In the State of Florida, the Florida Wrongful Death Act allows certain surviving family members to pursue a wrongful death claim when the loss of a loved one was caused by another party’s intentional, wrongful, or negligent conduct. If you are a surviving family member you are undoubtedly dealing with the grief that accompanies a loss as well as all the practical issues that go along with losing a loved one. The idea of becoming embroiled in litigation likely sounds like the last thing you want to do right now. Although you may want to hold the at-fault party accountable, you may also be wondering “ If I bring a wrongful death case will I have to go to court? ” There is no definitive way to answer that question because every wrongful death case is unique; however, a better understanding of the factors that will influence the answer to the question may empower you to make a decision to pursue a lawsuit or not.
A wrongful death is governed by the law of “torts”. Tort law is the area of the law that allows you, as a victim, to pursue damages for injury to your person or property. Personal injury accidents such as car accident or slip and fall accidents are also governed by the law of torts. Wrongful death is really just a personal injury case where the injuries were fatal. To recover damages in a personal injury case the victim must show that the defendant’s intentional, wrongful, or negligent conduct caused, or contributed to, the injury or loss. When fault is clear, resolving any type of personal injury case is much easier. In fact, the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court without the need for an actual lawsuit to even be filed.
Even if your case does require an actual lawsuit to be filed there is still a good chance that you will never personally be required to appear in court. A lawsuit may be filed because the statute of limitations is close to expiring even if the parties are clearly working toward an agreed settlement. If, however, it becomes apparent that a mutually agreeable out of court settlement cannot be reached by the parties it will eventually be necessary for you to appear in court for a trial. Although this may sound intimidating, keep in mind that your attorney will make sure you are well prepared and that you know what to expect.