Undoubtedly, the most tragic possible outcome of an accident is death. Tragically, families in deal with this reality every day in South Florida. While families and loved ones mourn the loss of a loved one, they also confront decisions regarding the deceased person’s medical treatment, burial and funeral costs, and loss of support and companionship. Sometimes, a family will decide to pursue legal action for wrongful death.
What is Wrongful Death?
A “wrongful death” occurs when an accident victim dies as a result of another person’s unlawful or illegal actions. These unlawful or illegal actions usually take the form of “negligent,” careless, and/or reckless misconduct. There are various circumstances that may lead to a wrongful death case.
A choice that surviving family members, spouses, children, siblings, or relatives may face is whether to file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for their loss. Family members who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity who acted negligently include the deceased person’s spouse, children, parents, and, in some cases, siblings or other relatives.
How do I File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death?
In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami areas, contact and then retain an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death cases. Your attorney should help you navigate the legal landscape with compassion and care.
One of the first steps that your attorney will take is to identify who is responsible for the death of your loved one. Individuals, businesses, or government entities that acted negligently may be held liable for your loss.
After identifying the source and cause of the loss, your attorney will file a complaint against the responsible party or parties. A complaint is a document that is filed with the court that officially begins a lawsuit. The complaint often includes a specific claim—called a “cause of action”—and details of the accident as well as why the plaintiff is suing the defendant(s). In Florida, a plaintiff has up to two years from the date of the death to file a lawsuit against the responsible party or parties.
What Happens After a Wrongful Death Complaint is Filed?
Once a complaint is filed, your attorney will serve the defendant(s) with the complaint. This step is called “service of process,” and it formally notifies the defendant(s) that a lawsuit has been filed against them. The defendant(s) will have a finite time limit (usually twenty days) to respond to the allegations, and they can admit or deny the allegations, as well as file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
Your attorney and the opposing counsel (the attorney that represents the defendant(s)) will then engage in discovery. “Discovery” is the process in a lawsuit where both parties seek and exchange relevant information, documents, and electronically stored information from each other through specific methods identified in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. This “discovered” information can be in the form of medical or financial documents or personal history, and it will often serve as the evidentiary basis to support a cause of action.
In the discovery phase of the lawsuit, each side may also take depositions of individuals who were involved in the circumstances of the case. A deposition is a formal and legal process where a witness (the deponent) undergoes questioning under oath. Information gathered in depositions may be used in court if the case goes to trial.
How Will My Wrongful Death Case Get Resolved?
After discovery has been completed, both sides will try to settle the case. However, if a settlement agreement cannot be met, then the case will go to trial in the same court where the complaint was filed. Trials regarding a wrongful death lawsuit in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami can last anywhere from days to weeks, and a judge or jury may decide the final monetary or equitable award.
Filing a wrongful death claim is a sensitive subject and may be very difficult, especially in the wake of a tragic loss. While nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one, the victim’s surviving family members can bring forth a lawsuit to recover compensation for the damages that have been incurred. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions. Notably, even if a person is accused of criminal conduct, they can still be held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit for wrongful death.
Call Clayton Trial Lawyers to Fight for Your Rights
At Clayton Trial Lawyers, we are committed to righting the wrongs suffered by accident victims. When we take your case, you become a CTL family member. If we cannot settle your case, we will go to court, try the case before a jury, and fight for the maximum amount recoverable. We will stop at nothing to pursue justice for our clients.