When lawyers talk about “wrongful death” suits, they’re talking about a lawsuit to recover damages when someone’s death was caused by the negligent or intentional acts of another. In the eyes of the law, a wrongful death suit is no different than any other lawsuit, except that someone died. Of course, this is never true for the families and the loved ones of the victim.
A wrongful death suit can arise out of a number of factual situations – car crashes, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, drunk drivers, harmful products, the list goes on and on. Wrongful death suits can even arise out of murder charges – the most famous wrongful death suit is probably the O.J. Simpson suit. Simply put, a wrongful death claim can arise any time that the death was someone else’s fault.
Winning a Wrongful Death Suit
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that it was more likely than not that the death was caused by someone else. Courts call this a “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard is much lower than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that we’re used to hearing about on Law & Order. The preponderance of the evidence simply means that it was more likely than not that the defendant caused the death. If we reduce this to percentages, a 50.1% chance that the defendant caused the death is enough to hold him liable for the damages.
Wrongful Death Damages
How do you put a dollar value on the life of a loved one? Impossible as this sounds, money is the only type of compensation offered in these cases. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act compartmentalizes the type of damages available as follows:
- Lost Support & Services. These damages are designed to compensate for the services that the deceased provided around the house. This includes things like childcare, mowing the lawn, and washing the dishes. An economic expert will testify about the lost value of each of these services.
- Surviving Spouse’s Loss of Companionship. The surviving spouse is entitled to compensation from the defendant for the loss of companionship.
- Minor Children’s Loss of Parental Companionship. The minor child is entitled to compensation for loss of parental companionship. This, along with the surviving spouse’s loss of companionship, can be the hardest to put a dollar figure on. This often becomes an issue for the jury during a trial.
- Funeral Expenses.
- Medical Expenses.
- Loss of Earnings. An economist will testify about the earnings that the decedent was making at the time of his death and the capacity to earn more in the future.
If your loved one died due to the negligence of another party, contact the Law office of David M. Benenfeld for a free consultation.