How is a South Florida Wrongful Death Settlement Divided?

by Jun 16, 2022Wrongful Death

How is a South Florida Wrongful Death Settlement Divided?

by Jun 16, 2022Wrongful Death

South Florida Wrongful Death Settlement
South Florida Wrongful Death Settlement

Death is a painful subject that comes with emotional and even financial burdens to the descendants of the deceased. It becomes even more agonizing when the dead person dies out of negligence or breach of some law by another person or entity. For this reason, residents of Boynton Beach, FL, need to file a legal case against the party that led to the death of their loved ones called a wrongful death suit.

What Is a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when the cause of death is due to negligence, breach of contract, or clear intent by a person or entity to terminate the life of another. The law provides an opportunity for financial restitution to the deceased’s family for the emotional and financial loss they face. It is crucial for victims of serious injuries caused by negligence and breach of contract to find an experienced South Florida wrongful death attorney to pursue justice.

Luckily, the justice system in the United States takes wrongful death cases with lots of seriousness and speed. Victims’ pain, anguish, and suffering have seen their loved ones get massive compensation. For example, a jury in Florida awarded a $144.8B fine to tobacco companies for conspiracy after the death of people living with throat cancer as a result of smoking.

Common Examples of Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful death can result from many causes. However, the common types of wrongful deaths include:

  • Motor vehicle, pedestrian, and cycling accidents
  • Accidental poisoning
  • Aviation accidents
  • Medical malpractices
  • Defective products
  • Intentional acts such as crime

Is a Wrongful Death a Crime?

Wrongful death is not necessarily a crime. In most cases, it takes place in a civil court, where the survivors of the deceased seek financial compensation for their loss. If the court finds the accused guilty of a breach or negligence that led to the victim’s death, they face financial repercussions for it.

Sometimes it is possible for the accused to appear before a civil court and a criminal court concurrently. The criminal court seeks to penalize the respondent for the action leading to the death. For example, the victim dies from a road accident because of the accused drunkenness. The jury may decide to put the offender on probation or face incarceration.

It is worth noting that the two courts are mutually exclusive. It implies that the proceedings in the civil court won’t affect the criminal court. However, the evidence tabled in a criminal court can be used to support a claim for compensation in a civil court.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

In Florida, only a personal representative of the deceased (decedent) can file a wrongful suit against the defendant. The personal representative can be a family member or a trustee of the deceased, as stated in the will. However, the court can appoint a representative if the will does not have any.

Family members who can file and benefit from the claim include:

  • Spouse
  • Adult children in the absence of the spouse
  • Minor sons and daughters of the deceased
  • Adoptive siblings who relied on the deceased
  • Minors born after the death of the deceased
  • Parents, if the deceased is below 25 years
  • Siblings and blood relatives who partially or fully depended on the deceased
  • Children sired out of wedlock if the victim is the mother
  • Children born out of wedlock if the victim is the father with evidence that he had responsibilities over those children

Allocation of a South Florida Wrongful Death Settlement

First, the personal representative must determine the survivors and the estate for equitable sharing of proceeds. The estate comprises medical expenses, lost accumulated net earnings, and funeral expenses. The lost wages are the accumulated total of revenues from the date of injury to the date of death, minus financial support for medical expenses.

Although passive income and interest are part of earnings, we do not include them in calculations of a South Florida wrongful death settlement. The argument is that these incomes continue to accrue even after death.

There are many instances where the defendant pays the total compensation in a single cheque. In this instance, the personal representative must share the proceeds between the estate and survivors fairly and equitably.

Sometimes the personal representative is a survivor claiming proceeds from the South Florida death settlement. This scenario fronts a conflict of interest in what amounts go to the estate and survivors. It is good practice to have an administrator ad lite to determine equitable money-sharing.

Factors Considered in Evaluating Losses

  • Age and skill of the deceased
  • Health status before the incident
  • The propensity to save
  • Earnings of the individual

In Florida, the best way to measure lost earnings is by determining the potential of profits rather than the actual earnings of the deceased before the accident or death. Thus, lost past and future earnings come into play during the calculations.

The growth rate is another factor that crops up during a South Florida wrongful death settlement. Generally, advancements in skills and technology improve productivity and possible earnings. The inflation rate also increases the wages payouts. For these reasons, the wrongful death courts in Boynton Beach allow compensation to account for inflation and earnings growth.

How to Divide Death Settlement Among Family Members

The first document that will help a South Florida death attorney distribute the funds is the will of the deceased. However, if there is no will, the personal representative is responsible for distributing the money fairly. If the beneficiaries have an agreement on how to share the money, the court will honor their agreement.

Without a will and only a surviving spouse with no children, all the money goes to the spouse. If the late has a spouse and children, the money is divided equally among all family members. However, the spouse can never receive less than a third of the total funds, irrespective of the number of children. Also, the spouse will not receive any compensation if there is clear evidence that they played a part in the partner’s death.

A spouse will not receive compensation if he is behind on child support. It implies that he must clear off the payments and all interests accrued to become a beneficiary. Further, a spouse is ineligible for compensation had they abandoned the spouse while still married.

Minors must receive sufficient monies to cater to their needs till they become adults. In this case, the guardian ad litem represents them during the disbursement of the funds. Similar treatment happens to adults entirely dependent on the deceased such as persons living with disabilities.

Other Distributions

Any lien against the deceased will be deducted from the award to the estate before other distributions to the estate or survivors. The personal representative also needs to pay the South Florida wrongful attorney the legal fee. These charges are proportionate to the individual compensation received.

Why Hire an Attorney?

If you want to succeed in your claim for the wrongful death of a loved one, it is essential to have an attorney. The lawyer will guide you in negotiating for fair compensation and having a solid case. There are instances when your claim may be null and void due to the “free kill exemption.” In other cases, it is difficult for the beneficiaries to agree on the payments. During such circumstances, a South Florida wrongful death attorney will assist you.

If you are in South Florida and are looking for reliable and experienced wrongful death lawyers, look no further than the Bodden & Bennett Law Group. We have over 30 years of experience in legal battles concerning medical malpractice, negligent security, personal injuries, home abuse, car abuse, and insurance disputes.

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