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Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer

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In Florida, when a wrongful death has occurred, family members may be able to sue the negligent parties for compensation. When they do, they will need a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer to advance a strong and compelling case. Leveraging decades of experience litigating these complicated and emotionally charged claims, the attorneys of Kogan & DiSalvo are well-equipped to help those who have unjustly lost family members. 

When you need compassionate, one-on-one guidance after the wrongful death of a loved one, you can count on our dedicated professionals. A skilled injury lawyer in Ft Lauderdale can hold responsible parties accountable and aggressively pursue the full money damages to which you are entitled. 

What is a Wrongful Death Under Florida Law? 

Women crying at funeral

The Florida wrongful death Statute § 768.19 defines wrongful death as follows: the death of a person caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters. When a wrongful death occurs, eligible family members of the decedent may file a civil lawsuit for compensation. 

If the person had not died due to these negligent or reckless actions, they would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible. Although they are no longer here, it is still possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their estate so that their survivors may receive compensation.  

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale? 

A funerary urn at a funeral with mourners in the background

Only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of surviving family members. The personal representative is required to list all potential beneficiaries when the lawsuit is filed and their relationship to the decedent.  

The personal representative is named in the decedent’s will. While the personal representative is often a family member, the decedent may have named a financial professional or someone well-versed in handling estate matters. 

If the decedent died without a will or intestate, a probate judge generally appoints the personal representative. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act allows the surviving spouse, parents, children, blood relatives, and adoptive siblings who are dependent on the decedent for support or services to seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations  

A pen on top of a legal document with a signature line

The statute of limitations for filing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the death date, not the date of the accident. Failure to file a wrongful death lawsuit within this timeframe usually means the case cannot proceed.  

There is a critical exception to this statute of limitations. If the death was due to murder or manslaughter, there is no statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Stages in a Wrongful Death Suit 

A stuffed bear sitting on a windowsill looking out at a dreary day

After a wrongful death in Florida, there is a process for seeking civil damages. 

  1. Contact a wrongful death lawyer with proven experience handling these cases in Broward County and Florida. Your attorney will evaluate the circumstances of the case, explain applicable deadlines for seeking compensation, and identify all potentially liable parties. 
  2. Investigations are conducted by your attorney. They will obtain the official death certificate from the Department of Health and review all medical records provided. The evidence-gathering phase may last several weeks or months. 
  3. Notify the defendants about your intentions. Your lawyer will notify all potential defendants about your intention to pursue legal damages. Settlement negotiations often begin with defendants before a formal wrongful death lawsuit is filed. Once both sides have had a chance to see the evidence gathered, negotiations will usually commence. 
  4. The claim is resolved without further action if a settlement offer is deemed fair and appropriate to the survivors and estate. By agreeing to a settlement, the estate’s personal representative waives all rights to pursue further compensation. 
  5. The next step is formal litigation if negotiations are not successful. A lawsuit is filed, and Discovery is conducted, where both sides must present evidence to the other. A wrongful death settlement can still be reached at any point; otherwise, the case will go to trial. 
  6. The case is tried before a court. The judge and/or jury will hear both sides, weigh all evidence presented, and listen to expert testimony before rendering a decision or verdict. 

          Common Causes of Fatal Accidents in Florida  

          A severely damaged car after a head-on collision with a semi-truck at a city intersection

          According to the CDC, accidents are the fourth most common cause of catastrophic injuries in Florida. Some of the most common causes of fatal accidents include the following: 

          • Car accidents: Florida ranks third in the nation, behind Texas and California, in the number of car accidents. In 2023, a total of 3,412 people lost their lives on Florida roadways. Even if it resulted from a crime, such as drunken driving, a civil wrongful death suit can be filed—even if the other driver was not arrested or charged. Civil and criminal cases fall under separate jurisdictions.  
          • Truck accidents: In 2022, Florida ranked third in the number of fatal truck crashes, with 368 deaths. Occupants of smaller vehicles frequently do not survive a collision with a fully loaded big rig weighing 80,000 pounds.  
          • Motorcycle accidents: In Florida, motorcycle accidents account for nearly 17 percent of all crash deaths, despite motorcycle involvement in only 2 percent of all Florida traffic accidents. Because motorcycles do not have a protective shell, riders are particularly vulnerable in a collision. In 2023, 606 motorcyclists succumbed to crash injuries.  
          • Bike accidents: When it comes to bike accident deaths, Florida leads the nation. In 2023, 226 bicycle fatalities occurred in the state.  
          • Pedestrian accidents: In the first six months of 2023, California, Texas, and Florida accounted for 37 percent of pedestrian deaths nationwide. Total pedestrian fatalities in Florida were 782.  
          • Medical malpractice:  In 2022, there were 200 deaths in the state from medical and surgical care complications, per the Florida Department of Health: Bureau of Vital Statistics. Common causes of fatal medical outcomes include medication errors, surgical errors, misdiagnosis, defective medical devices, and inadequate follow-up post-treatment.  
          • Workplace accidents: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), the workplace was the site of 307 occupational fatalities in Florida in 2022. Nearly 60 percent of these workplace fatalities were due to transportation accidents and slips, trips, and falls. The third most frequent cause of workplace fatalities was exposure to harmful substances or environments, claiming the lives of 53 workers. Florida had a higher incidence of deaths due to slips, trips, and falls, and exposure to harmful substances or environments than the national average. Other workplace fatalities may involve structural collapse, fires, explosions, or machinery malfunction.  
          • Slip and fall: While falls are a frequent cause of death, especially among Florida’s older residents, they often result from negligence on the part of the property owner or manager. A slip and fall fatality may occur anywhere, but the most common locations include parking lots, malls, restaurants, and construction sites. Slip and fall accidents fall under premises liability.  
          • Defective products: If a product’s design causes injuries or fatalities, the manufacturer and seller may be held responsible under the legal theory of product liability. For example, defective drugs fall into this category, as inadequate testing or misleading information can result in fatal consequences.    
          • Construction accidents: Although construction accidents also fall under workplace accidents, this industry had the highest number of Florida fatalities in 2022, with 91 deaths. Forty-six of those fatalities were due to slips, trips, and falls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that “The specialty trade contractors subsector accounted for 57, or 63 percent, of the 91 fatal workplace injuries in the construction industry.”  
          • Nursing home abuse: Because so many older adults call Florida home, nursing home abuse and subsequent fatalities are a serious issue. Nursing home residents have succumbed to malnutrition, injuries inflicted by facility personnel, and medication errors, among other examples of negligence.   

          How Long Does It Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Case? 

          There is no set time for settling a wrongful death case. Everything depends upon the specific circumstances of your claim. While 18 months is the average, some wrongful death cases settle much sooner, and others may not settle for several years.  

          Proving Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims  

          Many memorial candles burning on the ground in the night

          To prove negligence in a wrongful death case, our team at Kogan & DiSalvo must prove that the defendants owed the decedent a duty of care. For example, a person driving a car must obey the rules of the road to keep everyone safe. 

          Next, the attorney must prove that the defendant breached this duty of care. Using the fatal car accident example, the attorney must show how this breach happened, such as speeding, running a red light, or driving while under the influence. 

          The attorney must then show that this breach of duty directly caused the fatality. Finally, the defendant’s negligence resulted in damages, whether from the family’s emotional pain and suffering or the financial issues ensuing from the death.  

          Types of Damages Available in Wrongful Death Cases 

          Side view of an empty hospital bed

          Damages in a wrongful death case are either economic, non-economic, or punitive. In Florida, there is no cap on economic or non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.  

          Determining the amount of economic damages is relatively straightforward, as it consists of calculating expenses such as medical and funeral bills, loss of earnings based on the decedent’s life expectancy, loss of retirement benefits due to an untimely death, and more.   

          Non-economic damages are more subjective and more complicated to quantify. These damages involve the pain and suffering and the loss of the enjoyment of life affecting the decedent’s spouse, children, or parents.  

          Economic Damages 

          Examples of economic damages may include: 

          • Medical costs, including those for treatment between the time of the injury and the time of death.  
          • Loss of income that the decedent would have provided until retirement  
          • Loss of support and services 
          • Loss of financial support for those dependent on the decedent 
          • Loss of accumulated estate value  

          Non-economic Damages 

          Under Florida law, the surviving spouse may recover for loss of companionship and protection. Surviving minor children may recover for the loss of parental companionship and guidance. Surviving adult children may recover these damages if there is no surviving spouse. Other non-economic damages include mental and emotional pain and injury.  

          Punitive Damages 

          Punitive means “punish.” When the defendant’s behavior leading to the wrongful death was particularly egregious, such as drunk driving, the jury may award punitive damages. They are usually imposed to make an example of the negligent party to deter others from behaving in the same fashion or committing similar wrongful behavior. For instance, if a driver with a prior history of drunken driving arrests causes an accident and kills someone, punitive damages may be awarded. 

          Unlike economic or non-economic damages, Florida does pose a cap on punitive damages. It is three times the amount of compensatory damages, or up to $500,000.  

          Potential Compensation in a Wrongful Death Suit

          Close up of a person using a calculator on top of documents

          The Wrongful Death Act in Florida states that surviving family members may seek compensation for the deceased’s wrongful death. However, the only person who can legally file a wrongful death suit is the personal representative (also known as the executor) of the deceased’s estate. The representative must be a resident of Florida, have a vested interest in the estate, and not be under any legal disability.

          In cases where no will has been created, or no personal representative has been designated within the will, the courts will typically allow the spouse of the deceased to file a claim.

          A wrongful death claim in Florida can seek monetary damages for the following types of losses:

          • Mental pain and suffering of surviving spouse, children and/or parents
          • Any medical and/or funeral expenses survivors incurred
          • Loss of companionship and protection for a surviving spouse
          • The value of lost support and services, including household chores from the date of the decedent’s passing
          • The loss of instruction, guidance, and companionship to children of the decedent.
          • Loss of financial support for any dependents who relied on the decedent

          When determining how much compensation to award, the courts will look at the relationship with the deceased person, the life expectancies of both the deceased and surviving family members, and the net income of the deceased before they passed away.

          As survivors seek justice for the needless loss of a loved one, they should first speak to a wrongful death lawyer Fort Lauderdale has come to respect. Here at Kogan & DiSalvo, we are passionate about helping clients rebuild their lives, and work tirelessly to create an attentive and supportive environment as we pursue maximum damages for the wrongful death of your loved one.

          Compensation for the Estate

          Close up of orange candle flame and lily flowers

          In Fort Lauderdale, it is not only surviving family members who may claim compensation but also the decedent’s estate. The estate includes any assets that belonged to the deceased and were in their name alone. This compensation will go directly to the estate and not to surviving family members. This compensation may include: 

          • Any funds the deceased would have left to the estate. 
          • Medical or funeral expenses associated with the death that the estate paid. 
          • Lost earnings the deceased would have made throughout their remaining lifetime. 

          In addition, survival actions can also be made on behalf of the estate. A survival action claim seeks to recover damages for the pain and suffering the decedent suffered from their injuries before death, but it is payable to the decedent’s estate. 

          What is the Average Amount for Wrongful Death Damages?  

          There is no average amount for wrongful death damages in Florida. Every settlement or jury decision is based on factors concerning the individual decedent. Because economic damages are partly based on life expectancy, an older victim’s estate or family may not receive as much in damages as that of a younger person. Again, it all depends on the unique circumstances of the case.  

          What If the Decedent is Partly Responsible for the Accident?  

          View of the front of a wooden coffin with people dressed in black carrying it on either side

          It is not unusual for the victim to hold some responsibility in an accident. If the decedent was partly responsible for the accident that claimed their life, it is still possible to file a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. However, the amount of damages is reduced by the percentage of the decedent’s fault as determined by a jury. 

          Florida follows a modified comparative negligence standard when it comes to liability. If a party is found to hold more than 50 percent of fault, they cannot recover damages. If it turns out that the decedent was determined to be 10 percent at fault for the accident, any damages are reduced by that amount. For example, a $200,000 award is reduced to $180,000.  

          There is an exception if the wrongful death was due to medical malpractice. For these claims, Florida’s former pure comparative negligence standard still holds. That means that even if the deceased was more than 50 percent responsible for the circumstances leading to their demise, the estate could still file a lawsuit to recover damages. If the decedent was found to be 60 percent responsible, the wrongful death lawsuit could recover the remaining 40 percent from the defendants.  

          Gathering Evidence to Build a Strong Case  

          Vignette of a stack of file folders on a desk

          When you suddenly lose a loved one under tragic circumstances, you need time to deal with your grief. However, as difficult as it is, it is crucial to consult a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Waiting too long can risk losing vital evidence. For example, witnesses may move away or be difficult to locate. Dashcam footage and surveillance videos may be erased. Your attorney investigates the case thoroughly and identifies all potential defendants in a wrongful death claim.  

          • If your family member was out walking and struck by a car and killed, possible defendants may extend beyond the driver. Other factors may have contributed to the crash, including a defective vehicle or parts, unsafe road conditions, or malfunctioning traffic signals. That means the manufacturer, auto repair facility, or the jurisdiction in charge of road maintenance may prove also liable.  
          • If distracted driving due to the use of a cell phone caused or contributed to the crash, a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer will obtain the cellphone records showing that the defendant was texting at the time.  
          • If your relative died due to medical malpractice, the surgeon, doctor, anesthesiologist, hospital, or other healthcare providers may be named in the wrongful death claim. In this case, another medical professional must submit an affidavit attesting that the defendants were negligent. Without such attestation, the wrongful death claim is generally dismissed.   

          Expect the evidence-gathering process to last from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the case’s specifics.  

          Types of Evidence Commonly Used  

          Medical and police reports are key evidence used in wrongful death cases. In the case of accidents, surveillance video of the accident scene can reveal what happened and who was at fault. If there are eyewitnesses to a fatal accident, your lawyer interviews them.  

          For fatal car or truck accidents, most modern vehicles contain black boxes. Technically, these are called electronic control modules or event data recorders. Unlike an airplane, a car’s black box does not continuously record data while operating. Data is not recorded unless there is a collision.  

          When a crash occurs, the black box records critical information such as speed changes, brake application, the pedals pressed, and driver safety belt status. It also records multiple events in a crash. For example, if a sideswipe is followed by a head-on collision.   

          If a truck accident resulted in a fatality, a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer will examine whether the truck driver or trucking company violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.  

          If medical malpractice causes the death, the lawyer analyzes medical records and other information to determine whether the facts support the claim. If the facts support it, the next step is to have a medical expert conduct a review and decide whether there is a valid claim.  

          Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim

          Female defense attorney in courtroom presenting a case

          To prevail in a wrongful death claim in Florida, your lawyer must prove the following elements:

          • Duty of Care – The at-fault party owed the decedent a duty of care. This duty depends on the relationship between the defendant and decedent as well as the unique circumstances of the case. If the plaintiff is alleging that the defendant was acting negligently while driving, they could argue that they breached their duty of care to refrain from actions that could injure another person.
          • Breach of Duty – Evidence must be presented that the defendant breached their duty of care. In the above example, this could be cell phone records that show the driver was texting at the time of the accident, or a BAC test that indicates they were legally intoxicated while driving.
          • Causation – Proving that the defendant’s actions and breach of duty was the cause of the decedent’s injuries and resulting death.
          • Damages – In wrongful death claims, your legal counsel must demonstrate that the decedent’s death caused measurable financial injuries as well as less tangible losses like emotional suffering to the family members or the victim’s estate.

          Working With Expert Witnesses  

          Vignette of a gavel in front of a judge reading from a court order

          No matter the cause of the wrongful death, expert witnesses may prove invaluable in determining how the death occurred, as well as the economic aftermath. Your attorney hires the appropriate expert witnesses to testify, depending on the cause of the wrongful death.  

          These experts must possess the qualifications in their specific fields to review the evidence and testify. They also can explain technical concepts in ways that are understandable to the jury. They are also able to directly address issues of liability.  

          Expert witnesses may include the following: 

          • Medical experts: Along with the type of injury that caused the victim’s death, medical expert witnesses testify about the treatment given to the patient. They can also testify about the level of pain and suffering the decedent may have endured from the time of the injury until their demise. In a medical malpractice case, expert witnesses can explain whether the treatment the late patient received deviated from standard practices and how this may have contributed to the death.   
          • Accident reconstructionists: Using engineering expertise and technology, accident reconstruction experts determine how an accident occurred, including the speed at which the vehicles were traveling at the time of the crash and individual driver behavior. While accident reconstructionists are most often involved in wrongful death lawsuits involving motor vehicles, they can also reconstruct workplace accidents, deaths resulting from defective products, and more.  
          • Forensic experts: These experts testify about evidence collected at the accident or crime scene. Such evidence may include blood and DNA analysis, which can assist in determining liability.  
          • Economic experts: These witnesses testify about the financial impact of the decedent’s death upon surviving family members. This may include lost income, benefits, and how much the individual may have earned over their lifetime based on age, education level, and occupation.  

          Why Should You Hire a Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer? 

          Nostalgic senior woman with eyes closed hugging picture frame, standing by window at home.

          Insurance companies involved in wrongful death claims may try to settle quickly and cheaply. Minimizing or denying compensation is their business model. Insurers know they are dealing with a personal representative who is often a grieving family member of the decedent.  

          A Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company so that the family can mourn and come to terms with their loss. After carefully analyzing the case, we will know the value and fight to make a fair settlement.  

          Your attorney handles everything necessary to pursue justice. Rather than focus on legal or insurance issues or making sure key documents are filed on time, family members can focus on healing and rebuilding their lives.  

          Compassionate Legal Support from Kogan & DiSalvo 

          The attorneys at Kogan & DiSalvo in front of their office building

          During this challenging time, you need the services of a compassionate Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer at Kogan & DiSalvo. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today. We work on a contingency basis, so there is no fee unless you receive compensation. While most cases are settled, we will take your case to court if necessary. Our track record is second to none.  

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