When someone’s negligence or deliberate wrongdoing causes someone’s death in St. Augustine, the surviving family members of the deceased individual may file a wrongful death claim in civil court to recover monetary damages. While money cannot begin to provide true compensation for the loss of a loved one, it can help ease the financial burden caused by the loss.
The time to file a claim is limited by Florida law, so a family considering the possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit should not delay too long in seeking a personal injury attorney’s legal advice. A knowledgeable St. Augustine wrongful death lawyer could assist with investigating your situation and filing a lawsuit, or with pursuing other options if you and your family choose to do so.
Wrongful Death Statutes Applicable to St. Augustine
Florida Statutes §768.19 allows a civil action to be brought when a death is “caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty” of another person. This statute specifically includes situations that occur on navigable waters, such as boating accidents.
Furthermore, Florida lawmakers enacted the Wrongful Death Act to “shift the losses” in a wrongful death situation so that the burden is borne by the “wrongdoer” rather than the family of the deceased person. As a “remedial” measure, the wrongful death statutes are supposed to be “liberally construed,” so that they help families suffering from a loss, according to Fla. Stat. §768.17.
In order for a claim to be brought, the person who died must have been entitled, if they had survived the accident that resulted in their death, to bring an action seeking damages for the liable party’s negligence or wrongdoing. So, in a sense, a St. Augustine wrongful death lawyer filing a claim on a family’s behalf is really filing on behalf of the deceased to right the wrong that was done to them.
Parties Who Can File a Lawsuit and Recover Damages
The wrongful death provisions in Florida require that such an action must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, also sometimes referred to as an executor of the estate. In this context, “estate” refers to the assets owned by someone who is now deceased. When a person dies, their assets are managed by a representative who settles bills and puts things in order before the assets are distributed to heirs or legatees.
Although the lawsuit must be filed by the representative, it is brought for the benefit of the survivors and the estate. As per Fla. Stat. §768.18, survivors are defined to include, in order of priority:
- The spouse of the deceased person
- Children of the deceased person
- Parents of the deceased person
- Any blood relatives who were partially or completely dependent on the deceased person for support or services
- Adoptive brothers and sisters who were partially or completely dependent on the deceased person for support or services
For more information about the eligibility of a wrongful death lawsuit, reach out to a knowledgeable and compassionate lawyer.
Types of Recoverable Damages
Florida wrongful death laws allow various survivors and the deceased person’s estate to recover different types of damages depending on the situation. To begin with, all survivors may seek to recover the value of support and services they lost from the time of the deceased person’s injury to their death, as well as those projected to affect them forward into the future. The court may take many factors into consideration when making a determination of the value of these losses.
In addition to the loss of support, a surviving spouse may recover damages for loss of companionship and protection, as well as mental pain and suffering. If there is no surviving spouse, adult children may recover for loss of parental companionship.
Children under the age of 25 are entitled to recover damages for loss of parental companionship and guidance as well as mental suffering, even if there is a surviving spouse. If a minor child dies, on the other hand, their parents may recover damages for mental pain and suffering. Parents of adult children may recover such damages as well if that child has no surviving spouse or dependents.
In addition, the estate of the deceased person may recover lost future earnings, and whoever pays medical or funerals expenses may be entitled to recover those amounts. A wrongful death lawyer in St. Augustine could help take stock of any damages affecting an individual family and work with them to recover an appropriate settlement.
Speak with a St. Augustine Wrongful Death Attorney
While wrongful death claims can be very complicated depending on the circumstances, it is important to collect and preserve the right evidence, which becomes increasingly difficult with the passage of time. So, if your family believes a wrongful death claim could be appropriate in your situation, contact a St. Augustine wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible for a case evaluation.