Wrongful Death Car Accidents
Thousands of people die in Florida traffic accidents every year, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting the moving five-year average to be about 3,125. That figure includes nearly 600 motorcyclists, more than 650 pedestrians and 140 bicyclists.
These crashes are almost 100 percent preventable, caused almost exclusively by driver negligence and even criminal misconduct. Some of the top contributing factors are:
- Alcohol impairment;
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers are committed to working with crash victims and surviving loved ones to obtain fair damages.
Although we recognize that legal action may not be the foremost thought on your mind after the sudden and painful loss of someone you care about, we also know losses like this are likely to impact your family beyond just the emotional turmoil. Crashes disproportionately affect younger people and those who are in their prime – those with children, spouses and elderly parents they were caring for and supporting. That’s on top of the medical bills, funeral expenses and your own lost wages.
The other fact is, wrongful death car accident cases will inevitably be more complex – yet have a shorter statute of limitations – than personal injury car accident cases. It’s for this reason we recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after the crash.Fatal Car Accident Statistics
One would think our roads would be getting safer. After all, the vehicles we drive are equipped with increasingly advanced safety technology. And yet, there has been an uptick in deadly crashes in recent years.
The NHTSA reports that nationally, there were 6.3 million police-reported crashes in a single recent year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths and 2.4 million injuries. On average, 96 people die every day in traffic crashes, which breaks down to one death every 15 minutes.
Of those, nearly one-third involved alcohol impairment, amounting to one drunk driving accident death every 51 minutes. Every 1.5 hours, a pedestrian is killed. Thirty-three percent of all motorcycle accidents are fatal.
Florida is one of the most dangerous places in the U.S. for road travelers – and that is even when factoring in population. While the national average is 11.59 car accident deaths per 100,000 people, Florida’s rate is 15.40 per 100,000. The lowest state average was 3.96.
All of this illustrates the scope of the problem. The big questions for those contacting our wrongful death attorneys are what are their rights and options for legal actions.Florida’s Wrongful Death Laws
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed in civil court when a person dies because of someone else’s reckless, negligent or intentional conduct. Survivors may be entitled to damages, including:
- Funeral expenses;
- Medical costs;
- Pain and suffering of decedent prior to dying;
- Loss of projected accumulations of one’s estate (had they survived);
- Loss of potential future earnings;
- Loss of companionship;
- Mental/ emotional suffering of those who survived.
While personal injury claims can be filed by the person who was injured – or that person’s legal representative – wrongful death claims may have several possible claimants.
F.S. 768.20 stipulates the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida rests with “survivors.” These can be the decedent’s spouse, children, parents or other blood relatives or adopted siblings who were dependent on decedent for services or support. Only one person will be deemed the “personal representative” of the estate. That individual will be the sole plaintiff, but any damages collected in that action will be subsequently distributed among the other survivors.
Another important point to underscore is that wrongful death lawsuits in Florida must be filed within two years of the “cause of action,” which is typically the date of death. This is pursuant to the statute of limitations outlined in F.S. 95.11(4)(d). Comparatively, claimants in personal injury lawsuits have four years to file from the date of the “cause of action,” which is usually the date the crash occurred. This is another important reason to seek counsel from an experienced attorney right away.
Defendants in Wrongful Death Car Accident Cases
Car accident wrongful death lawyers often must look far beyond the negligent driver when seeking recovery of damages.
First and foremost, we must note that Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance. That means decedent’s estate may be entitled to compensation through Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, per F.S. 627.736. This statute allows for $5,000 in death benefits per individual – which is in addition to the medical and disability benefits provided under the insurance policy.
One can step outside of Florida’s PIP to pursue action against the negligent driver under the terms of F.S. 627.737(2). This includes circumstances involving serious injury (i.e., permanent loss of important bodily functions, permanent scarring and disfigurement, etc.) and death.
If you win your case against that driver, you’ll be able to collect from the bodily injury liability limits of their auto insurance.
In the event this bodily injury coverage is not enough to cover your losses (as is often the case in wrongful death claims), you may then file a claim with decedent’s uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) carrier. This coverage is not required in Florida, but it comes standard with most policies (insureds must decline it in writing to refuse it).
Other defendants may include:
- The owner of the vehicle (who may be vicariously liable for negligent use of their owned vehicle, even if they weren’t driving);
- Auto manufacturer/ repair shop (if evidence of a vehicle or auto part defect);
- Negligent driver’s employer (if he/ she was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of a crash);
- City/ state/ government agency responsible for poor road design/ maintenance that contributed to the crash;
- Vendor of alcohol who, in violation of Florida’s dram shop law, sold alcohol to someone who was a minor or known to be habitually addicted to alcohol who then got behind the wheel and caused a drunk driving accident.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it reinforces the fact that car accident wrongful death cases are often more complex than they appear at first blush. Consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer is necessary to ensure you obtain the recovery you deserve.
Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer – (954) 761-4011 – Free Consultation