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Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one is often one of the most painful and traumatic events in an individual’s life. When your loved ones are taken from you suddenly and without warning, however, it can often be even more heart-wrenching. When the loss of a loved one was fully preventable and was the result of another party’s negligence or recklessness, those who are responsible must be held accountable. In these tragic situations, grieving family members can pursue a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party for compensation.

According to a recent news report, a head-on collision killed two people and left two others injured. Florida Highway Patrol reported that two cars were traveling in opposite directions when a third car got between the other drivers. A Toyota, which was traveling east while a Honda was traveling west were interrupted by a Camaro when it tried to pass the Honda by entering the eastbound lane. To avoid the oncoming Camaro, the Toyota swerved right and landed in the grass shoulder before getting back into the eastbound lane, but it overcorrected and traveled into the westbound lane, where it crashed into the Honda. The driver of the Toyota was pronounced dead at the scene and her passenger was transported to the hospital with significant injuries. The driver of the Honda also suffered significant injuries and was in critical condition following the accident, and her passenger died at the scene.

In Florida, wrongful death claims are governed by the state’s “Right to Action” statute, which states that “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person,” the estate, family members, or personal representative of the deceased individual can file a civil suit in court.

Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law provides workers with benefits if they suffer injuries at work or while in the scope of their employment duties. At first glance, the system appears as a quick and efficient way for Florida employees to obtain benefits for their injuries and return to work. However, the system inherently favors employers because, barring certain exceptions, employees lose their right to bring a common-law personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Exceptions to this rule exist in certain situations, such as if the employer did not maintain appropriate worker’s compensation insurance. Further, an exception applies if the employee suffered injuries because of their employer’s particularly egregious wanton gross negligence or intentional conduct. Finally, workers’ compensation does not protect employers from assaults against their employees.

In many cases, workers’ compensation insurance does not adequately cover all of an employee’s injuries and damages. Although employees may not assert personal injury claims against their employer, they may recover damages from other responsible third-parties. To succeed on a third-party claim, plaintiffs must be able to prove that they had a work-related accident, the third-party owed them a duty of care, they breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered injuries because of the work-related incident.

For example, a Florida news report recently described a tragic accident at a St. Petersburg Home Depot. A delivery driver suffered fatal injuries when construction materials fell on him at the store. The driver was working as a third-party carrier for a building material company. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal entity that ensures safe and healthy working conditions, reported that the incident is under investigation. Additionally, Home Depot commented that they were working with authorities to investigate the accident.

A federal district court recently issued an opinion in a plaintiffs’ appeal in a case involving their daughter’s death. The case arose from a tragic Florida car accident that occurred on New Year’s Day.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving his mother’s sports car with the plaintiffs’ teenage daughter and another passenger. The driver accelerated to above the speed limit, losing control, and slamming into trees and a lamppost. The driver and another passenger survived the collision, but the plaintiffs’ daughter died at the scene. The state pursued criminal charges against the driver, and the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit against the driver, his mother, and the other passenger. However, they could not obtain service on the passenger and dropped him from the lawsuit.

The driver claimed he did not obtain his mother’s consent to drive any of her vehicles, including her golf cart or Porsche sports car. Moreover, the mother testified that she was aware that her son did not have a driver’s license, and she did not permit him to drive her Porsche. The mother moved for summary judgment based on her affidavit and her son’s deposition. In response, the plaintiff presented evidence that the mother permitted her son to drive her golf cart. Further, the plaintiffs contended that the mother presented conflicting evidence regarding whether she ever expressly told her son not to drive her vehicles. The plaintiffs also asked the court to continue the summary judgment motion because they were facing challenges deposing the other passenger. The mother argued that the plaintiffs were causing the delay.

In a recent Florida District Court of Appeal opinion, the court considered whether a defendant was civilly liable for a death that occurred on its property. The case is unique because it involved allegations that the deceased accident victim was involved in criminal activity shortly before she died.

The plaintiff in the case filed a claim against the defendant lodge after her mother was fatally shot in a parking lot owned and operated by the lodge. Following a brawl between some individuals who were part of the decedent’s group and some members of the shooter’s group inside the lodge, the two groups were removed to the parking lot, where a second fight began. Evidence showed that the decedent participated in the parking lot fight and struck a pregnant female who was part of the shooter’s group. After the fight in the parking lot ended, the shooter’s group left the parking lot, and the decedent’s group got into their vehicle, which was parked in the defendant’s parking lot. Before the decedent’s group could pull out of the parking lot, the shooter’s group returned to the lot and opened fire on their vehicle. The decedent was fatally shot while sitting in the front seat.

At the lower court, the defendant argued that they should not be held liable for the decedent’s death because the decedent knowingly struck a pregnant female on their property, committing a crime. Because Florida law prohibits an accident victim from recovering for their injuries if they were hurt while engaging in a crime, the defendant argued that they were not responsible for the decedent’s death. The trial court disagreed and argued that the defense did not apply because the decedent was not engaged in a felony when she was shot.

Riding a bike is a great form of exercise and a way for family and friends to get outside in the beautiful Florida weather. However, when an individual gets into a Florida bike accident, the injuries may be fatal – especially if they were hit by a car. When an accident has resulted in death, it is very devastating and traumatic for the deceased’s loved ones. However, loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit to financially recover and hold the responsible party accountable.

An 11-year old boy was recently killed after being hit by a car while riding his bike with a friend. According to a local news report, the accident occurred at the intersection of two roads in Pensacola. The boy was rushed to the hospital, and after fighting for his life for a few days, he tragically passed away. In these tragic, preventable situations, nothing can bring the deceased loved one back; however, the family can often file a wrongful death lawsuit. Below are some of the commonly asked questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit and what this process entails.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and Who Can Bring One?

According to Florida Statutes § 768.18 – which governs wrongful death lawsuits in Florida – a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another individual. Florida created the ability for loved ones to sue the responsible party so the losses can be shifted from the loved ones to the wrongdoer – or as much as possible.

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In light of COVID-19, many families have been heading out to explore the great outdoors for nature getaways and safer vacations that still adhere to social distancing guidelines. However, no one expects to get into a Florida accident while on a trip, especially one that has devastating consequences.

In a recent state appellate decision, a plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent against a Florida lodge and resort after an accident caused the individual’s death. Evidently, the defendant lodge offered a complimentary golf cart service to take guests around its property. However, the golf cart was prohibited from traveling on public roads beyond the lodge’s property, but could cross the main highway flanking the lodge grounds.

On the night of the accident, the decedent got into a golf cart and asked a bellman from the lodge to take him to a local store located on the other side of the highway. Consistent with lodge policy, the bellman drove the decedent through the lodge grounds and stopped to drop the decedent off. When the decedent exited the golf cart and attempted to cross the highway on foot, he was struck by a vehicle. Following the man’s death, the plaintiff argued that the defendant lodge undertook a duty to reasonably and safely transport the decedent and that they failed to warn him of potential dangers of the highway when he was dropped off. Following the trial, the lower court ruled in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff appealed.

The First District Court of Appeal in the State of Florida recently reviewed a trial court’s order denying a manufacturer a directed verdict in a Florida wrongful death claim. According to the court’s opinion, the company manufactured products containing a synthetic marijuana product, commonly known as “spice.” A warning was contained in  the product that indicated it was unsafe for consumption by humans. A man purchased the product voluntarily consumed it, subsequently became impaired, and then drove his car into another vehicle. The man was sentenced to prison for his criminal conduct. The decedent’s representatives filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, arguing that the company was liable for their family member’s death.

At trial, the company filed a directed verdict motion and argued that they were not proximately liable for the death because the man’s intoxication was the sole cause of the decedent’s death. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs, attributing 65% of the fault to the company and 35% fault to the intoxicated driver. The company appealed the ruling arguing, again, that the impaired man’s criminal conduct was the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Proximate cause is a legal theory that imputes liability on a party when their actions set forth a sequence of events that led to an injury. Under Florida law, questions regarding proximate cause are left to the fact-finder; however, in some situations, a judge may address the issue where evidence suggests there is no more than one inference. Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court has found that when an actor’s behavior creates a dangerous situation, the law does not permit a jury to find a proximate cause where an unforeseeable, intervening act is responsible for the injuries. In some cases, plaintiffs may argue that third parties that create a dangerous situation could reasonably foresee that their negligence could set a chain of events in a motion that may result in injuries. However, Florida does not allow a jury to consider proximate cause in cases where the person responsible for the injuries is voluntarily impaired or purposely misuses a product.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated appeal arising from the tragic mass murders at the Pulse nightclub. The facts indicate that the shooter entered the nightclub shooting and injuring fifty-three patrons and killing forty-nine others. The survivors and decedents’ representatives filed a lawsuit against the company that hired the shooter to work as a “Custom Protection Officer.” The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant breached their duty to engage in an appropriate investigation of their prospective employees before hiring them, and this negligence created a foreseeable zone of risk to the general public.

In support of their claim, they provided evidence that the defendant knew that the man was dismissed from a corrections officer training class for making statements suggesting that he would bring a gun to class. Despite this knowledge, the defendant hired the man for a position that required him to obtain a Class G firearm license. The license requires a psychological evaluation, and the defendants submitted a fraudulent one on behalf of the man.

While the man was working for the company, the Sheriff’s Department demanded that the defendant terminate the man because he continually threatened his colleagues and claimed to be associated with various terrorist groups. About two weeks before the shooting, the man tried to purchase ammunition from a licensed gun dealer, but he was turned away. A week later, he brought his Class G license to a different retailer and purchased the guns that he used for the mass shooting. The plaintiffs maintain that the defendants owed them a legal duty because they were in the foreseeable zone of risk that the defendants created.

Recently, an appellate court issued its opinion in an appeal stemming from the tragic death of a man in a Florida hotel swimming pool. The man’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel alleging, among other issues, that the hotel was responsible for the death of her husband because they failed to hire professional lifeguards to supervise its swimming pool.

According to the court’s opinion, the man was a guest of the hotel when he entered the swimming pool, which was operated and maintained by the hotel. While the man was swimming, he became submerged and died from drowning. His wife alleged that that the hotel breached their duty to provide and maintain a reasonably safe swimming pool and failed to protect their guests from unreasonable risk of physical harm. During the trial, the court provided the jury with an instruction that Florida law had no legal duty to “post a professional lifeguard at its pool.” The woman appealed the jury instruction and the trial court’s ruling granting the defendant summary judgment.

Under Florida law, negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care by engaging in a behavior that a reasonably careful person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do under similar circumstances. Generally, trial courts maintain the discretion to determine whether a jury instruction is appropriate, and instructions should not be overturned on appeal, unless there is a showing of prejudicial error.

Recently, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies must comply with Florida Statutes section 627.727, which covers uninsured motorist (UM) coverage minimums. The ruling comes after an insurance company appealed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff in a dispute over coverage after a Florida motorcycle accident.

Before his death, a man purchased home insurance coverage that included a collector vehicle. The policy included a UM provision that limited benefits to accidents involving the collector vehicle. After the man’s death, his family tried to recover for damages through the UM provision in his home insurance policy. The defendant insurance company denied coverage, citing the UM limitation. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Florida insurance company, arguing that Florida Statutes section 627.727 prohibits the insurance company from placing restrictions on UM coverage. On appeal, the defendant argued that section 627.727 does not apply to specialty insurance policies, such as the collector vehicle at issue.

Florida Statutes section 627.727 governs “motor vehicle insurance, uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage, and insolvent insurer protection.” Typically, the statute provides coverage to the policyholder, their spouse, and resident relatives. This coverage applies when a person suffers bodily injury by a negligent motorist, whether they are driving or a passenger in their vehicle, driving or riding in someone else’s car, or suffer injuries as a pedestrian. There are several exceptions to this statute, but there are no exclusions related to a collector or antique vehicle.

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