Statute of Limitations in a Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Case
Gregg Hollander | November 24, 2021 | Wrongful death
Time is a commodity that just about anyone would love to have more of. But when it comes to filing a legal case, time might actually be a bad thing. Over time, evidence degrades, and witness memories become fuzzy. That’s exactly why U.S. courts apply a statute of limitations for certain crimes.
Now, statutes of limitations can last months, years, or even decades after the incident. The specifics depend on the nature of the crime and the state in which the crime took place.
So, where does your case fall on the time spectrum after a wrongful death incident in Fort Lauderdale? Is the culprit ever off the hook for potential charges?
Building a case around a wrongful death takes time. Without legal representation, it will often take even longer.
This blog post will explore the statute of limitations that apply to wrongful death cases in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
How is Wrongful Death Defined in Florida Law?
Wrongful death is an aspect of personal injury law. In personal injury law, a victim can pursue compensation for injuries they’ve sustained because of the negligence of another person or entity. When those injuries result in death, the case is categorized as a wrongful death claim.
In a wrongful death case, the victim is not around to pursue their claim. This means that the case must be brought by a third party.
It’s important to understand that wrongful deaths are civil cases, not criminal ones. If the negligence was so severe as to constitute a crime, it can be tried in criminal court, but the affected family members can still pursue civil charges.
A civil case will require the offender (or their insurance provider) to pay for damages. Criminal cases, on the other hand, could result in a jail or prison sentence for the offender.
There is a difference in the burden of proof required for civil and criminal cases. For a criminal case, the prosecution must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, there must only be a preponderance of the evidence that points to negligence. In other words, it needs to be more likely than not that the negligence of the other party caused the injuries that led to the death.
According to Florida law, only certain kinds of damages can be pursued in a wrongful death case. These include:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- Anguish and mental pain
- The value of lost support or relationships
If you have lost a loved one because of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for these damages.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful deaths are caused by negligence or a wrongful act. Essentially, if you have lost a loved one because of another party’s intentional or careless actions or inactions, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit.
Here are the most common causes of wrongful deaths:
- Car accidents caused by distracted, drowsy, or aggressive driving
- Medical malpractice, abuse, or neglect from a care provider
- Workplace accidents due to faulty equipment or substandard training
- Product liability from design or manufacturing defects
- Nursing home deaths
It can be difficult, both emotionally and financially, to lose a loved one. If the death could have been avoided, the recovery process is all the more challenging.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Suit?
We mentioned that a third party must file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased. However, only certain parties are allowed to file these types of claims.
If you fall into one of these categories, you could be entitled to compensation on behalf of the deceased:
- A personal representative of the estate
- The spouse or registered domestic partner of the deceased
- The children of the deceased
- The parent or sibling of the deceased (if no living spouse, partner, or child exists)
If the deceased person is a child, only a parent or legal guardian who was involved in the child’s life can file a claim.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Crimes in Florida?
With wrongful death claims, there are three dates to keep in mind:
- The date of injury
- The date of death
- The date of discovery (only applies to medical malpractice)
Sometimes, these dates are one and the same. In other cases, a person might live for days, weeks, months, or even years before succumbing to their injuries.
In Florida, relatives or the estate of the deceased have two years from the date of death to file a complaint—with only a few exceptions. One example of an exception to the statute of limitations is medical malpractice.
In cases of medical malpractice, rather than filing within two years of the date of the death, a relative must file two years after the date of discovery. In other words, a case must be filed within two years after it was discovered that medical malpractice occurred.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations for a specific case, reach out to your attorney.
When Is It Time to Call an Attorney?
The days, weeks, and years after a loved one’s death are often chaotic and stressful. Legal action may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, it’s vital to seek counsel the moment you suspect a wrongful death has occurred.
Two years may seem like a lot of time. But that time can pass more quickly than you’d expect. It takes time to build a thorough case for wrongful death.
When you need help to pursue justice from the parties who contributed to the death of a loved one, find a qualified legal representative who can review the facts of your case and help you to determine next steps to seek the compensation you deserve.