With hundreds of millions of cars, trucks and other vehicles traveling on our nation’s roads and highways, there is a strong likelihood that you will be involved in a car accident at some point in your life. While thankfully most car crashes only involve minor damages and injuries, fatal car accidents happen every day.
According to reports from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, nearly 3,000 traffic fatalities occurred in Florida in the year 2017. In Palm Beach County alone, which includes the Boca Raton and West Palm Beach areas, over 100 people died in fatal vehicle crashes.
Taking Legal Action When a Fatal Auto Accident Occurs
Losing a loved one in a fatal car accident is one of the most heart wrenching experiences a family can be forced to go through. Even though auto accidents happen every day, when a person is killed because of another’s carelessness or negligence, the survivors have a right to seek justice for their loss. While no amount of money can bring a loved one back, financial compensation can help alleviate the tremendous burdens that are placed upon a family when a loved one’s life is cut short due the wrongful conduct of another.
Hollander Law Firm has years of experience helping survivors seek the financial compensation and justice they deserve when a loved one is killed as result of another’s misconduct. Our firm’s founder, Gregg Hollander, is a veteran lawyer who handles wrongful death actions in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and other South Florida locations.
At Hollander Law Firm, we understand the emotional trauma involved when these types of deaths occur, and we work to ensure that our clients get the financial support they need to get through one of the most challenging times of their lives.
About Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When a person is killed due to the negligence, recklessness or misconduct of another, the law allows for the bringing of a wrongful death suit for monetary damages. In Florida, the personal representatives of the deceased have the right to file the wrongful death claim on behalf of any surviving family members and the deceased person’s estate. The surviving family members who are entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death action arising from a car accident include:
- The decedent’s spouse, children, and parent(s); and
- Any blood relatives and adoptive siblings who were either wholly or partially dependent on the deceased for support or services
Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute sets forth the specific types of damages that surviving family members and the decedent’s estate can recover in a wrongful death action. Because the statute can be exceedingly difficult to navigate on your own, it is always best to seek advice from an experienced Boca Raton wrongful death attorney. Your lawyer can guide you through each step of the process to make certain that you do not miss any critical deadlines for filing your claim.
It is important to keep in mind that when a loved one is killed in a car crash in Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the death.
Q&A with Boca Raton Wrongful Death Attorney Gregg Hollander
Q: How Do I Know Who is My Loved one’s “Personal Representative”?
There are two ways that one person can be designated as a decedent’s personal representative. The first way is through the decedent’s will. When preparing a will, it is standard practice to designate a personal representative who will be responsible for administering the decedent’s final affairs after death. If your loved one prepared a will (and if his or her will is valid), then the will should specify who is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the eligible family members.
The second way a personal representative can be appointed is through the probate process. If your loved one did not leave a will, then a personal representative will need to be appointed by a Florida probate court judge. This is a legal process that has several important implications, so it is important to hire an attorney to guide you and your family as you move forward.
Q: What Types of Financial Compensation are Available in Fatal Car Accident Cases?
In Florida, different family members are entitled to different types of financial compensation. Florida’s wrongful death statute states:
- “Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value.”
- “The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.”
- “Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.”
- “Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.”
- “Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by a survivor who has paid them.”
In addition, the decedent’s personal representative can also recover loss of earnings, medical expenses and funeral expenses on behalf of the estate, with these additional damages to be distributed among the decedent’s eligible surviving family members.
Q: Will I Need to Go to Court in Order to Recover Just Compensation?
Maybe. Similar to non-fatal car accident cases, most fatal car accident cases settle. With an experienced Boca Raton wrongful death attorney representing you, there is a good chance that you will be able to obtain a settlement without going to trial. However, the outcome of your case cannot be guaranteed; and, if the at-fault party’s insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, then your attorney may need to take your case to court.
Q: What if the Insurance Companies Say My Loved one was Partially at Fault in the Crash?
If this happens, first of all, you should not assume that the insurance company is correct. This is a common tactic that insurance companies use to try to deny payment of just compensation. Second of all, even if your loved one was partially at fault, your family may still be entitled to partial compensation. Under Florida’s “pure comparative fault” statute, families can recover financial compensation as long as their loved ones were not 100 percent at fault for their own fatal injuries.
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car collision in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale or another part of South Florida, we urge you to contact the Hollander Law Firm today. Our wrongful death lawyer will explore your legal options and help you develop the right course of action to recover the compensation you deserve. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation by calling (561) 347-7770.