Wrongful Death and Florida Auto Accidents
In 2018 (the most recent available data), Florida saw 2,917 fatal car accidents. It is hard not to wonder how many of those accidents led to grieving families filing wrongful death lawsuits against the person or persons who might have caused the death of their loved ones, as car accidents are one of the leading causes of wrongful death in Florida. If you have been so unfortunate as to lose someone you love as a result of a car crash, it is crucial that you have knowledgeable legal help to guide you through the process of filing suit.
Am I Allowed To File?
Normally, when injuries occur in an auto accident case, the remedy is not to file suit, but instead, to file a claim with one’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurer for your damages, as Florida is a no-fault state. Being a no-fault state means that instead of filing lawsuits over auto accident damages, everyone is required to carry PIP insurance, and use that to pay medical bills in the event of being injured in a car crash. However, Florida law specifically holds that if one suffers “significant and permanent” injuries – or if death occurs – one can file suit instead of being forced to go through their insurer.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that when someone is killed in an auto accident, any claim they might have had for damages against the allegedly negligent driver does not die with them. A wrongful death claim is essentially a lawsuit filed by the deceased person’s next of kin, using the deceased person’s claims that would have formed the basis for a personal injury claim had they survived. It is brought under a theory of negligence, meaning that in order to prevail, the plaintiff has to establish that the defendant breached a duty to exercise reasonable care with regard to the deceased person.
Usually, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the one to file the claim, though they can file it either on behalf of the estate, or on behalf of the deceased person’s surviving family. Only certain family members may recover – generally, the surviving spouse, children, and in some cases, parents. There are many different types of damages that may be recoverable, such as loss of support or services, loss of quality of life, and mental anguish.
If you are debating whether or not to file a claim, be advised that there is a time limit in which your decision must be made. Florida’s statute of limitations on wrongful death is two years from the date of the person’s passing, though in rare cases there may be a reason to extend that time period. This may seem like a long time, but it is not – and this goes double for auto accident cases, where quite a lot of information is often required in order to make an accurate determination of negligence. In extreme cases, accident reconstruction or expert witness testimony may even be needed – all of which takes time to prepare. If you have lost a loved one in this type of accident, it is best to file as quickly as possible.
Call A Tampa Wrongful Death Attorney
Losing a loved one can be devastating. If you are so unfortunate as to lose a loved one due to the alleged negligence of another person, you have the right to seek compensation for what you have lost. The Tampa wrongful death attorneys at the Rinaldo Law Group can offer compassionate and dedicated representation at a time when you may need an understanding ear. Call us today for a free consultation.