“Wrongful death” is the civil legal term for one person’s actions causing the death of another. “Actions” may refer to willful, intentional action, but may also refer to negligent action – inaction or failure to act which resulted in the death. Because the person killed (decedent) is unable to seek damages and compensation, wrongful death suits are brought by family members and other representatives, who have their own damages to claim as a result of the death.
For a defendant to be held responsible for a wrongful death, it must be proven that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) caused the death. Stated negatively, it must be proven that the death would not have happened without the defendant’s actions. If these criteria are met, it makes little difference how much time elapsed between the defendant’s action and the decedent’s death.
In some cases, the decedent may bear some of the responsibility for his/her own death (behaving recklessly or refusing medical attention, for example). This may lead to a finding a comparative or contributory negligence (statues vary by state), which can then affect the award of damages.
While different methods exist in different states for deciding who may file a wrongful death suit and who is eligible to recover damages, in general, three conditions must be met.
- A wrongful act caused the death
- The wrongful act violated civil law; that is, the decedent, had he/she survived, would have been due damages
- Monetary damage arose from the act
Regarding wrongful death, various damages to compensate family members for their loss are assessed and awarded.
Most obvious in assessing losses is the financial cost of medical and death expenses. This is straightforward and easy to calculate.
A less obvious financial loss is that of the decendent’s future earnings and benefits. These must be calculated with attempts to anticipate lifespan, promotions, and other factors that would affect earnings over the course of a working life.
Though not accessible to empirical measurement, loss of companionship is entirely real for the loved ones of the decedent and must be considered when identifying the losses caused by wrongful death. This subjective measure of emotional pain and suffering as experienced by the survivors is estimated and translated into dollars.
Punitive damages are the least common of wrongful death awards, and serve a separate purpose than the other types of damages mentioned. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant, rather than to compensate for any loss. These types of damages are most common in cases of gross negligence and misconduct.
Our experienced wrongful death attorneys in Plantation, Florida have experience handling a variety of wrongful death cases. Contact Fenster & Cohen P.A. today by calling (954) 473-1500 or contacting us online for your free initial consultation. Our wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we only charge for our services if we win or settle your case. Ensure that you do not reach the statute of limitations for your wrongful death case and call us right away.