Losing a family member is one of the most devastating events a person can go through. While financial compensation will not make the pain of loss disappear, it can prevent your situation from getting worse due to the impact a death can have. Understanding how damages are calculated in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit is a very important part of having reasonable expectations as your case moves forward.
Losses from a wrongful death can include economic damages, awards for pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
It is also important to understand that comparative fault may play a role in your case.
The Role of Comparative Fault
The comparative fault laws will apply in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. This means that if the deceased is found to have been partially responsible for the accident, then compensation for economic losses, as well as pain and suffering, will be reduced by the share of fault that falls on the deceased. If the deceased is found to have been at least 51% at fault for the accident, the family members will receive nothing. It is worth noting that comparative fault does not apply to a punitive damages award.
For a better understanding of Florida's comparative fault laws, let us look at the following example. A person is riding their bike and, without looking or signaling, they veer into a lane where a vehicle is driving. They are hit by the vehicle and lose their life. The evidence shows that the driver was speeding and looking at their phone at the time they hit the person. Upon examining the case, the jury finds that both parties are responsible for the accident and allocates blame fifty-fifty. The total losses are calculated to be $5 million. Their surviving family members will receive $2.5 million. If, however, the jury finds that the deceased was at least 51% responsible for the accident, their family will receive nothing. This is due to a change in Florida's comparative fault standards, which occurred in 2023.
The surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the economic impact of what happened. One of the factors taken into consideration is the fact that the deceased is no longer able to provide income for the family. Therefore, a defendant might be liable for the amount of lost earnings that occurred between the accident and the time of death. Moreover, a determination will be made as to how much the deceased could have been expected to earn during the remainder of their life. The determination of lost lifetime earnings will usually require the use of expert witnesses.
Damages will also include any medical bills that the deceased was required to pay as a result of the incident, in addition to funeral expenses. The determination of these costs is relatively straightforward - it is a matter of totaling expenses. However, issues can arise if there is a disagreement over the necessity of certain treatments or other aspects.
Another factor to consider is the loss in value of services or activities that the deceased performed. Let us look at the following example. John and Jane are a married couple with two small children. They work alternating shifts so one of them can be at home with the children while the other is at their job. John, unfortunately, loses his life in a car accident, and Jane will now require daycare services to be able to go to work. In addition to John's lifetime earnings, Jane can also be entitled to the cost of daycare for her children. The same applies to other services that Jane may have to pay for or individuals she may have to hire as a result of John no longer being there.
Pain, Suffering & Loss of Companionship
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit will include a component for the emotional pain, anguish, and suffering that you and your family have endured as a result. In addition to emotional grief, this will include financial compensation for the time you spent dealing with the situation and other inconveniences you suffered as a consequence. Furthermore, you may seek compensation for the loss of companionship that results from the death of your loved one.
Another component of a pain and suffering award is compensation for what the deceased went through between the time of the accident and the time of their death. This will include damages for pain suffered during the accident all the way through treatment. It will also include compensation for the distress, anger, and aggravation they felt.
The Potential for Punitive Damages
Financial compensation for economic losses and pain and suffering is meant to replace what the surviving family members have lost. Punitive damages, however, are meant to punish the wrongdoer for what they have done. These damages are rare and will only be awarded in situations where the defendant acted with intent or out of reckless disregard for the safety of others. Product liability cases are usually cases in which punitive damages are more likely to be awarded.
Overall, wrongful death compensation is calculated based on a monetary amount covering both economic and non-economic losses for the survivors, typically children and spouses of the deceased, the parents of a deceased minor child, for the deceased's estate, and for relatives or adoptive siblings who are dependent on the deceased.
File Your Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit with the Assistance of The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary
In the unfortunate event that you lost a family member due to the negligence of another person or entity, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary has over 20 years of experience in providing quality assistance to surviving family members who intend to seek compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. Since we understand how terrible losing a family member can be, we will strive to make the legal process as simple as possible so that you can focus on your own well-being in the meantime. No matter how complex your case might be, our attorney will go to great lengths to obtain the most favorable outcome.