An Orlando Sentinel news article recently reported that an auto accident on Florida’s Turnpike early one Sunday morning resulted in tragedy. The 23-year-old driver rear-ended his Mercedes SUV into a Nissan Maxima, killing two adults and a baby girl, according to the report. Both cars ended up on their sides and burst into flames; the infant was ejected from the vehicle. The damage was so extensive to the Nissan that authorities were unable to tell if a car seat was inside at the time of the accident, nor were they able to determine the age of the baby. The driver of the Mercedes, James Dameron, purportedly was charged a few months prior to the accident with possession of methamphetamine as well as resisting arrest without violence. His driving record also allegedly has multiple violations in the past two years, including texting while driving, unlawful speeding and littering on a public highway. Unlike the other victims of the auto accident, Dameron suffered minor injuries.

When a loved one has passed away tragically due to the negligence or recklessness of another, initiating legal action is likely the last priority on the surviving families’ mind. Because of time limitations under the law for pursuing compensatory damages due to the loss, it is important for survivors of the decedent to consider retaining a Florida personal injury attorney who handles wrongful death claims. While the emotional turmoil of such a catastrophic and life-changing event cannot be eased with compensation, the financial burden and difficulties resulting in the tragedy can be alleviated by court-awarded damages or a negotiated settlement.

Florida Wrongful Death

In its simplest form, a wrongful death claim is a civil action initiated by the survivors of a victim who has passed as a result of a wrongful act, default, breach of contract or negligence of another. Under Florida law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate must bring forth the wrongful death claim in court. The personal representative may be a named individual in the deceased’s will or estate plan. If no such person is named, or a will or estate plan does not exist, a court will appoint one.

The personal representative files the civil action on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members, and must list every survivor who may have an interest in the claim. State law allows for the following family members to recover damages in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit: the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents; and blood relatives or adoptive siblings who are partly or wholly dependent upon the deceased for services or support. If a child is claiming damages in a wrongful death claim but the parents were never married, he or she may recover if the mother passes, however, he or she may only recover from the father’s passing if the father (1) formally recognized the child as his own and (2) was obligated to contribute to the support of his child.

We Are Here to Help

The legal issues involved in a wrongful death claim can differ tremendously, depending on the cause of the death and the parties involved who were responsible for the tragic event. For this reason, it is imperative that if you or someone you know is considering pursuing a wrongful death claim to seek legal guidance from a seasoned Tampa wrongful death attorney right away. The Brandon, Florida attorneys at Reed & Reed understand the sensitive and difficult issues of wrongful deaths. Do not try to handle the legal complexities during this heartbreaking time on your own. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.