Losing a loved one is one of the most painful experiences in life. When you lose a loved one because of another person’s negligence or recklessness, it can make that loss even harder. Your loved one might still be alive if the responsible party acted with care and caution. This is a difficult truth and one that is hard to bear.
The loss of a loved one turns your whole world upside down. In the blink of an eye, you may find yourself facing an uncertain future without the love and companionship you once had. You may also find yourself facing a difficult financial future, with the loss of financial support.
At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, our Port Richey wrongful death attorneys have helped grieving families throughout the area. Our law firm offers free initial consultations because we want you to understand all your legal options before choosing a law firm. We will meet with you to answer your questions and offer you compassionate legal guidance.
Our lawyers want you and your family to feel supported during this difficult time. We know that no amount of compensation could ever replace the loss of your loved one. However, we do not want you and your family to suffer unnecessary financial hardships because of another person’s negligence or carelessness.
When You Should Hire a Port Richey Wrongful Death Lawyer
As soon as possible. We understand it is difficult to consider legal action while grieving over an unexpected death. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and a lawyer will only protect your legal rights once you have enlisted their help. The insurance company can use statements you make to them, at a hospital, or to an employer against you in a wrongful death case. An insurance company could turn even your personal posts on social media against you.
Our Port Richey wrongful death attorneys can help advise you on what to say. We can also handle all communications with the defendants and their insurance companies to protect you from saying anything that could impair your right to compensation. We are here to fight for you at every step of this painful process.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may try to take advantage of you during your grief. When it is evident that their policyholder caused your loved one’s death, they will attempt to get you to settle. As such, their first settlement offer may come quickly. They hope you agree to this settlement because it is often just a fraction of what you and your family deserve.
When a wrongful death occurs, it is important to know that you are not alone. Florida law is on your side. In many cases, grieving families can file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation after the death of a loved one.
At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, our lawyers have extensive experience representing grieving families in Port Richey. Our law firm offers aggressive and compassionate legal guidance every step of the way. We know what it takes to win wrongful death cases and we use this knowledge to help build a case designed to obtain maximum compensation for you and your family.
At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, we want to be with you at every turn. When you step into our office, you immediately become our number one priority. You are never just another case number here. We know that no two wrongful death cases are the same. That is why we listen with compassion and offer real solutions to help you and your family.
Experience does matter. Yet, experience is just one piece of the puzzle. In addition to experience, you need a law firm that has the time and resources to devote to your case. You need a law firm that understands the issues you face and the long and uphill battle you may need to endure. At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, we have the experience, resources, and dedication to help you with your wrongful death case.
Founder and managing partner Nicolette Nicoletti knows Port Richey's families because she was born and raised in the community. Her compassion and first-hand knowledge of the area allows her to build a solid case for her clients from the start. This is one reason why so many Port Richey families choose Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers to represent them during their time of grief.
Understanding Wrongful Death in Port Richey and Florida
When there is a serious accident, injured survivors can file a personal injury claim against the negligent party. But what happens when the accident results in a fatality?
When a person or company’s negligence or carelessness leads to the death of a loved one, surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims differ from criminal cases because they do not seek to publish the defendant for breaking the law. Instead, wrongful death cases seek to compensate the deceased’s surviving family members for their losses.
As such, a negligent individual or entity could face a civil wrongful death lawsuit at the same time as they also face criminal charges. One example of this is a fatal DUI accident. The responsible drunk driver may face vehicular manslaughter charges, as well as a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
To prove wrongful death, your attorney must clearly establish:
- That the person or entity owed your loved one a duty of care
- The person or entity breached that duty of care
- Your loved one died as a result of this breach
- You or surviving family members suffered damages because of their death
In Florida, only specific family members can file a wrongful death claim. Those include children, spouses, and parents of the deceased. In some cases, additional family members may file a claim if there are no other family members and if they depended on the deceased for support.
Family members only have a limited time to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. In Florida, you only have two years from the date of death to file a claim. If you miss this deadline, you cannot file a future lawsuit to collect compensation. If you believe that a government entity caused your loved one’s death, you may have even less time to file a lawsuit. That is why it is important to act quickly after the loss of a loved one.
In some cases, Florida law will allow for a postponement of the deadline. As such, you should discuss your case with our lawyers immediately. Even if you believe you missed this deadline, we may find that you can still file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Any accident can cause wrongful death. When another person fails to act responsibly or acts with carelessness, they can cause a wrongful death.
The most common causes of wrongful death include:
- Motor vehicle accidents. In Florida, nearly 3,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents occur every year. These accidents result in over 3,000 fatalities, making Florida one of the deadliest states to drive in. Types of motor vehicle accidents that cause wrongful deaths include:
- Premises liability accidents. Premises liability accidents account for thousands of deaths every year. From swimming pool drownings to deadly falls, property owners in Florida bear liability after someone suffers a fatal accident on their property.
- Construction site accidents. Construction sites are dangerous places. From scaffolding falls to construction equipment malfunctioning, people can suffer serious and deadly injuries on sites. In the last seven years, the fatality rate in Florida construction soared by 140 percent.
- Medical malpractice. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. These errors involve surgical mistakes, medication errors, nursing care errors, and misdiagnosis. In Florida, more than 5,000 deaths occur every year from medical malpractice.
- Device defects. Defective devices and products contribute to thousands of fatalities every year. From defective tires to faulty medical devices, consumers lose their lives because of these defects. Manufacturers have a responsibility to protect their customers and provide safe products. When they fail to do this, they can bear liability for the deaths they cause.
How Can We Help?
At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, our Port Richey wrongful death lawyers can help you and your family make sense of the legal process and your options. We offer compassionate assistance at every turn. We want to take the burden off of you, so you can focus on rebuilding your life. To do this, we will meet with you in our office to get to know your case and your family’s concerns. We can then evaluate if you may benefit from filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, our attorneys will investigate your loved one’s death closely to identify all responsible parties. In some cases, multiple entities may even share the blame.
Building your case involves extensive investigation, including:
- Reviewing police records
- Examining medical documents
- Visiting the crash site and examining resulting damage
- Meeting with loved ones
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
Once we identify liable parties, we will file the necessary paperwork in court on your behalf.
Florida statutes allow surviving family members to seek different types of damages, including:
- Loss of companionship and guidance
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Medical or funeral expenses
- Value of support and services
Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may not recover all types of damages. For example, Florida law allows only surviving spouses and minor children to recover damages for loss of companionship and protection. Adult children could recover these damages only if a surviving spouse does not exist.
Your loved one’s estate can also seek damages, including:
- Lost wages, future earnings, and financial benefits
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of the estate
- Medical and funeral expenses paid by the estate
Collecting these damages after the loss of a loved one is never easy. Insurance companies fight hard to avoid paying wrongful death claims. They may give you the runaround or they may simply refuse to negotiate. This is not fair. Your loved one’s death has upended your life and derailed your future. You deserve to recover damages to help you and your family try to heal and put your lives back together.
A Port Richey wrongful death attorney at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers can help you secure compensation by establishing how your family’s life changed because of your loved one’s death. How did your loved one’s death impact you and your children? What financial resources will you miss? How did your loved one’s death impact your emotional and mental wellbeing? This sometimes involves securing multiple experts to testify on your behalf, such as family members, financial experts, and mental health professionals. These testimonies help us measure the loss you and your family suffered and will continue to suffer.
That is why Port Richey families need Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers in their corner. We know that the last thing you need is more things on your “to-do” list. We also know that the last thing you want to do is deal with insurance companies and parties who caused your loved one’s death. That is where we can help. From the very start, we work diligently to hold negligent parties accountable, and we take the burden off of you at a time when you need it most.
Port Richey Wrongful Death FAQs
There are few losses in life more painful than the unexpected death of a loved one. When the death is an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, feelings of anger and confusion can complicate a survivor’s grief. It is not easy to deal with these feelings in the legal system. It is, however, critically important to hold negligent individuals and companies accountable for their dangerous negligence. It is especially important to do so when the negligence is so severe as to cause death.
Wrongful death claims help to deter negligent conduct and prevent other innocent victims from being killed in the same way in the future. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers are here to guide you through the difficult process of filing an injury claim while you are grieving an untimely death. Here, we will answer some of the most common questions our lawyers get asked about wrongful death cases.
Who May File a Port Richey Wrongful Death Claim?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act requires a personal representative on behalf of the decedent’s estate to file wrongful death claims. The estate can recover the financial losses resulting from the untimely death, such as medical bills, lost wages, funeral and burial expenses, and the like.
Close family members can also recover compensation for their own pain and suffering. This is known as “loss of consortium,” and it covers the intangible losses in a close family relationship, such as the loss of a parent’s guidance or a spouse’s companionship.
These additional damages are limited to:
- A surviving spouse
- Any minor child
- The parents of a deceased minor child; and
- The parents of an adult child (when there are no other survivors)
If there is no surviving spouse, adult children over the age of 25 can recover damages for loss of consortium (including lost parental companionship, guidance, and instruction).
How Long Do I Have To File a Port Richey Wrongful Death Claim?
The general statute of limitations for a Florida wrongful death claim is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the death to file your wrongful death claim in court. If you try to file a case after this deadline, the defendants can immediately ask the court to dismiss your case. The defendants’ insurance companies will also refuse to make any settlement offer at this point because you no longer have the recourse of going to court to force a jury trial.
A two-year deadline does not mean that you can wait one year and eleven months to consult with a personal injury lawyer about your case. Wrongful death claims are especially complicated. Your attorney will need time to investigate the case, prepare pleadings, and complete other required tasks before filing a case.
Waiting to get a lawyer may also lead to the destruction of critical evidence. The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the better options he or she will have for preserving evidence and taking other important steps to protect your legal rights.
You are not guaranteed a full two years for the statute of limitations. Certain claims could come with a shorter deadline. Many claims also require notice to be given to potential defendants before the plaintiff can file a claim in court. For example, regulations in Florida require the plaintiff to serve the defendant with a notice of a claim (and given ninety days thereafter to investigate the case) before a complaint may be filed with the court.
It is possible to extend the statute of limitations to accommodate this notice requirement if the plaintiff serves notice within the statute of limitations, but the whole process is much simpler if you serve notice in time to file a complaint before the statute of limitations has passed. It is also easier for your attorney to protect your legal rights when he or she is not fighting for exceptions to a statute of limitations. In summary, it is always best to consult with a wrongful death accident lawyer as soon as possible.
What Is the Process of Filing a Port Richey Wrongful Death Claim?
As soon as you hire a wrongful death lawyer, he or she will immediately take action to protect your legal rights. These steps might involve the preservation of evidence. If, for example, you need security footage from a store’s camera, your attorney can send a formal letter requesting that the owner not erase this footage as they usually would. (If the store owner does not wish to hand it over right away, your attorney can later issue a formal subpoena to obtain it.)
Your attorney will also begin investigating the case to ensure that the defendant’s fault can be proven and learn the full value of your damages. Potential defendants might require formal written notice of your claim. (As discussed, medical malpractice cases require this, regulations might require notice for government defendants, such as a state agency or local municipality.)
Plaintiffs will open claims with the defendants’ insurance companies. Your attorney will compile all the documentation necessary to establish the full value of your claim. At this point, the attorney will advise you to either start settlement negotiations or to immediately file your case in court.
Wrongful death claims are complicated. They often involve multiple defendants and multiple theories of liability. Because of this, it is not always possible to negotiate a settlement in informal discussions before counsel has filed the case. It is often more efficient to file a lawsuit against all potential defendants, then let each defendant work to negotiate their own settlement. Either side can settle with each other at any point in the litigation process.
If settlement discussions are not productive, all involved attorneys will continue to investigate the case through a formal court process known as “discovery.” Discovery allows attorneys to issue subpoenas for documents and evidence, depose witnesses, and submit formal written questions to each party. Because it is a formal court process, a judge can punish an attorney who refuses to comply with the order.
The attorneys can also object to inappropriate requests from the other side and let the judge resolve their disputes. The discovery process not only allows each side to secure the evidence it will need at trial - but also teaches each attorney about the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent’s case. This information often allows for more productive settlement discussions.
If, however, your claim still does not settle, your case can proceed to trial. At that point, a jury will decide which of the defendants was at fault for the wrongful death and how much your claim is fairly worth.
What If I Am Not Sure I Can Handle This Process While I Am Grieving?
This is a very real concern that survivors should be aware of. The process of litigating a wrongful death claim is not easy. You will have to relive painful memories and discuss the traumatic accident that caused you to lose a beloved family member or friend. You might even have to hear the other attorney attack your loved one - or worse, blame them for their own death. These are not easy things to bear when you are already in the painful process of grieving an unexpected death.
On the other hand, a wrongful death suit can give you a sense of justice. It can be cathartic to hold someone accountable for causing an untimely death. This might even be an important part of your grieving process. Whether you decide to proceed with your wrongful death claim or not, it is important to make an informed decision about your legal rights. Carefully discuss the process with your attorney so that you fully understand what it will require of you.
Who Is At Fault For a Wrongful Death in Port Richey?
The many potential defendants in a wrongful death claim may include:
- A negligent driver who causes a fatal accident
- An employer who forces employees to work in a dangerous job without proper safety equipment or training
- A negligent doctor who administers a fatal dose of medication
- The manufacturer of a new car with defective brakes (or other defects that lead to a fatal car crash)
- The owner of a water park with not enough lifeguards, leading to a preventable drowning
Almost all wrongful death cases will involve a list of multiple defendants. For example: in a wrongful death case, the plaintiff will name the negligent doctor, as well as the medical facility that employed them. Additional medical staff might also be named, and other facilities that participated in the victim’s care could also be named. It is not uncommon to have five or ten defendants on even the most basic medical malpractice case.
In addition to multiple defendants, you might also have different theories of liability. Consider a situation in which an employee is on the clock, working in an employer’s vehicle when another driver crashes into him. If the employee’s injuries are fatal, the negligent driver is liable for wrongful death. But survivors could also access death benefits on the employer’s workers compensation policy. (Because the death occurred while the employee was in the scope and course of employment, the policy applies.)
Our experienced Port Richey wrongful death lawyers know how to pursue all potential defendants, all potential legal claims, and all potential insurance policies to ensure that you have access to all the compensation you are legally entitled to.
Are There Death Benefits on a Workers Compensation Policy?
Workers’ compensation policies usually have a set amount of death benefits available to surviving family members (or legal heirs). However: accepting these benefits can prevent you from filing a wrongful death claim against the employer. You can still file a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer of a defective product, or a negligent driver, or another third party, but you must choose your claim against the employer. This is called the election of remedies.
Before you sign any documents, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced wrongful death attorney. They will advise you on the right claims to file and the best strategy for accessing the compensation you deserve.
What if an Injury Victim Has a Good Prognosis, but Unexpectedly Dies?
If a person survives their injuries, they have a legal claim for personal injury. They are entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the victim does not survive their injuries, their survivors have a claim for wrongful death. This holds negligent parties accountable for their actions whether or not their victims survive. If an injury victim has already filed a claim against the defendant(s) but then succumbs to injuries, the claim becomes one for wrongful death.
Your injury lawyer will handle the procedural aspects of making this change in your claims documentation and court filings. This is not an uncommon situation. Some injury victims can linger in a coma or the ICU for weeks before succumbing to their injuries. Negligent defendants have a legal obligation to pay for these staggering medical bills, as well as funeral and burial expenses and all the other costs associated with the wrongful death.
Contact Our Port Richey Wrongful Death Lawyers
If you lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence or mistake, our attorneys can help. At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, we offer compassionate and caring legal assistance to grieving families in Port Richey and beyond. We help surviving family members recover the compensation they need to begin rebuilding their lives after the devastating loss of a loved one.
We know that your time is better spent with your family during this tragic time. That is why we handle insurance companies and all legal matters, so you don’t have to. To learn more about your legal options after the loss of a loved one, contact our experienced Port Richey personal injury attorneys.
Call the Port Richey wrongful death attorneys at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers at (727) 845-5972 or fill out our confidential contact form. We offer free consultations to help you explore all your legal options.
We also work on a contingency basis so you do not owe us anything unless we can collect compensation for you. It is that simple. This allows every family the opportunity to seek justice after the tragic death of a loved one. To learn more, call us today!