If the negligence of one person causes the death of another, the civil justice system allows the surviving family members or a personal representative of the estate of the deceased person to seek recovery of damages. Wrongful death lawsuits are filed independently from any criminal proceedings against an alleged killer. While criminal convictions required proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to be established by the prosecution, a civil lawsuit in Florida requires only a preponderance of evidence to document negligence.
This means that even if there is no criminal conviction, a civil court can still enter a monetary judgment in a wrongful death claim as long as the lower burden of proof is satisfied. Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from medical malpractice, occupational fatalities due to hazardous work environments or substance exposure, vehicle or airplane crashes, among others. Any damages awarded by the court will go to the estate for distribution to heirs.
The primary measure of damages that could be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit is the financial, or pecuniary losses. These can include medical and end-of-life expenses, loss of services and support, lost inheritance prospects, pain and suffering among others. Family members who settled medical and funeral bills could seek recovery of those expenses.
The circumstances of each family who loses a loved one due to another party’s negligence are unique. For that reason, the support and guidance of an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney can be invaluable. Legal counsel can assess the applicable information, determine which damages are recoverable and advocate for the plaintiffs before the court. The lawyer can also make sure to file the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.