11 May

What You Need To Know About Filing A Wrongful Death Claim After A Fatal Water Accident In Florida

Personal Injury

Florida wrongful death lawsuit

What You Need To Know About Filing A Wrongful Death Claim After A Fatal Water Accident In Florida

National Water Safety Month, 4/4

Note: This blog is the final of four installments regarding National Water Safety Month. In this series, our law firm, The Florida Law Group, shares tips on how Florida residents or visitors can keep themselves safe around the water this summer and what steps they can take if they’ve been injured, or a loved one has been killed, in a water-related accident. Today’s blog deals with Florida wrongful death lawsuits after a fatal water accident and gives answers to frequently asked questions about this specific type of case that families need to know.

Losing a loved one to a water-related death is heartbreaking, but unfortunately, not uncommon.

In 2019, an estimated 236,000 people died due to drowning, making it the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide and accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. In Florida, the rate of drowning and other water-related deaths is even higher than the national average in the United States. One news article pointed out that in 2020, drowning deaths were 70% more frequent than they were in Florida in 2019.

If your loved one was killed in a water-related accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. No legal action will bring your loved one back, or replace the value and joy that they brought to your life, but filing a wrongful death claim after a fatal water accident in Florida can provide you and your family with monetary compensation to ease the financial burden of their death and help make this time easier on you. In this blog post, our law firm discusses what you need to know before beginning litigation.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

According to Florida law, wrongful death claims can only be brought by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Unless someone else is named by the deceased’s will or estate plan, this only includes specific surviving family members (and their attorneys) such as spouses, children, and parents. For children of unmarried parents, the child can recover damages if the mother is killed, but if the child’s father dies, damages may only be recovered if paternity was formally established. Any blood or adoptive relatives who are partially or wholly dependent on the decedent for support may recover the value of that lost support – this can include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and other blood relatives.

What can filing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal water accident do for me?

Wrongful death settlements can bring a sense of justice, closure, and resolution for grieving loved ones; it can be a chance to hold the negligent party accountable for the actions that resulted in the drowning or other water-related death. However, besides the emotional benefits, there are also monetary benefits of filing a wrongful death claim.

There are three categories of damages that can be sought in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit: survivor damages, estate damages, and punitive damages.

Survivor damages include tangible (“economic”) costs like those for medical expenses, funeral expenses, and lost support and services, and also intangible (“non economic”) costs like those for loss of decedent’s companionship and protection, loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance (only recoverable for children under 25), or for mental pain and suffering (only recoverable by certain relatives).

Estate damages, if applicable, are awarded to the estate of the deceased itself, which may then pass to the beneficiaries of the estate. These damages include the loss of net accumulations (loss of probable future income), the decedent’s lost earnings (that would have been made between the date of injury and the date of death), and the decedent’s medical and funeral expenses.

Punitive damages are compensation amounts awarded in order to set an example dissuading other people from causing similar accidents in the future and to punish the negligent party. Typically, these are awarded when the negligent actions committed were illegal; for example, an intoxicated boater who caused a swimmer’s death may have to pay expensive punitive damages to the family.

This all may sound very complicated, but basically, filing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit can give you the financial security you and your family need to thrive, even without the income, insurance benefits, or support that your family member who passed away provided.

How soon after my loved one’s death do I have to file?

Every state has a statute of limitations – a deadline by which the claim must be brought in order for the plaintiffs to recover compensation. Florida’s statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is 2 years from the date of death. That means if your loved one passed away due to injuries from a fatal water-related accident on May 11, 2021, you would have until May 11, 2023 to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you wait until after this deadline has passed, then you will almost certainly not be able to recover damages at all. Filing can take time, so it is important to not wait to contact a compassionate Florida wrongful death attorney with a winning reputation and discuss your case with them.

How is wrongful death proven?

Generally, in order for you to win your case, your lawyer must be able to prove the following:

  • That the defendant had a duty of care to the deceased individual
  • That the defendant did not uphold that duty of care (that they were negligent)
  • That the death occurred as a direct result of the defendant’s negligence
  • That the death has affected the people who are seeking damages
  • That the death resulted in monetary damages

Some water-related accidents that result in drownings or death are simply that – accidents – and may not be anyone’s fault, as hard as that can be to accept. However, in many cases, even if you don’t realize it, there may be a party that does hold some or all of the responsibility. It may be hard in some situations to prove wrongful death – which is why you need a skilled lawyer on your side who can tell you if you have a valid claim and pursue justice on your behalf – but in many cases, one party was clearly negligent.

For example, if a boat operator was speeding in an area with clear signage, and the boat hit a kayak, causing the drowning death of the kayaker, they obviously owed a duty of care to the deceased – not to speed. They breached it, which caused them to hit the kayak forcefully and that action directly resulted in the kayaker’s death. If the kayaker was a parent, that family can sue for wrongful death and recover compensation to replace that kayaker’s income and emotional value to the family.

How much do I stand to recover?

How much your wrongful death case is worth depends on many different factors and is impossible to estimate unless you have consulted with a knowledgeable Florida attorney. The Florida Law Group has recovered over $1 billion dollars in wrongful death lawsuits, including many million and multi-million dollar settlements for individual cases. We never charge you legal fees unless we are able to recover damages on your behalf! Call today to schedule a free consultation with us and discover how much your case may be worth. We know that losing a loved one can be an incredibly difficult and emotional time, so we handle all of our communications with you with respect and care – your family matters to us.