Wrongful Death Attorneys in Florida,
Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas
A wrongful death claim is a legal claim that relates to a scenario in which an individual is killed but a third party can be held civilly responsible for that death. (Although the responsible individual also may be charged criminally, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that the legal representative and/or spouse and other survivors of a decedent bring against a person who is legally responsible for the decedent’s death under the applicable state law). Wrongful death claims can occur in a variety of settings, from motor vehicle accidents, to medical malpractice actions, to premises liability cases. An example would be if a physician commits an error during a surgical procedure that results in a patient developing an infection that ends up resulting in his or her death. A second example would be if an assailant attempting to rob a restaurant’s customer in the alley adjacent to the restaurant accidentally kills that patron. The restaurant may be negligent due to a failure to employ any security personnel to ensure safety.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action?
The personal representative of the estate of the decedent typically will always be a party to a wrongful death action. As the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, this person is in essence bringing a claim on behalf of the person who was wrongfully killed. In addition, if the decedent was married and/or had children or other dependents, then those individuals also may bring a claim against the one who caused the decedent’s death.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Action
Damages available in a wrongful death action vary depending on the party and can also vary depending on the state in which the case is filed, particularly as it relates to damages for pain and suffering. However, any medical bills incurred prior to the decedent’s death which were incurred as a result of the negligence that caused that death, would be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit, as would the funeral and burial expenses associated with the decedent’s death. Depending on the state, the lost wages suffered as a result of the decedent’s death may also be recoverable. In addition, damages for pain and suffering are also available, although the amount of pain and suffering that can be awarded can be capped by state law depending on the circumstances that led the decedent’s death, such as in medical malpractice cases.
Time Limitations Applicable to a Wrongful Death Action in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi
The statute of limitations determines the time period after the decedent’s death during which a lawsuit can be filed. In Florida, that period is two years, but in Arkansas and Tennessee it is one year. Mississippi law provides for a three-year period for wrongful death suits. It is important to keep in mind that these limitations apply with the assumption that is reasonably clear from a legal perspective that the defendant’s conduct was the underlying cause of the decedent’s death. If that person’s negligence is later discovered to be the cause of the decedent’s death, then a judge may have the authority to lengthen these time periods depending on the state and particular factual circumstances.
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