How Is Wrongful Death Proved? 

 July 22, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

If a person’s death results from the negligence of another person or entity, immediate family members have the right to seek damages from the responsible party by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Learn more about this type of lawsuit and what elements must exist for it to be valid.

Wrongful Death Cases in Florida

In Florida, family members eligible to seek damages in a wrongful death case include, “the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters.” It includes children born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the children born out of wedlock of the father if he has not assumed responsibility for the child’s support.

According to statutes, each survivor may recover the value of lost financial support and services from the date of the initial injury to their family member’s death, as well as future loss of support and services from the date of death.

Surviving spouses may recover damages for loss of companionship and protection and mental pain and suffering. Minor children (under 25 years of age) may recover for loss of their parent’s companionship, instruction and guidance, as well as pain and suffering. Each parent of a minor child who dies by wrongful death may recover damages for mental pain and suffering, while parents of an adult child may only do so if there are no other survivors.

4 Elements of a Valid Wrongful Death Case

In order for a wrongful death lawsuit to be valid, the following factors must exist:

1. Duty of Care: The person or entity being held responsible for the wrongful death (the defendant) had a duty to act or not act in a certain manner as to prevent another person (the plaintiff) from dying. Death must have been reasonably foreseeable when the decision to act or not act was made. There are different levels of duty of care that vary by situation. For example, if a person dies as a result of someone else’s careless driving, it could be argued that the defendant had an obligation to obey traffic laws and thus not act in a manner that resulted in someone else’s death.

2. Breach of Duty of Care: After it has been established that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, it must be proved that they breached their duty. If the defendant had a duty to obey traffic laws, failure to do so could be considered a breach.

3. Causation: If it is evident that the defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff, it must then be proved that the breach directly resulted in the plaintiff’s death. For example, even if a driver fatally crashes into another driver, it may not be considered a wrongful death if other factors made an impact.

4. Damages: Finally, the wrongful death must have resulted in loss for the plaintiff’s loved ones. In addition to damages for the loss of income and financial support, family members may also seek damages for mental pain and suffering and other factors.

Trust the Experienced Wrongful Death Attorneys

At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, wrongful death lawsuits are one of our core focuses. We have been handling injury and death claims for nearly 40 years, all the while dedicating ourselves to getting our clients the compensation they deserve. If we do not obtain recovery, there are no costs to you. Give us a call today at 727-478-4125 or schedule a free consultation online.