Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit

Posted by Fred Koberlein | Dec 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

When a person dies in an automobile accident due to the negligence, deliberate action or misconduct of another driver, the members of that victim's family may sue the other party for wrongful death. In general, a wrongful death suit follows after a criminal trial and uses similar evidence, but it is not necessary for the defendant to be convicted of a crime to be liable for civil damages in a separate lawsuit. Here is an overview of the elements that may come into play during a wrongful death lawsuit.

Elements of the Wrongful Death Suit

In order to file for wrongful death in a civil case, there are several elements that have to be present. These include the following:

  • Someone has to die due to an accident or through the actions of another person
  • The other person acted deliberately or negligently to cause or contribute to the victim's death
  • Surviving family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
  • There must be a duly appointed personal representative for the deceased person's estate, and that person must bring the suit.

Standard of Proof

As stated previously, these suits often follow criminal trials, but this is not always the case, nor does a person have to be found guilty of a crime to be liable for damages in this kind of suit. In fact, the standard of proof in a civil case is often much lower than it is in a criminal case, where reasonable doubt is enough to find a defendant not guilty.

Determining and Awarding Damages

The appointed personal representative for the decedent (the deceased) must bring the suit for wrongful death and such factors as pain and suffering, personal injury or medical expenses prior to death. Any damages awarded will go to the decedent's estate, and may then be distributed to different people based on instructions in the deceased person's will.

In general, the compensation in a suit for wrongful death will be pecuniary, as determined by a measure of direct financial damages. This can include loss of support and services, lost inheritance and the like. The major portions of recovery, in general, can include such things as:

  • Income loss
  • Caregiving
  • Medical expenses prior to death
  • Funeral expenses
  • Adjustments based on the decedent's age, character, earning capacity, health, intelligence and life expectancy as well as interest from the date of death.
  • Punitive Damages (in cases of malicious acts or severe negligence)

Survival Actions

Survival actions are awarded as an addition to wrongful death. These actions are essentially personal injury awards for such things as pain and suffering and are based on the degree of suffering and consciousness the decedent experienced before death.

Pursuing a wrongful death suit is a tricky and complex process, and you should never try to undertake it alone. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to ensure that you avoid all the legal pitfalls and have all of your rights protected. If you are in the North Florida area and have lost a loved one in a car accident, read a bit about our services, and give us a call for a free consultation today or email us through our contact page.

About the Author

Fred Koberlein

Fred Koberlein is a trial attorney who opened Koberlein Law Offices after acquiring extensive legal experience in three legal practice areas, which are: personal injury law; criminal defense; and local government matters which require you to appear or present your matter before your local government Boards, government Councils, and government Agencies. Mr. Koberlein began trial preparation through an externship as a legal clerk with the Judges of the Third Judicial Circuit for Florida prior to his graduation from the University of Florida, College of Law.  After law school Mr. Koberlein was dedicated to becoming a trial attorney and worked with the Public Defender's Office from 2004 to 2007, where he was promoted to handling felony cases within eight months of hire.  Mr.  Koberlein has handled over 1500 criminal cases ranging from possession of cannabis, DUI, serious felonies, white-collar crimes, violations of probation hearings, and countless motion hearings. Mr.  Koberlein began practicing in the areas of personal injury and insurance defense during 2006.  Mr. Koberlein's experience in prosecuting personal injury claims against those insurance companies he was not representing and defending other insurance companies and their customers provided a unique experience where he was able to learn what each side anticipates from the opposing party.Next, Mr. Koberlein was hired by a City to defend the City's interests and three additional Cities quickly followed and retained Mr. Koberlein to protect their interests.  Currently, Mr. Koberlein represents a total of four (4) municipalities in the North Florida area.  As Mr. Koberlein focused on civil litigation he remained passionate about representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes as well as civil litigation issues. Mr.  Koberlein has the experience and reputation to negotiate a favorable resolution in your matter, and if that is not possible, to provide the best, most zealous trial representation available.  Utilizing competent and trusted investigators and experts, your case will be prepared so that the best result will be achieved.  If you or a loved one is hurt, damaged, or is facing criminal charges, you want a qualified, hard-working attorney who will explain your options to you in a straightforward, commonsense, and honest manner. Education and Practice Experience: University of Florida; Gainesville, Florida; Bachelor of Science, 1997 University of South Florida; Tampa, Florida; 1998 University of Florida, College of Law; Gainesville, Florida; 2003 Bar and Court Admissions: Florida Bar, 2004 – Present All 67 Counties in Florida All 20 Circuits in Florida U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida Professional and Civic Activities: Florida Bar Trial Lawyers, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Business Law Section, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, 2004 – Present Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2004 – Present Third Judicial Bar Association, 2004 – Present Mr.  Koberlein is committed to his clients and devotes himself to protecting their interests from the beginning to the end of their case.  Mr. Koberlein has spent his career helping clients defend themselves against criminal charges, fight insurance companies, and proceed through the bureaucratic process of local governments.  Mr. Koberlein welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and evaluate your legal needs and provide you with an experienced and competent analysis.


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