If your loved one has been killed in Florida due to the negligence, carelessness, or intentional act of another, here are important facts you need to know if you want to win your lawsuit:

Q: How long
do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

A: In general, the Florida Wrongful Death Statute requires that lawsuits for wrongful death must be brought within two (2) years from your loved one’s death.  There are some exceptions to this law but that is the general rule.  If your loved one was killed more than two years ago, consult with an attorney without delay to see if one of those exceptions apply to you.

Q: How long
should I wait before I talk to a lawyer?

A: If you have
lost a loved one, we strongly recommend that you immediately consult with an
attorney.  Evidence can be lost, and
memories can fade. It is important to start the investigation as soon as
possible to preserve evidence needed to support your lawsuit. 

Q: Who can
file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

A: Florida law
requires that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the “personal
representative” of the estate. If your loved one left behind a will, a personal
representative was likely named in the will. 
If there was no will, the court will appoint a personal representative
who is usually a spouse or surviving family member.

Q: Who can
recover damages for a wrongful death in Florida and what damages can they
recover?

A: Florida law provides that two separate categories of wrongful death damages can be recovered.  One category of damages can be recovered by the estate.  The other category of damages can be recovered by the “beneficiaries” (survivors) of the lost loved one. 

  • The estate can recover the following damages:
    • Loss of net accumulations (the amount that would have been left in your loved one’s estate had he or she not been killed. Examples include future business or employment income, investment income, etc.);
    • Lost earnings; and,
    • Medical and funeral expenses
  • Beneficiaries (survivors) are also entitled to
    recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one.  The legally defined “beneficiaries” and the
    damages they can recover are:
  • Spouses:
    • loss of support and services;
    • loss of companionship and protection; and,
    • mental pain and suffering.
  • Children under 25 years old (including legally adopted children):
    • loss of support and services;
    • loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance; and,
    • mental pain and suffering.
  • Children 25 years old or older when there is no spouse (except in medical malpractice cases):
    • loss of support and services;
    • loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance; and,
    • mental pain and suffering.
  • Parents of children under 25 years of age:
    • mental pain and suffering.
  • Parents of children 25 years or older if there is no Spouse and no children (except in medical malpractice cases):
    • mental pain and suffering.
  • Legal dependents:
    • Loss of financial support and services.

Q:  What must I prove to win my wrongful death
lawsuit in Florida?

A:  Most claims for wrongful death in Florida are based on a “negligence” cause of action.  Florida law defines “negligence” as follows: “Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. Negligence is doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under like circumstances.” Jury Instructions 410.4.

Some wrongful deaths in Florida are caused by defective products.  If your loved one was killed by a defective product such as a defective piece of equipment, a defective vehicle, or a defective drug, you may have a claim for products liability.  Your burden would be to prove the following four factors:

  • Loss. You must show that your loved
    one was killed as a result of using the manufacturer’s product.
  • Defect or failure to warn. You must prove that the product
    was 1) defectively designed, 2) defectively manufactured or 3) that the
    manufacturer knew or should have known of risks and failed to warn consumers.
  • Proximate cause. You must show that the product’s
    defect proximately caused the death.
  • Product used as intended. You must show that your loved
    one was using the product as the manufacturer intended it to be used or in a
    way the manufacturer could expect a reasonable person to use it.

Q: What if
my loved one was partially to blame for his or her own death?

The good news is that your claim for wrongful death is not necessarily barred by your loved one’s own negligence.  Prior to 1973, if a wrongful death victim was contributorily negligent, there was a complete bar to recovery of damages.  Fortunately, in 1973 the Florida Supreme Court adopted the “pure comparative negligence” rule.  Under that rule, the jury apportions fault between all negligent parties whose negligence was the legal and proximate cause of death.  Damages are then apportioned according to the proportionate fault of each party.  For example, if your loved one is found negligent and 50% at fault for his or her own death, damages will be reduced by 50%.

Q:  How much will it cost me to hire a lawyer to
file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A:  Some law firms, including our firm, are willing to work on a contingent fee basis.  In other words, the lawyer will pay the expenses of the litigation and will only charge a fee if he or she gets you money.  Watch this short video “Contingent Fees Explained” for a description of how contingent fee agreements work.

Q:  How do I choose the right lawyer for my
wrongful death lawsuit?

A:  The most important factor is to find a lawyer you trust who is compassionate, communicates with you, and is experienced in trying lawsuits.  Watch this short video for an explanation of why hiring the right lawyer is so important to your wrongful death case.

Q:  What kinds of accidents can be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit?

A:  At the LaGarde Law Firm, we have represented
clients who lost loved ones due to many different types of accidents and
incidents including:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Airplane accidents
  • Helicopter accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Work-related deaths
  • Death caused by defective
    products
  • Death caused by dangerous
    property conditions
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective medications

Q:  Will my wrongful death
case need to go to trial or can it settle before trial?

A:  The vast majority of cases settle before trial.  For a description of the reasons why so many cases settle and why some need to be tried, read the short discussion at  “Will my Case Have to Go to Trial”.

Q:  Can I have a free,
no-obligation consultation with you about my potential wrongful death case?

A:  Sure. Just give us a call at (239) 500-6040 or toll free at 1(866) LAGARDE (1(866) 524-2733).  Attorneys Richard and Mary LaGarde have a combined 61 years of experience in representing personal injury and wrongful death claimants.  They have an office in Naples, Florida to service clients in Naples, Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, and surrounding areas in Southwest Florida.  They are also available to consult with clients who live in other parts of Florida as well as Texas where they have a “by appointment only” office in Houston.  Mr. LaGarde is also licensed in Louisiana and has extensive experience in representing wrongful death survivors in that state.  Give us a call today.  We’ll help you if we can.  If you prefer to contact us over the internet, fill out the Contact Us form at the top of this page and we will reply as soon as possible.

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