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Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Tampa, Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

If you have been involved in a an SUV or car accident in the Tampa Bay area call Tampa Personal Injury Attorney, Martin J. Hernandez at 813-755-9500
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Tampa, Florida A Comprehensive Guide

Losing a loved one is an indescribable pain, and it can be even more devastating when the loss is due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act. In Tampa, Florida, the law allows the surviving family members or the estate of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. This type of legal action seeks compensation for the survivors’ loss, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses. This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the critical aspects of wrongful death claims in Tampa, Florida, offering solace and guidance through legal recourse.

What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person or corporation. In Tampa, as in the rest of Florida, these claims are governed by the Florida Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statutes sections 768.16 to 768.26), which outlines who can sue for wrongful death, the types of damages that can be recovered, and the time frame for filing a claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Tampa?

Under Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate must file the wrongful death claim. The personal representative is the person authorized under the law to file a lawsuit in a wrongful death action and is usually named in the decedent’s will.  Think of the “estate” as a corporation and the personal representative is CEO or the face of the corporation or “spokesperson” of the estate.

If the decedent did not have a will, usually the surviving spouse will be appointed by the court to serve as personal representative. If there is no surviving spouse or the surviving spouse declines to serve, the person (or institution) selected by a majority of the decedent’s heirs will be appointed as the personal representative. If the heirs cannot agree on a personal representative, the court will so decide. While the claim is filed by the personal representative, it is filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate and any surviving family members. This might include the deceased’s spouse, children, parents, and, in some cases, any blood relative or adoptive sibling who is “partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services.”

Types of Damages Available

The damages in a wrongful death claim are divided into two categories: those awarded to the estate and those awarded to the surviving family members. For the estate, recoverable damages may include:

  • Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, including what the deceased could reasonably have been expected to earn if they had lived
  • Lost “prospective net accumulations” of the estate, which is the value of earnings the estate could have expected to collect if the deceased had lived
  • Medical and funeral expenses that were paid by the estate

Surviving family members may recover damages for:

  • Loss of support and services from the date of the injury to the date of death, plus future loss of support and services
  • Lost companionship, guidance, and protection provided by the deceased
  • Mental and emotional pain and suffering due to the loss of a child
  • Medical or funeral expenses any surviving family member has paid for directly

The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim

In Florida, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of death. This means that the personal representative has two years to file a lawsuit in court. There are few exceptions to this rule, so it’s critical to consult with an experienced Tampa wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to avoid forfeiting your right to compensation.

The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Navigating a wrongful death claim can be complex and emotionally taxing. An experienced wrongful death attorney can provide invaluable assistance, offering not just legal representation but also emotional support during such a difficult time. A skilled attorney will handle all aspects of your claim, from investigating the death and gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies and, if necessary, representing your interests in court.

What to Expect During the Process

The wrongful death claim process in Tampa can vary in length and complexity, depending on the specifics of the case. Generally, it involves:

  1. Investigation and Evidence Gathering: Your attorney will collect all necessary evidence to support your claim, including medical records, accident reports, and witness statements.
  2. Filing the Claim: Once the evidence is gathered, your attorney will file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate and surviving family members.
  3. Negotiations with Insurance Companies: Many wrongful death claims are settled out of court. Your attorney will negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company to reach a fair settlement.
  4. Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may go to trial, where a judge or jury will determine the outcome of your claim.

Conclusion

The loss of a loved one due to another’s negligence is a profound tragedy. While no amount of money can replace your loved one, filing a wrongful death claim in Tampa, Florida, can provide financial stability and a sense of justice for the surviving family members. Understanding your rights and the legal process is the first step toward healing and recovery. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, seeking the counsel of an experienced wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the legal complexities and fight for the compensation you deserve.

 

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