More than 475,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 as of mid-February 2021.
In the state of Florida, more than 1,800,000 cases and over 28,000 deaths have been linked to the novel coronavirus.
If you believe your loved one died of COVID-19 because of another’s negligence during the pandemic, you may be considering a Florida wrongful death lawsuit.
Here’s what you need to know about filing a wrongful death claim related to COVID-19.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death happens when a person dies as a result of someone else’s behavior. Defendants in these cases can be individuals, businesses, organizations, or government agencies. Claims may involve several types of fatal accidents, including car wrecks, medical malpractice, and product liability. The plaintiff must prove the victim died because the defendant acted negligently or intentionally.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Florida, a variety of people can file a wrongful death claim, but the surviving spouse and children have first rights. The next group that’s eligible to file includes other direct family members or personal representatives of the deceased’s estate. The claim generally moves forward similar to a personal injury case where lawyers on both sides work toward a settlement or go to court.
What Damages Could Be Recovered From Wrongful Death?
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to help the victim’s family recover after their loved one’s passing. Damages may include medical bills before and after the victim’s death, funeral and burial expenses, and future earnings that were lost.
Relatives could also be reimbursed for emotional damages. This includes loss of love, companionship, care, and comfort. Punitive damages—which are aimed at penalizing the defendant—may be awarded if actions were determined to be willful, and the victim was found to be harmed on purpose.
What Do I Need to Do to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The first step in filing a claim is speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney. They can prepare the paperwork, start gathering evidence, and guide you through the next steps of the process.
Your lawyer will meet with the defendant’s attorney to try to work out a settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached, you’ll have to take your case to court. Those proceedings will likely be time-consuming.
What Should I Know About COVID-19 Wrongful Death Claims?
If your loved one died because of COVID-19, and you believe someone else was at fault, you may think you have a wrongful death claim. However, you could have a difficult time trying to recover damages.
A bill is moving through the Florida Legislature that would give businesses, schools, and religious organizations COVID-19 liability protection. To receive immunity, these groups would only need to demonstrate compliance with health guidelines. The goal of this legislation is to deter frivolous lawsuits; however, the bill may make any coronavirus-related case complicated.
According to the legislation, if you were to file a COVID-19-related claim, you would have to get a doctor to attest the defendant was responsible for the victim contracting the virus. You would also have to show the defendant acted with gross negligence.
These two requirements would make it hard to prove liability when it comes to COVID-19. If the defendant was taking all the necessary precautions and following its duty of care obligations, gathering evidence of negligence would be tough. Finding a physician who would, within a reasonable degree of medical probability, say the victim caught COVID-19 because of the defendant’s actions could be even more difficult.
Duty of Care
The legal struggle comes down to proving the duty of care was breached. But even if you can show there was a breach, then you have to prove causation and trace the COVID-19 transmission directly to the defendant. If there’s evidence the victim traveled somewhere else or was around other people during the window of infection, there won’t be a definitive way to tie the virus back to the defendant.
If you are contemplating filing a COVID-19 claim, you should know there is a statute of limitations for general wrongful death cases. The period is usually two years, but there are exceptions. If you feel you have a case, it’s best to take action as soon as possible so you don’t lose your right.
Can I File a COVID-19 Wrongful Death Claim?
Now you know more about wrongful death cases and the difficulties you may face when filing a COVID-19-related claim.
To win a wrongful death case connected to the coronavirus, you would have to prove you lost your loved one as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. With COVID-19 liability protections in the works and everything we still don’t know about the virus, that seems like an insurmountable task.
If you would like to talk to one of our Florida wrongful death lawyers about your options, please contact Bulluck Law Group today.