As painful as the death of a loved one is, the thought that someone could have prevented it, had they been more careful or less cruel, can make the loss impossible for the mind or heart to process.
It happens more often than many people suspect. A recent close call at a Florida construction site offers a reminder that the causes are too many to count or even imagine. Florida law, however, provides survivors with ways to seek justice.
Work-related accidents worry family and friends
Late this April, the federal government’s workplace watchdog OSHA fined a Florida construction company for risking the lives of its workers. The hazard was trench collapse, which the agency cites as among the deadliest dangers construction workers face.
Death usually comes from cave-ins, which OSHA says causes hundreds of fatalities and injuries annually. Without OSHA-required safeguards, workers also die from falling into trenches, objects or heavy equipment falling on them, or the release of toxic, explosive or suffocating gasses.
But wrongful deaths can come from faulty pharmaceuticals and medical procedures, negligent daycares and school sports programs, mass transit vehicles, police chases and the products sold by drug dealers, to name just a few.
Who can sue for wrongful death in Florida?
No matter the exact cause, whether familiar or unimaginable, certain family members can sue for a wrongful death “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person.”
The suit must be filed by the personal representative, meaning the person named in the deceased person’s will, for example, or whoever the court named to oversee the settling of the person’s assets. Everyone will have a representative when the time comes.
They file the wrongful death suit on behalf of the family, but only certain family members can collect compensation, known as damages. Those people are the deceased’s parents, spouse or children (including adopted children). They can also include “any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters” who depended on the deceased “for support or services.”
How long do survivors have to think about it?
An event like this is so shocking that it can take many years, decades or a lifetime to absorb. But representatives must file most wrongful death cases within two years of the death of the loved one. There are unusual cases in which this timer, ticking out its two years, may pause for a while for specific reasons.