Wrongful Death Caused by Car Accidents
The Florida Highway Patrol reports more than 280,000 car accidents occur in the state every year, resulting in 2,255 deaths and 200,000 injuries. That’s 770 crashes every single day.
Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, understand Florida ranked third-highest in the nation for medical and work losses totaling $3.16 billion. It trailed just behind California and Texas, which both have millions of more residents than the Sunshine State.
Florida is undoubtedly a dangerous place to drive or encounter a driver.
If your loved one was killed in a car accident in Florida, you may be entitled to seek remedy in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a civil action that allows immediate family members to seek compensation from drivers who were careless, reckless, drunk, distracted, aggressive, tired or inexperienced and in turn caused a death.
The CDC indicates Floridians incur $40 million in medical expenses and $3.12 billion in work loss costs each year as a result of fatal motor vehicle crashes. Work loss costs include those for estimated salary, fringe benefits and value of household work would be expected to earn over the course of decedent’s lifetime. Because crashes tend to disproportionately affect younger people, who have the potential to contribute to the workforce for many more years to come, the losses are severe.
Some survivors take the tack that “accidents happen” when declining to pursue legal action. But here’s the truth: Most crashes, even if unintentional, are preventable. While any of us would give every dime we had to bring our lost loved one back, we know that’s impossible. The reality is when we lose someone upon whom we depend financially or whose loss grieves us in a way that brings our whole life to a halt, there should be accountability. It’s horrible enough to suffer the emotional trauma. Survivors shouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of a foreclosure or bankruptcy on top of it.
Damages to which survivors are entitled may include those for:
- Medical bills
- Burial expenses
- Loss of decedent’s earnings
- Present and future financial losses
- Emotional suffering
- Loss of love, care and companionship
- Children’s loss of guidance and supervision
One of the first things that must be determined is whether the other driver was negligent. This is not the same thing as being accused of a crime. So even if the other driver did not commit a crime, he or she may still have been negligent.
Negligence is when a person has a duty of care to another, breaches that duty and proximately causes injury or death. All drivers have the duty to passengers and other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. When they do not, that is a breach of duty.
For example, let’s say Driver 1 fails to yield to another vehicle at an intersection, causing a crash that ends in death of Driver 2. Driver 1 hasn’t necessarily committed a crime other than perhaps a traffic infraction (assuming he wasn’t intoxicated or texting and had a valid license and insurance). However, Driver 1 is likely negligent because he did not operate the vehicle in a safe manner, and therefore may be held accountable.
If that driver was on the road at the time for work, either as a commercial operator or otherwise, his employer might also be found responsible through a legal doctrine called respondeat superior (“let the master answer”), or vicarious liability.
Additionally, Florida is unique with respect to its approach with vehicle owners in these situations. Unlike most states, Florida recognizes motor vehicles as an inherently dangerous tool (per the 1020 Florida Supreme Court case of Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson). Therefore, the owner of that tool is liable for any injuries caused as a result of operation. So the owner of a vehicle can be held accountable for any damages suffered by third parties as a result of negligent operation of his or her vehicle, so long as the vehicle was driven with owner’s knowledge and consent.
This form of strict liability does not require plaintiff to prove wrongdoing on the part of the owner.Defective vehicles
Not all crashes are directly the fault of drivers. In a growing number of cases, we are seeing defective or dangerous vehicles reported as a major contributor to serious injury and death in traffic crashes.
While there are generally hundreds of vehicle and vehicle-related recalls initiated each year – most of them minor – some in recent memory have been extremely serious.
For example, General Motors recalled 30 million cars (including more than 26.5 million in the U.S.) in a recent year for a range of problems. Among those was an ignition switch defect the company reportedly knew about for more than a decade. That particular issue has been linked to at least 30 fatal crashes and hundreds of injuries.
Then there was the Takata air bag recall involving some 8 million-plus vehicles, wherein airbags reportedly ruptured upon impact, spewing metal fragments at drivers and passengers. Several lawsuits have been filed alleging wrongful death as a result of this issue.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation