The loss of a family member is one of the most devastating events that anyone can go through. While financial compensation cannot make the pain of loss go away, it can prevent your situation from getting worse due to the impact that an unexpected death can have. Understanding how damages are calculated in a wrongful death case is an important part of having reasonable expectations as your case moves forward. This article will discuss those calculations. If you are in need of help, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Losses from a wrongful death can include economic damages, an award for pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages. Also, it is important to understand that comparative fault may play a role in your case. Each of these issues will be discussed in turn.
The surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the economic impact of what has happened. First is the fact that the deceased is no longer able to provide income for the family. As a result, a defendant will potentially be liable for the amount of lost earnings that occurred in between the accident and the time of death. Also, 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 typically require the use of expert witnesses and is a hotly contested topic during the litigation of such cases.
Damages will also include any medical bills which the deceased was required to pay as a result of the incident in addition to funeral expenses. The determination of these amounts is relatively straightforward; it is a matter of totaling expenses. Issues can arise, however, if there is a disagreement over the necessity of certain treatments, etc.
Another factor considered will be the loss in value of services or activities that the deceased performed. Consider the following example. Jack and Jill 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 respective job. Jack, unfortunately, is lost in a car accident, and Jill will now require daycare services to be able to go to work. In addition to Jack’s lifetime earnings, Jill can also be entitled to the cost of daycare for her children. The same is true for other services which Jill may have to pay for, or individuals she may have to hire as a result of Jack no longer being there.
Pain, Suffering, and the Loss of Companionship
The loss of a loved one is an emotional catastrophe. Damages in a wrongful death case 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 compensation for the time you have spent dealing with the situation and other inconveniences you have suffered as a result. Also, and quite important, you may seek compensation for the loss of companionship that results from the death of a loved one.
Another component of a pain and suffering award will be compensation for what the deceased went through in between the time of the accident and the time of their death. This will include damages for pain suffered during the actual accident all the way through treatment. Also, it will include compensation for the distress, anger, and aggravation that they felt.
The Potential For Punitive Damages
Compensation for economic losses and pain and suffering is meant to replace what the surviving family members have lost. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the wrongdoer for what they have done. Such damages are rare and will only be awarded in situations where the defendant(s) acted with intent or out of reckless disregard for the safety of others. Product liability cases tend to be a class of case in which punitive damages may be more likely.
The Role of Comparative Fault
Florida’s comparative fault laws will apply in a wrongful death claim. 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, then the surviving family members will receive nothing. It should be noted that comparative fault does not apply to a punitive damages award.
Consider the following example. Joe is riding his bike and, without looking or signaling, he veers into a lane where a vehicle is driving. Joe is hit by the vehicle and loses his life. The evidence shows that the driver was speeding and looking at their phone at the time they hit Joe. 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. Joe’s surviving family members will receive $2.5m ($5m -Joe’s 50% share of fault for the accident). If, however, the jury were to find that Joe was at least 51% responsible for the accident, then his family members would receive nothing. This is due to a change in Florida’s comparative fault standards, which occurred in 2023.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have lost a loved one to an accident, we understand that this is a difficult time in your life. Our firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of victims and we will give your matter the attention it deserves. This includes promptly responding to emails, phone calls, and making ourselves available to answer your questions. It also includes dedicating necessary resources to the handling of your case. If you require assistance, contact us online or by telephone at 800-780-8607 to speak with a Florida wrongful death attorney.