If your family member has died in an accident and it is the result of the other person’s negligence, then you may be able to recover damages for their loss
Wrongful death is defined as a claim in common law jurisdictions against a person who can be held liable for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by the victim’s survivors who are usually close relatives, as enumerated by statute. The definition of survivor, varies from state to state but usually includes, spouse, children and/or parents. The Accident and Injury Lawyers at the South Florida Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis, L.L.C., have experience in handling wrongful death cases, having negotiated a million dollar plus settlement for a client.
Wrongful Death cases are governed by both case law and statutes.
Wrongful Death cases are civil cases and some are the direct result of criminal cases where the decedent’s family is trying to recovery monetary damages for their loss. Wrongful death is defined in Florida under the Florida Wrongful Death Act.–Sections 768.16-768.26. There is also case law from the various courts across Florida, including the Florida Supreme Court that helps to create the laws that govern wrongful death. Most wrongful death cases are from automobile accidents, work place accidents, personal injury, and negligence. In Florida the type of wrongful death cases include, car and airplane accidents, criminal attacks, medical mistakes, work related accident, or death during a supervised activity.
Wrongful Death Cases and Car Accidents
Many people are injured in car accidents everyday across Florida. Some people are even killed during those accidents. Some of these unfortunate accidents are the direct result of DUI case, reckless driving, aggressive driving and failure to obey traffic signs or other traffic laws. In order to be successful in wrongful death cases as a result of a car accident, the lawyers must be able to prove that the negligent act of the other driver resulted in the death of the other person. In some cases some level of responsibility maybe placed upon the victim and thus the damages award maybe reduced.
Pecuniary Injury and Punitive Damages
In Florida, the jury or judge will decide the damages in each individual wrongful death lawsuit, by looking at the pecuniary injury. By looking at the pecuniary injury, the court will be able to determine how much the surviving family member(s) lost in terms of support, services, prospect of inheritance, and funeral cost. In some cases, punitive damages may be added on because of the severity of the actions of the defendant. In Florida and many other states, courts have been known to award hefty punitive damage awards as a sign of the jury or judges belief that the actions of the guilty party were so grossly negligent, reckless or intentional, that additional money is due in order to fully compensate the surviving family members.
Civil Court vs. Criminal Court
Many criminal cases are often filed as well in civil court because of the lower standard of proof in civil court. Wrongful death cases in Florida use the preponderance of the evidence standard. This standard is met if the proposition is more likely to be true than not true. Family members have had more success filing actions through tort cases, via civil court than in criminal prosecutions. The burden of proof standard is often associated with the Latin Fatal Accidents Act 1846, also known as the Lord Campbell’s Act. This act was the origin of wrongful death liability in Europe, the Americas and other countries.
There have been a number of very high profile cases that are good examples of families being unsuccessful in criminal court and later finding success in civil court. The O.J. Simpson murder case is a perfect example of a successful wrongful death suit against the Defendant, after a win in criminal court by the defense. O.J. was found not guilty during his criminal trial, but he was later found guilty in civil court. In the civil case, he had to pay damages in the amount of 8.5 million in compensatory damages to the victims’ families. There are many criminal cases where the criminal defendant wins in criminal court and the victims’ families are successful in civil-wrongful death actions.
Wrongful death claims against Tobacco Companies
Wrongful death is also the only type of claim that maybe filed when a company causes the death of another and not a person. Families of victims of tobacco related deaths have sued tobacco companies for the wrongful deaths of their family members. Tobacco companies have placed the blame on smokers and have increased their labeling and warnings of the harm of tobacco as away to avoid liability. There have been both successful and unsuccessful stories in relation to tobacco companies being held liable civil court and therefore paying out large sums of money to the tobacco smoker’s families. Many companies try to avoid lawsuits by having the participants sign a waiver. Waivers like these are often challenged in court.
History of Wrongful Death Cases and Purpose of Wrongful Death
In the past, in most common law jurisdictions individuals were precluded from recovering civil damages for the wrongful death of a person. Wrongful death actions were strictly statutory back then. Now there is case law to help support and refute wrongful death cases. The Lord Campbell’s Act as mentioned above, states in part that whenever the death of a person shall be caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the act, neglect, or default is such as would (if Death had not ensued) have entitled the party injured to maintain an Action and recover Damages in respect thereof, then and in every case, the person who would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the Person injured, …..
The Lord Campbell’s Act is the root of many Wrongful Death statutes across the United States. The Wrongful Death Act of Florida which is rooted in the Lord Campbell’s Act of the 19 th Century and the case law governing wrongful death case in Florida have one common goal, to fully compensate the victim’s family monetarily. By doing this the hope is that they will have some form of comfort and support for the loss of their loved one.
If you or a family member has been injured accident, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Injury and Accident Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We provide free consultations and can meet you at our office in downtown Fort Lauderdale or at your residence or any other convenient location. We handle most injury and accident cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay us unless there is a financial recovery in your case. We utilize all resources available to insure that you or your family members are fully compensated for your injuries.