What Can Substantiate a Wrongful Death Claim?
Experienced Central Florida lawyers build a credible case for relief
The standard of proof for a wrongful death case is by “a preponderance of the evidence.” This means that most of the evidence, at least a bare 51 percent, supports the plaintiff’s version of events. In other words, a jury must decide it is more likely than not that the defendant in the case caused the death of the decedent negligently, recklessly, or deliberately. Although this is a not as stringent a requirement as proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is still a difficult benchmark to achieve. That’s why we at Largey Law Firm work diligently to assemble credible and compelling evidence to bolster the wrongful death cases we litigate. Our Florida lawyers draw on more than 25 years of combined legal experience to build a solid case for your maximum recovery.
What circumstances support a finding of wrongful death?
The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one is always a shock, but is not always actionable in a legal sense. A plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must prove the four elements necessary to obtain a verdict, but more often than not, the case comes down to negligence and causation. This means someone made a mistake and that mistake killed the decedent. Here are a few examples of broad circumstances that suggest a wrongful death has occurred:
- Medical malpractice — Patients are not guaranteed a positive outcome, and often patients die despite getting quality medical care. However, when a healthcare provider makes a mistake that is directly related to the patient’s demise, it’s necessary to investigate further to see if the cause of death is medical malpractice. For example, a doctor sees a patient who is complaining of chest pains but fails to order an EKG, and simply diagnoses the problem as a muscle strain. The patient later dies of a massive heart attack. The plaintiff alleges that “but for” the doctor’s failure to diagnose the condition, the patient would still be alive.
- Work-related deaths — Workers are often exposed to hazardous situations or materials at work that have a detrimental effect on their health and safety. In many situations, workers’ compensation is the sole remedy. However, in cases of construction accidents, if an employer does not provide a worker with proper equipment to work at heights and the worker falls from a scaffold, the worker’s family could sue for wrongful death. Likewise, if faulty machinery malfunctions, killing a worker, grounds may exist for a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Criminal acts — Violent crimes, such as battery, that result in death are homicides. Florida does not observe the “year and a day rule,” so an assault victim can linger for a very long time before death and still be judged a victim of homicide. The key is a direct line of causation from the assault to the death, without any intervening cause for the victim’s demise.
Other scenarios, such as motor vehicle accidents, immediately raise suspicions of wrongful death, as long as the defendant is at fault for causing the injury event.
Types of evidence needed in a wrongful death claim
The plaintiff’s attorneys must gather as much evidence as possible to prove the defendant committed a wrongful act and the wrongful act directly caused the decedent’s death. Such evidence includes:
- Testimony from eyewitnesses — Although numerous psychological studies have shown that eyewitness recollections can be unreliable, testimony in a courtroom from a credible eyewitness can be very compelling. However, attorneys must work hard to identify, track down, properly vet, and prepare witnesses for the courtroom.
- Documentary evidence — Attorneys use the discovery process to demand important documents, such as business records, hospital records, and medical records that may contain crucial facts for trial.
- Testimony from an expert witness —Many personal injury and wrongful death cases come down to a battle of experts for the plaintiff and defendant. Expert testimony may cover a wide range of topics, such as including medical protocols, surgical procedures, patient mortality, accident reconstruction, and even finance.
Success at trial requires that an attorney collect, assemble, and synthesize vast amounts of evidence and present it all in a simple and compelling way. This is a task you should only trust to a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer.
Call our wrongful death lawyers for a free consultation in Central Florida
At Largey Law Firm, our attorneys work diligently to build a compelling case for recovery in wrongful death litigation. To schedule a free consultation, call 352.508.1485 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Tavares, Inverness and Clermont. Se habla español.