Category: Wrongful Death

Can Heirs Recover Punitive Damages Against a Driver Who Causes Death?

Personal Injury Lawyer

When your loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you have the right to sue that person for your loved one’s wrongful death. If the death resulted from injuries your loved one sustained in a motor vehicle accident, you would sue the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.

Wrongful death is a civil action, meaning that money damages are the only thing you can recover from the defendant if you win your lawsuit. While no amount of money can make up for losing your loved one, many family members find that winning a wrongful death lawsuit gives them not only a sense of closure, but also a sense that the defendant received justice, at least financially.

Types of Damages

Generally, you can recover two types of damages in a wrongful death suit: economic and noneconomic. Your economic damages consist of such things as bills you actually paid on the decedent’s behalf, including ambulance bills, hospital bills, funeral bills, and more. Your noneconomic damages are more subjective, but no less real. For instance, noneconomic damages include such things as the following:

  • Your loss of your loved one’s support
  • Your loss of his or her companionship
  • Your loss of his or her advice and counsel
  • Your mental and emotional anguish over his or her death

Punitive Damages

In some situations, you may also be able to recover punitive damages. These are damages that a court awards you above and beyond your economic and noneconomic damages. Their purpose is to punish the defendant, not to compensate you for your losses. 

Courts don’t always award punitive damages. In fact, it’s the exception rather than the rule. To receive this type of an award, you will need to present clear and convincing evidence at trial that the defendant’s actions or failure to act that caused the accident were deliberate, willful, wanton, or reckless. In other words, was he or she driving drunk? Was he or she driving at an excessive speed? Was his or her behavior particularly egregious?

Why You Need an Attorney

Each state has its own laws regarding wrongful death lawsuits. This is why you need to consult with a lawyer, like a wrongful death lawyer. He or she will know the specific laws that apply to your state, such as which family members can file such a suit, how long you have after the death to file, and whether or not it sets limits on the amount of damages you can recover.

Defining a Wrongful Death Action

Wrongful Death Lawyer

Dealing with the trauma of the unexpected death of a loved one is already a difficult thing to deal with on its own. It’s even harder when that loved one was someone you depended on for financial support. Many people currently live in two-income households, which means the sudden loss of one of those incomes equates to significant financial hardship. Unfortunately, this leaves you now dealing with a slew of emotional and monetary challenges, and having a hard time understanding what you should do next if you believe there was a wrongful death.

A wrongful death typically results from the negligence of another party. The negligent party can be an individual, corporation, or government entity, but they must be at fault for the untimely passing of a loved one to permit legal action.

When preparing a wrongful death action or lawsuit, you must understand the liability rules in your state. A wrongful death lawyer can help you understand such specifics and how they impact your potential claim. Keep in mind that when filing, you want your damages to be as specific as possible because the defendant will do everything in their power to limit their perceived responsibility.

Filing Damages

When determining the damages that you will file in your case, think about the emotional and tangible losses. You can file for pain and suffering or loss of companionship. You can also file for lost future income and to recover medical expenses.

However, while it is crucial to be careful and specific in determining damages, do not delay your decisions too long. Many states have a statute of limitations on wrongful death actions, typically two years. It is vital to file within the appropriate timeframe or risk the opportunity to recover financially.

Seeking Experienced Counsel

A wrongful death lawyer is not the same as a personal injury lawyer. Yes, the damages are similar, but that is because both cases are considered civil actions. When discussing wrongful death, you want to find an attorney with experience in estate law and negligence.

You will want to find a lawyer who advertises their expertise in wrongful death actions and does not shy away from providing references or statistics. It is also imperative that you find a lawyer who can speak on your level. 

You need to understand the strategy for your claim and the reasoning behind specific decisions. If you interview an attorney and they seem frustrated with having to explain their process, then find someone else to work with.

If you’ve been considering speaking with a professional, you might want to contact a wrongful death attorney from a law firm like Johnston Martineau, LLP to discuss your claim’s specifics and the potential for success. Figuring out how to move forward in life without your loved one is challenging enough without the added financial hardship.

What Should I Look For In a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Wrongful Death Lawyer

Finding an attorney to handle a specific type of case can be overwhelming. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, it might be even more difficult. If you believe that your loved one died wrongfully, you want a wrongful death attorney who can help you through the process of filing a lawsuit and negotiating a settlement. It might seem cold and calculated, but after the loss of a family member due to the negligence of someone else, you should be compensated. No amount of money can ever bring that person back, but you can be secure for the future.

Choosing an Attorney

Start by asking friends or family members for recommendations in the community. You can also call the American Bar Association for referrals to a wrongful death lawyer in your area. Look for someone local who knows the judges and other lawyers. If you’re part of a civic group or service organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary, ask other members about lawyers they’ve worked with.

What to Ask a Wrongful Death Attorney

You may need to talk to a couple of lawyers before you actually sign a contract. You’ll want to find someone that you are comfortable with. You might need to share very intimate details with your attorney. Beyond that, you can ask these questions to get more information:

  • How much experience does the attorney have in the specific aspects of your case? If you have a medical malpractice case, then you don’t want someone who specializes in workers’ compensation or auto accidents.
  • How much time can your attorney devote to your case?
  • Who will be working on the case? Will associates handle the claim or will the lawyer be managing the details? How will you be billed for the time?
  • What do the online reviews say? Take the reviews with a grain of salt, especially if the lawyer has been around a while. No lawyer wins every single case he or she takes, so look for an overall satisfaction rate. 
  • Check the state bar association for any disciplinary actions against the lawyer.

Don’t Try to Handle a Wrongful Death Claim on Your Own

A wrongful death claim has many complex components. There are many factors that need to be proved to get a settlement. This isn’t something that you should try to go through on your own. Talk to an experienced lawyer who can help you through the process and find the best possible outcome.

Understanding Florida Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims in the state of Florida are classified as those deaths which are directly related to someone’s negligence or a deliberate action that led up to the death. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years in order to stay in compliance with the statutes of limitations. In all cases, wrongful death claims are considered civil litigation and have a different burden of proof than a criminal trial. Continue reading “Understanding Florida Wrongful Death Claims”

Parents of former FAMU Student Sue School Following Hazing Death

FAMU made national headlines last year for an incident it would just as soon wished never happened–a student died following a brutal hazing incident. A 26-year old member of the state university’s famous “Marching 100” died aboard a school charter bus while the school was at a football game last November. Continue reading “Parents of former FAMU Student Sue School Following Hazing Death”

Palm Beach Family Sues Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

law books 2.jpgJust a few months ago, our West Palm Beach injury lawyer brought you the story of the tragic death of 18-year-old Eric Perez, a young man who died last July while in the custody of a local juvenile detention center. This week, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the parents of the teen announced their plans to file a Palm Beach wrongful death suit against the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”). This news comes on the heels of the grand jury announcing that its decision not to file charges against the officers who were on duty at the time of Perez’s death. The grand jury’s report did excoriate the officers for their failure to call for medical assistance for Perez in the hours leading up to his death but failed to find that their actions – or lack thereof – warranted criminal charges. Continue reading “Palm Beach Family Sues Florida Department of Juvenile Justice”