Ocala Wrongful Death Lawyer
No personal injury case is more serious and heartbreaking than those that deal with a wrongful death. Regardless of the exact facts or circumstances behind the death, if another party is responsible they can be sued in civil court.
An Ocala wrongful death lawyer can help the family of the deceased to pursue the responsible parties for damages. While this compensation can never make a family whole again, it can provide some financial stability for the future. With this in mind, if you have been impacted by the death of a loved one due to the negligence of another person consult with the experienced injury attorneys at our firm to discuss your case.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
Not every unexpected death may necessitate or be legally eligible for a lawsuit. Deaths caused by natural causes, accidents where the decedent was at fault, or acts of God are all examples of cases where there is no potential defendant. A simple way to look at the issue is to ask: “Would the decedent still be alive if not for the acts of another?”
A wrongful death can occur from any of the instances that would otherwise result in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, severe car and truck accidents can result in fatal injuries.
The same can be said for a slip and fall case. A plaintiff or their Ocala wrongful death lawyer needs to show that the property owner improperly cared for their land and the resulting injuries resulted in a death.
Regardless of the specific cause, the litigation process would be similar to any other personal injury suit where the plaintiff survived, in that it would be generally based around proving the defendant was negligent through either action or inaction.
Initial Process of the Case
Wrongful death is different from other personal injury cases because a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida needs to be filed within two years from the date of death, unlike other personal injury cases where the statute of limitations is four years. Florida law also requires that the personal representative of the deceased party’s estate file the wrongful death claim.
It is important for the personal representative of the deceased party’s estate to contact a lawyer immediately following the wrongful death. An Ocala wrongful death case process will begin when the attorney and the personal representative have an appointment. The lawyer will then investigate the liability of the defendant and review medical records, as well as other evidence regarding the cause of the deceased’s death.
The evidence that is gathered in a wrongful death case is different from the evidence collected in other personal injury cases. In wrongful death cases, one of the most important issues surrounds the death of the decedent and the cause of their death. It is important to gather as much evidence as possible—from medical records to statements from medical providers and any individuals that are able to give an opinion as to cause of the decedent’s death. The attorney may also take pictures of the scene of the accident and talk to witnesses.
Length of a Wrongful Death Case
A wrongful death case is completed once the case is settled or a verdict is reached. The court must approve the settlement and all disbursements that are paid to the beneficiaries of the estate.
The length of a wrongful death case from start to finish depends on the facts of the specific case. If there are any issues surrounding liability of the defendant for the cause of the decedent’s death, it may take longer to resolve than a case where there are clear liability and causation regarding the decedent’s death. This means the length of the case could take up to several years.
Leading Causes of Wrongful Death
There are many different scenarios that could lead to a wrongful death. The most common wrongful death cases in Ocala include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Golf cart accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Premises liability
The damages in wrongful death claims include the value of support and services for the deceased person, loss of companionship, guidance, protection, as well as medical and funeral expenses. An estate may also recover certain types of damages, including lost wages, benefits, and prospective net accumulations.
Florida law will usually dictate how to deal with the deceased’s estate in the absence of a will or trust. If the personal representative is specified in the written will or trust, they take priority over other individuals in receiving the damages.
Types of Damages Sought
Both the deceased person’s estate, as well as surviving family members, may recover damages in a wrongful death claim. The most common types of damages sought in a wrongful death action are the loss of support and services, companionship, guidance and protection, and mental and emotional pain. If the deceased person was working, the estate may be able to recover lost wages and other earnings. The plaintiff may also be able to collect prospective net accumulations, which is the value of earnings the estate may reasonably have expected to collect if the deceased individual had not died.
Factors Examined When Quantifying the Loss of a Loved One
There are many factors to consider when trying to calculate the loss of a loved one. These elements include:
- Loss of income
- Loss of consortium
- Parental responsibilities
- Family involvement
- Age of the deceased
- If the deceased was married and/or had children
- How many children the deceased had
- How many individuals they supported
A knowledgeable attorney can retain an expert economist to help quantify those numbers and give an accurate projection to these factors such as the loss of future income. The future income of the deceased can be calculated by factoring their age, education, current salary, upward mobility potential, as well as the type of job the person held.
Calculating the Loss of Companionship
What is factored into the calculation of loss of companionship are the length of the marriage and the number of dependent children. If the children are younger, the amount of damages may be higher. The percentage of contribution of the decedent may also be a factor in determining the loss of companionship.
There are countless ways that the loss of a loved one may impact their family, including loss of income and loss of support at home for raising children, elderly parents, and those with special needs. If all of these factors are not considered, the jury may not award a reasonable amount of damages for the loss of companionship. This is why an accomplished lawyer can be beneficial for calculating the loss of companionship damages in Ocala wrongful death actions.
Settling a Wrongful Death Case
Ocala wrongful death cases may be settled in or out of court. When the defendant is clearly at fault and the defendant’s negligence caused the death of the decedent, insurance companies will likely settle cases out of court. If there is a dispute regarding negligence or the cause of the decedent’s death, those cases usually proceed to trial.
The benefits of settling a wrongful death case out of court are that the attorney’s fees and costs are lower than if a lawsuit is filed. The costs and benefits of settling a wrongful death case in court vary. If the defendant’s insurance company makes a nominal or minimal offer, wrongful death cases should proceed to litigation. Once the case is in litigation, the settlement value is usually higher. If you want to file a wrongful death claim, you should speak with an attorney who is well-versed in the Ocala wrongful death case process.
Civil Vs. Criminal Cases
Wrongful deaths can also result from intentional acts. In situations where the defendant is also facing criminal charges, a decedent’s family should be aware of a legal doctrine known as res judicata.
Simply put, a court will not allow a defendant to reargue a fact that has been found to be true in another court. For example, a defendant who has already been found guilty of murder in criminal court cannot argue in a related civil trial that they did not commit the violent act.
While a criminal trial and a civil trial can arise out of the same facts, it is important to remember that the cases are considered separately. In order to receive any compensation from the defendant, the civil case must be initiated by the family or their experienced Ocala wrongful death lawyer.
Special Considerations to Remember
One common question regarding wrongful death lawsuits concerns who can bring the lawsuit forward. In all other personal injury cases, the plaintiff must be the injured person. If the would-be plaintiff is deceased, however, this responsibility must fall to someone else.
Florida Statute 768.20, a portion of the State’s Wrongful Death Statute, specifically states that the plaintiff in a wrongful death case must be the decedent’s personal representative. A personal representative is typically named in a will, but may be assigned by a court if the defendant dies “intestate”—without a will.
Florida Statute 95.11 also limits when a wrongful death case can be pursued. This is known as the statute of limitations. The law states that all wrongful death claims must be initiated in court no more than two years from the date of the death. This is an ironclad rule, and many otherwise powerful cases are made impossible to win if this rule is broken.
Allow an Ocala Wrongful Death Lawyer to Help Your Family Today
The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult things a family can be made to endure. Not only do families need to properly grieve the loss and deal with their immediate personal needs, but they also need to make considerations for the future. An important part of this future may consist of a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party.
Whether this party is the at-fault driver in an accident, a company whose faulty product caused the death, or a person facing criminal charges, we are here to help. We can assist families during this difficult time to secure their financial future and take steps toward closing out this painful chapter of their lives.
Contact an Ocala wrongful death lawyer today to see what we can do for you.