Although it seems straightforward, it can sometimes be difficult to define wrongful death. The simple wrongful death definition is when someone is killed or dies due to someone else’s misconduct or negligence, it is considered a “wrongful death.” This means that the surviving family of the person who died may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the person responsible. However, there are factors that must be present in order for someone to be found liable in a wrongful death claim. According to the Centers for Disease Control, accidents were the third leading cause of death in Florida in 2016 and firearm deaths accounted for 2,704 of the deaths in the state that year. These wrongful death statistics indicate how common claims may be after someone dies, especially if they are young.
Requirements of Defining a Wrongful Death Claim
There are some elements that must be present in order to seek and define a wrongful death claim, according to wrongful death attorneys in Florida. Of course, the first element is that someone must have died and this death must have been caused by someone else’s negligence. A wrongful death action may also be warranted if the person who caused the death intended to harm someone else, such as in the case of a murder. In addition, family members must be suffering monetary injury due to the death and a personal representative may need to be appointed as part of the estate of the person who has passed away.
Types of Wrongful Death
Many circumstances can led to a wrongful death case definition. The most common reasons families file wrongful death claims include:
- Accidents, including automobiles, planes, trains, bicycles, pedestrian, etc.
- Criminal behavior, including murder
- Death during supervised activity
- Exposure to hazardous conditions or substances as part of someone’s occupation
- Medical malpractice
In addition, surviving family may also recover damages for personal injury suffered by the person who died. These are known as survival actions and are based on the degree of consciousness of the decedent before their death, the severity of the pain they suffered as well as any apprehension they suffered due to their impending death.
Defining Wrongful Death Damages
In most cases, families who file wrongful death claims do so because they have suffered financial injury. This is known as pecuniary injury in a court of law. These damages include such issues as loss of support, lost prospect of inheritance as well as medical and funeral expenses. Most states require that damages awarded by fair and just regarding pecuniary injuries. However, if actual expenses were incurred as a result of the person’s death, like medical bills or funeral expenses, the courts normally allow for reimbursement of the entire amount. Interest may also be added to the award dating back to the date of death.
Determining the Amount of Pecuniary Damages
Although the cost of a funeral or treatments before the person died may be simple to prove, other pecuniary damages are not. Usually, courts review the circumstances at the time of the person’s death. They look at the person’s age, character and health as well as their life expectancy prior to the injury or illness. They also try to determine the earning capacity of the person who died to determine how much they would have made had they not been suffered an illness or injury that led to their death. This means that if an adult wage earner dies, their family could recover loss of income based on potential future earnings.
Factors That Can Impact an Award when Defining Wrongful Death
Now that we have defined wrongful death, next is determining how much to award for a wrongful death claim. In this claim type, courts have the ability to adjust the award either upward or downward. If the person who died had poor earnings, even if they were young, had the ability to earn more in the future and supported children on their salary, the courts could reduce a jury’s award to match what the person earned at the time of their death rather than base it on future earnings. If the decedent did not manage their money well, the court may reduce the award as well. By the same token, a judge may decide that the jury’s award was too little and could increase the amount. In most cases, the courts will use expert testimony to help determine what is a fair amount for pecuniary damages.
Damages Designed to Punish the Defendant
In addition to pecuniary damages, the family of the decedent could be awarded what are known as punitive damages. These are damages that are designed to punish the person who caused the death. They are also meant to deter others from making the same mistakes. There are some states that do not permit punitive damages in wrongful death states while others limit how much can be awarded and some have no limits on punitive damage awards.
In order to define wrongful death, it is important to also understand the various methods families can be compensated for the untimely death of a loved one. Wrongful death statistics indicate that accidents and firearms contribute to the most claims filed throughout the country. If a loved one has died and you believe someone else contributed to their death, contact Freeman Injury Law wrongful death attorneys in Florida at 1-800-561-7777 to fight for your loved one’s rights.