannot serve to do anything but educate the family and friends of the wrongful death victim about their legal rights. But, we know from seeing it first hand that losing a loved one due to the negligence or carelessness of another individual is a particularly difficult family tragedy. That the spouse, child, brother, sister, mother, or father was lost because someone else wasn’t paying attention or was being reckless, taints the family’s hurt and despair with a sense of helplessness and a desire for justice. The Frank Santini Law Firm helps families get that justice. Our Riverview wrongful death lawyers take great pride in serving clients and are here to help handle wrongful death lawsuits across Tampa Bay and all of Florida.
There is a sad truth to wrongful death lawsuits in Riverview, Brandon and throughout Florida. The goal of the Tampa Bay wrongful death lawsuit is money. Managing Partner Frank Santini lost a loved one to a wrongful death and knows all too well that mere monetary compensation can hardly “compensate” the family of a wrongful death victim. Yet, in 2019, that is the reality of our legal system and as paltry as financial compensation seems after losing the love of your life, it does, at the very least, provide financial security for the family of the deceased. Depending on one’s moral compass, it may seem to some folks out there that the negligent party who caused the wrongful death would desire to make amends in the only way the law allows and freely pay the bereaved for the loss he or she caused. Typically, however, it is the negligent driver or negligent store or negligent company’s insurance company that makes the decision about whether the wrongful death victim’s family will receive adequate compensation for their loss. As one can imagine, the insurance company for the negligent person or company does not have you or your family’s best interests in mind.
That is why it is critical that the family of the wrongful death victim retain our Riverview attorneys to help them deal with the insurance company and all the crushing details, arguments, and paperwork that will inevitably arise after a tragic accident. More often than not, the insurance company for the at-fault party does not come to the table with an offer that is appropriate to compensate the victim’s family. In those cases where a wrongful death settlement is not possible, then a lawsuit must be filed.
Florida wrongful death lawsuits tend to be very complicated. Legal issues that are typically straightforward like who can actually bring the lawsuit become more nuanced when the victim of the accident has passed away. The important evidence that can prove the negligence of the party who caused the death of your loved one can be fleeting, so it becomes vital to have the right wrongful death attorneys, experts and doctors on your side to preserve the evidence for your case. On the topic of experts, for instance, depending on the nature of the wrongful death accident, an expensive accident reconstruction expert may need to be hired by the wrongful death attorney. The bottom line is when you have a Brandon wrongful death attorney on your side, it will give you the ammunition to fight all parties who were responsible for the fatal accident.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Florida?
Many wrongful death cases can be settled without going to court, but, nevertheless, tens of thousands of wrongful lawsuits are filed in court each year because insurance companies fail to offer fair compensation to the families of wrongful death victims. The process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Tampa has significant differences from a typical personal injury case. When your loved one has lost his or her life, the courts require the “Estate of” the deceased to file the lawsuit. Using this word “Estate” is a legal term for the Court to make sure everything is handled fairly for the victim’s family. Think of the “Estate” as an imaginary box where all of the deceased’s belongings and money goes to be held until the Court decides which family member(s) will receive them. Put another way, this “Estate” language is the mechanism by which the Courts can ensure that the victim’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings will receive compensation if they win the wrongful death lawsuit.
For example, if John Doe is killed in a motorcycle accident, the “Estate of John Doe” will be on the Complaint that is filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court or whatever county in which the motorcycle accident happened. Not all of a deceased family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, it will depend on each individual case. For instance, if the wrongful death victim was married at the time of the accident, the spouse and children, if any, can bring a wrongful death law suit and receive compensation. If a minor child is tragically killed in a wrongful death accident, the parents will bring the lawsuit and receive compensation. If an unmarried adult with no children is the wrongful death victim, often a sibling will be the beneficiary. A big piece of the analysis as to who can bring a wrongful death case and who will receive the money from a wrongful death case is whether the deceased had completed some “Estate” planning before the accident. The most well known piece of paper for estate planning is the last will and testament or “Will.” In a Will, there will be a paragraph that names a “Personal Representative of the Estate.” This will be the person who is in charge of bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, although in reality that personal representative will hire a wrongful death attorney to represent the personal representative and the estate in the wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Damages: How Much Money does the Family get for a Wrongful Death?
Every personal injury case and wrongful death case must have two things: (1) liability and (2) damages. Liability means, in the most basic sense, was the accident someone else’s fault? You cannot sue if you were totally at fault in an accident, but, keep in mind, if a client was only partially at fault and someone else was partially at fault, too, then the client may have a personal injury or wrongful death case, though their compensation will be reduced by the percentage they were themselves at fault.
Damages in a personal injury case, on the other hand, means that there was some significant injury or death. In wrongful death cases, the “damages” element is always satisfied. So, assuming, that the wrongful death victim was not at fault in the accident, the question becomes how much money is the deceased’s family entitled to receive. There is no straightforward answer as to how much money the family will receive in a wrongful death case, but let’s take a hypothetical example. A 27 year-old man is riding his motorcycle and is struck by another vehicle and killed. Assuming it was the other driver’s fault, the spouse and children of the motorcyclist have a wrongful death case to bring against the at-fault driver. There are certain obvious expenses that the other driver is responsible for like medical expenses, funeral, etc. But what about the gaping financial void left in the wrongful death motorcycle victim’s family? Let’s say he was making $90,000/yr in a good job. The wrongful death attorney will hire financial experts to determine how much money the deceased would have made for the rest of his working life. Without even taking into account inflation, pay raises and many other factors, assuming a retirement age of 67, the deceased could have anticipated forty more years of making at least $90K/yr – that is $3.6 million dollars. This number does not even take into account compensation for pain and suffering, the wife’s loss of companionship, the children’ loss of their father, and several other damages components. Again, keep in mind this is a fictional hypothetical example, but we write to educate the families of wrongful death victims on a basic analysis of how courts examine these kinds of cases.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations: How long do I have to Sue for a Wrongful Death Accident?
In Florida, you generally have two (2) years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That means, for example, if the victim died on November 29, 2017, you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit by November 28, 2019. There are almost NO exceptions to this rule and failing to meet the deadline will usually mean you will not be entitled to any compensation. The law does not care if you were entitled to $10 million dollars or two dollars, the statute of limitations law are extremely strict.
What is Best Way to get a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Many clients are naturally attracted to the idea of a wrongful death settlement because it is much faster than going through years of litigation and a trial. It is true that many wrongful death cases settle quickly and our Riverview wrongful death attorneys and co-counsel firms make every effort to settle cases fast. But every family must be prepared for the possibility that the insurance company for the negligent driver or company will not be fair and accommodating. In those circumstances, it is important to have aggressive litigators on your side that are not afraid to take your case to court. In the end, it always up to you, the client, as to whether to settle a case or not, or bring a case to court or not. Our wrongful death attorneys and our co-counsel wrongful death law firms put your interests first no matter what.
The Frank Santini Law Firm’s Riverview wrongful death attorneys handle cases throughout Tampa Bay and Florida. If you think you have a wrongful death case or just have a question about a wrongful death, feel free to call us anytime for a free consultation – (813) 445-6121.