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What Constitutes a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death covers a large appropriation of possible at-fault scenarios.  A death may qualify as a wrongful death by an almost limitless potential of scenarios.  To file a wrongful death civil claim in a Florida probate court, a few things must be established, primarily responsibility for the death, or the circumstances that allowed it.  The following examples may bring about a better understanding of such a complex issue.

Intent to Harm

One of the clearest cases of a wrongful death claim is when the victim’s life was brought to an end by the willful and wrongful act of another human being.  In most cases, there will be criminal charges brought forth in a separate court.  The wrongful death claim is a civil claim only to seek damages awarded, not to determine guilt or innocence; however, the wrongful death claim will hinge on the party being found responsible.  Examples may include:

  • Drunk driver accident
  • Murder
  • Hit and runs

Negligence

A court appointed personal representative may file a wrongful death claim in the event negligence can be established on behalf of another individual, an employer, a company, or a government agency.  Examples of negligence may include failure to abide by safety protocols and other negligent behavior that resulted in the wrongful death of another human being.  Responsibility must be proven through the fact finding process.  Examples may include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Nursing home neglect
  • Elder abuse
  • Medical malpractice
  • Automobile and motorcycle accidents
  • Train accidents
  • Defective products from car manufacturers, medical devices, etc.…

Establishing Fault

Because a wrongful death claim depends upon establishing responsibility for death, there is an investigative process that must happen.  Attorneys have their own investigators, but it is also possible to hire your own personal detective to gather evidence to support a wrongful death claim.  Acceptable evidence includes:

  • Witness testimony
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Surveillance of suspected parties
  • DNA testing

In order to bring a wrongful death claim against a party, the fault must be established, but it doesn’t have to be total fault.  There can be limited fault.  For example, if the wrongful death was caused by a drunk driver, but the deceased was illegally turning on red and it was raining outside, fault may be split between the two parties.  Generally speaking, the greater the fault, the greater the damages awarded.

Each case is different.  Having a Melbourne, FL area wrongful death attorney look at your case will be the best way to know how your case should be handled.