Miami Wrongful Death Lawyers
One of the best decisions you can make for your family after the abrupt death of a loved one is to retain a competent Miami wrongful death attorney. Florida laws are strict regarding who may file this type of claim, what damages the court allows, and deadlines for filing. Putting your case in the hands of a trustworthy lawyer can take the burden off your shoulders.
During this time of mourning, the last thing you want to do is deal with a wrongful death claim alone. Let our Miami injury attorneys take care of the hard work. You can focus on your family while we pursue justice and compensation on your behalf.
Who May Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
The first consideration when initiating a wrongful death claim is understanding who may lawfully file. In the State of Florida, not just anyone can pursue damages for a loved one’s wrongful death. If a death results from the “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another person, only the deceased person’s estate may bring a civil lawsuit in pursuit of financial recovery. This means that siblings, spouses, and parents cannot bring the claim. Only the personal representative of the estate may do so in Miami.
The deceased person may have left a will or estate plan that names a family member or other party as the personal representative of the estate. If this is the case, this individual has the sole right to file the claim on the estate’s behalf. If there is no will or estate plan, the Miami probate courts will appoint a personal representative. Close family members may petition for this position, or the courts may choose a third party representative. The representative files the claim on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and surviving beneficiaries.
Survivors who may have interests in the wrongful death claim include the decedent’s spouse, parents, and children. Any blood relative or adoptive sibling who was dependent on the decedent may also have a stake in the claim. A child born to unmarried parents may recover damages if the mother dies. If the father dies, the child may only collect damages if the father formally recognized his paternal rights. The law entitles certain surviving family members to a portion of compensation should the wrongful death claim result in a settlement or judgment. It is up to the personal representative to divide the compensation accordingly.
Timeline/Statute of Limitations for Filing
On top of rules for who may file, Florida also dictates when a personal representative may bring the wrongful death claim. Statutes of limitations, or deadlines for filing, exist to protect the defendants in civil and criminal lawsuits. The court system abides by the belief that waiting too long to file a claim is more unjust than just. It opens the door to lost or destroyed evidence, fuzzy accounts of what happened from witnesses, and other elements that can compromise the integrity of the case. Thus, each state enacted its own statutes of limitations to restrict how long a plaintiff or prosecutor may wait before bringing a claim.
Florida Statutes Title VIII, Chapter 95.11 states plaintiffs must file wrongful death claims within two years of the date of the loved one’s death in most cases. After the two-year deadline passes, the courts may refuse to hear the case. Even if the courts agree to the hearing, the defendant may use the failure to obey the statute of limitations as a defense and request the courts drop the case. The courts may “toll,” or extend, the statute of limitations under very few circumstances. For example, cases that arise out of medical malpractice may qualify for an extension of the deadline. Timely filing is critical to the chances of a successful wrongful death claim.
Leading Causes of Death in Miami-Dade County
Most leading causes of death in Miami-Dade County are preventable. According to a Florida Health chart on Miami-Dade County, the top causes of death include heart disease, malignant neoplasms, unintentional injuries, suicide, homicide, and diabetes. Unintentional injuries often stem from negligence, such as in a car accident or slip and fall cases. Homicides are intentional torts that lead to wrongful death. Three top negligence-related death cases are as follows:
- Motor vehicle collisions. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among people ages five to 34. Miami-Dade County ranked better than most Florida counties in terms of accident rates, but the area is experiencing a recent upward trend. In 2015, there were 12.5 deaths per 100,000 population. This is an increase from 10.1 in 2014 and a 10-year low of 8.8 in 2013. In Miami-Dade, men are more likely to be involved in fatal collisions than women (19.8 vs. 5.6 deaths/100,000 population). Black and Latino people were victims of Miami-Dade accidents more often than white people in 2015.
- Falls. Fatal falls occur most often in people aged 65 and older in the U.S. Falls are a leading cause of death in the workplace – especially in the construction industry. In Miami-Dade County, there was an average of 4.4/100,000 population fall deaths in 2015. This county was in the best 50th percentile compared to all Florida counties. The numbers for 2015 were lower than 2014, which had a value of 5.2. Men were victims of fatal falls more than twice as often as women (6.2 vs. 3 deaths/100,000 population). The majority of fatal fall victims were white, followed by Hispanic and black individuals.
- Homicides. In Miami-Dade County, homicides were the number one cause of death in ages 15 to 24 in 2013. It was the second-leading cause of death in age groups one to four and 25 to 34. The Miami Dade Homicide Bureau recorded 84 homicides from January to December of 2016. There has been an average of 85 homicides in Miami-Dade County every year from 2012 to 2016. Homicides and violent crimes take hundreds of lives in Miami each year. Offenders may face criminal and civil penalties for this type of wrongful death.
Leading Causes of Death by Injury in Miami-Dade County
Source: Florida Health, information updated in September 2017
Understanding the most common causes of wrongful death can help you discover whether you have grounds for a claim in Miami. Keep in mind that you must prove certain elements to be eligible for recovery. For the courts to consider a death “wrongful,” the plaintiff must prove the defendant breached a duty of care and this act of negligence caused or contributed to the decedent’s death.
Duties of care change according to the defendant’s unique responsibilities to the decedent. For example, a doctor owes the highest standards to patients according to accepted medical practices. Drivers, employers, property owners, and product manufacturers all owe different standards of care depending on the situation. A lawyer can help you understand the defendant’s unique responsibilities in a given situation and whether he or she breached these duties.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
An experienced attorney can help the personal representative of your claim prove wrongful death in Miami. These types of civil suits must obey stringent Florida laws to give the plaintiff the best chance at fair compensation. Don’t go up against an insurance company, employer, corporation, individual, or criminal alone. Retaining a wrongful death lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
Reach out to the team at Lipcon & Lipcon, P.A., for a free consultation. We are compassionate about wrongful death claims in Miami, and we want to help your family achieve maximum recovery for this terrible wrongdoing.
“I have never met a nicer, more caring person. He worked so hard on my case, and won a settlement way beyond my expectations. He made us feel like we were his only clients…..that felt good! It seemed like the insurance company was scared of him!” – Susan