Car accidents, slip and falls, construction mishaps, medical malpractice share a common nexus—they are all accidents. Unless we are discussing intentional road rage, homicide, or recklessness such that an evil intent is implied in the action, the vast majority of unnatural injuries and deaths occur as the result of ordinary negligence (i.e., they are accidental or unintended). While some injuries resulting in death may occur when no negligence is involved—for example, if a loved one was struck by lightning—in most cases the negligence of either the deceased, another person, or a combination of negligent parties or events caused the death. What are the most common ways in which accidental injuries result in death, and are you entitled to compensation after the death of your loved one in Florida?
Accidental Injury Statistics and Falls in Florida
Earlier this year, the National Safety Council reported that preventable or accidental injuries are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is believed that this increase in accidental death is actually the result of the following:
- Fatal motor vehicle crashes
- Opioid overdoses
In fact, it was reported that an American dies every three minutes as the result of a preventable accident. Florida is unique in that falls are actually the leading cause of death among Florida residents over the age of 65 and the fourth most common cause of death in Florida. About 2,500 Floridians die each year as the result of injuries sustained in a fall, and the majority of these deaths are caused by the following injuries, in order from most to least:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Hip fractures
- Leg and lower extremity fractures
- Neck and spinal fractures
- Rib and torso fractures
While “same-level” falls, including slip and falls, trips, and stumbles, account for the majority of accidental fall-related deaths in Florida, the following were also common causes of death:
- Falls out of wheelchairs
- Falls out of bed
- Falls out of your chair
- Falls from ladders
- Falls from a building top
- Falls from one level to another, such as stairs or falling through a floor
Florida Wrongful Death Law
If your loved one died either immediately after an accident, such as a fatal car accident, or as the direct result of the injuries sustained in that accident, even if substantial time has passed, you may have a claim for his or her “wrongful death.” This is essentially the civil equivalent of a manslaughter or homicide charge, but it can also be brought in cases where the death was not caused by criminal activities. For example, if a nurse stepped away from your mother to use the restroom and your mother fell out of her wheelchair and injured herself, the nurse is not likely to be charged with manslaughter or homicide if the broken hip resulted in your mother’s death. However, if the nurse and the nursing home were negligent, you do have a claim for wrongful death to obtain monetary damages and compensation in Florida civil court. A criminal charge or action is not a predicate to a wrongful death claim.
Under Florida law, the following parties are permitted to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of another, but the list is mutually exclusive and in priority order:
- Adult child
- Personal representative of minor child
- A blood relative or adopted sibling of the deceased
- A person who was wholly dependent on the deceased for support
This means that an adult child cannot bring a cause of action for the wrongful death of his father if his mother is alive and competent. If the spouse declines to bring the action, you no longer have the right to do so. However, when an action for wrongful death is brought, it may be combined with an action for loss of parental support on behalf of a minor child. If the person who died was the head of household or provided important financial support to the family, then you can demand compensation. Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, if the person killed was the parent of an unmarried, dependent child, then the child may be able to recover for loss of:
After an accidental death, Florida law takes into consideration both your financial loss and the loss of emotional and social support.
Recovering Compensation for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One
If your loved one was killed as the result of an accident, which really means the result of someone’s negligence, you have options for compensation based on your loved one’s pain and suffering, out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills, and loss of support. Survivors of the decedent may be able to recover compensation for future loss of support and services as a result of the decedent’s passing. In calculating loss of services, the court looks to the decedent’s net income and how much of that income was used to support his or her family and dependents. A surviving spouse may also recover for “loss of companionship and protection” as well as for her mental pain and suffering as the result of her spouse’s passing.
Contact a New Port Richey, Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Even if your loved one died after a long battle with her or his injuries following a Florida accident, such as a fall, you may still be entitled to seek compensation on his or her behalf and on behalf of your family. The Dolman Law Group has your premier wrongful death attorneys in New Port Richey, Florida. With experience handling complex trip and fall, car accident, and medical malpractice deaths, they will get you the compensation you deserve. Contact them today at (727) 853-6275 for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652