wrongful death lawyer in Florida

Understanding Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, you may have a wrongful death case. A lawsuit alleging a “wrongful death” basically is a suit where the person who caused the death is sued for damages. “Damages” is a legal term that means “the amount of money that will compensate you for your loss.” Of course, no amount of money can compensate you for the loss of your loved one. That said, there are a number of types of damages you may be entitled to, that may at least begin to fill some of the gaps left by the death of your loved one.

Some people are hesitant to file a wrongful death lawsuit. You should know that the public policy of the state of Florida is specifically outlined in the Florida statutes. It states that when a wrongful death occurs, the losses should be born not by the survivors but rather, by the wrongdoer.

Right of Action – When Does One Have a Wrongful Death Case?

If a person dies in the state of Florida because of someone else’s wrongful act, default, negligence, breach of contract, or breach of warranty, there may be a cause of action for damages. These types of wrongful acts in the state of Florida include not only wrongful actions or breaches on land, but also those that occur on navigable waters.

Practically speaking, this could include – but is not limited to — deaths from car and motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, and falls.

What if the Wrongdoer Also Died in the Accident?

You should know that you may have a wrongful death claim even if the wrongdoer who caused the accident is also dead (either as a direct cause of the accident, or due to circumstances that have nothing to do with the accident). This is because the dead wrongdoer has what is called “an estate,” which can be sued in place of the wrongdoer.

Who Qualifies for Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?

Under Florida law, “survivors” are entitled to file a wrongful death suit. Survivors may include any of the following:

Children under the age of 25;
Children under the age of 25 born out of wedlock of a mother;
Children under the age of 25 born out of wedlock of a father who has recognized the responsibility for the child’s support;
Other blood relatives dependent on the decedent for support or services; and
Adoptive siblings that relied upon the decedent for support or services.

“Support” includes both money and “in kind” contributions. This could mean that a relative lived with the decedent, where the decedent paid the mortgage, the bills, or provided food. “Services” on the other hand, mean tasks, typically of a household nature, that were regularly performed by the decedent, which now becomes a necessary expense to the survivors. Obviously, damages for services will vary in each case, because it is dependent on the actions of each individual decedent.

Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases

In a case for wrongful death, all survivors are entitled to recover the value of the lost support and the lost services from the decedent. The damages are calculated from the date of death if the death was immediate, or, in cases where a loved one lives beyond the date of the injuries, but dies later as a result of the injuries, the date the injury occurred. Past damages are awarded with interest. Survivors are also entitled to future loss of support and services. Things that are evaluated when calculating loss of support and services include the amount of the lost loved one’s probable net income, as well as the replacement value of the loved one’s services to each survivor. In calculating future losses, the life expectancies of each survivor and the decedent are calculated.

Spouses. Spouses are entitled to also recover for the loss of their loved one’s companionship and protection. Spouses can also recover for pain and suffering back to the date of the injury.

Children. Children under the age of 25 can recover for the loss of the companionship, guidance, and instruction. If there is no surviving spouse, children of all ages may recover damages for the loss of companionship, guidance, and instruction. Children are also entitled to recover for pain and suffering back to the date of the original injury.

Parents. When parents have lost a child under the age of 25, they are entitled to pain and suffering from the date the child was injured that resulted in their death. If a child 25 or older dies as a result of a personal injury, and the child has no other survivors, parents may also recover for pain and suffering.

Medical Expenses. Medical expenses can be recovered by the person who paid the medical expenses.

Funeral Expenses. Funeral expenses, similarly, can be recovered by the survivor who paid the funeral expenses.

Net Accumulations. Net accumulations include the expected salary income or business income of the decedent. This includes pension benefits and the amount of money the decedent probably would have saved in his lifetime, to leave as part of his estate, if the decedent had been able to live to a normal life expectancy.

What to Do if You Have Lost a Loved One

Losing a loved one suddenly is shocking. The days and weeks after the accident can feel overwhelming, as the family seeks to adjust to a “new normal,” living without their loved one. Lawsuits can be the furthest thing from a family’s mind. Unfortunately, the state of Florida has a statute of limitations that governs wrongful death suits. If you do not file your claim in a timely manner, you may not be able to recover the damages you are entitled to.

If you have lost a loved one due to an accident, you may have a wrongful death claim. Contact the skilled Florida Wrongful Death attorneys at Madalon Law. Our attorneys are experienced in handling wrongful death claims. We will meet with you and your family at no charge to discuss the loss of your loved one and whether or not we believe we can recover damages for your loss.

Florida Highway Car Accidents Can Be Deadly

Just this month, four young fraternity brothers from the University of South Florida died in a head on collision on Northbound I-275 outside of Tampa. Another young man, the driver of the Ford Expedition that caused the collision, was also killed. This collision was especially deadly because it was a wrong-way accident, with the Expedition travelling south in I-275’s northbound lanes at a high rate of speed. During the same weekend, six people also died in a similar head-on collision across the country on an LA County freeway.

Although any road can be the scene of a serious wreck under the wrong conditions, car accidents on Florida’s freeways, highways, interstates, and turnpike are often catastrophic – even when they are not wrong-way accidents. This is because of the traffic density and high speeds of vehicles on these roadways, and because large trucks crowd the lanes transporting cargo across the state. And with its international port and high population concentration, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County see a large percentage of Florida’s highway collisions.

I-95 is well-known for the dangers it poses to drivers, especially during commuting times and late weekend nights. Rush hour traffic can bring the highway to a near standstill, but when not in gridlock, it can be the site of some of the most aggressive driving witnessed by law enforcement across the region. Eager to take advantage of any opening, and frustrated with heavy traffic, drivers may take to speeding, tailgating, switching lanes without signaling, and refusing to let others merge at on-ramps and off-ramps. The Palmetto Expressway, Florida Turnpike and Dolphin Expressway also have their share of high-risk driving behaviors and road rage incidents.
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Motorcycle Accidents in Florida

Fatal Motorcycle Accident on Florida Turnpike

On January 5, 2014, the Palm Beach Post reported that 64-year-old Joseph Comparetto died due to a motorcycle collision. Comparetto, a resident of Georgia, and Hagerty, a resident of Davie, Florida, were headed north on Florida’s Turnpike. Comparetto was driving in front of Hagerty when he attempted to slow down due to upcoming traffic. While slowing down, Hagerty collided with Comparetto causing Comparetto to be thrown from his Harley into another lane where he was hit by a car and subsequently killed.

Motorcycle Safety

It is not surprising that Florida’s great beaches and beautiful scenery attract many who are interested in riding motorcycles. Anyone planning to become a motorcycle rider in the state of Florida must complete a program meant to make that future rider aware of the importance of safety. This program, the Florida Rider Training Program (“FRTP”), includes a Basic Rider Course, which is 15 hours long and demonstrates and teaches important skills such as cornering, starting, turning, stopping, etc.

The statistics depicted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) is the reason why Florida imposes the Basic Rider Course because it is an attempt to lower the amount of fatalities and injuries caused by accidents involving motorcycles. The NHTSA reports that 1 out of 10 motor vehicle accidents that involves the death of one or more persons involves a motorcycle. Additionally, in 2011, the NHTSA reported that over 80,000 motorcycle drivers suffered injuries due to accidents involving motorcycles.

Motorcycle Helmet Law in Florida

Currently, 30 states do not follow a stringent helmet law. Florida happens to be one of those states. Generally, Florida’s motorcycle helmet law requires all riders to wear one. However, riders over the age of 21 with medical insurance of $10,000.00 or more need not wear a helmet. It is however required that all drivers or riders of any age wear eye gear.

Although Florida’s helmet law doesn’t require the use of a helmet under certain circumstances, our firm recommends that all riders and drivers wear one whenever on a bike. After the imposition of this non-strict helmet law, fatalities that occurred due to motorcycle accidents increased by more than 80%. The NHTSA reported that almost 2000 lives were saved during motorcycle accidents because the drivers and/or riders were wearing helmets. About 800 lives could have survived had those drivers and/or riders worn helmets.
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Contribution of Speeding in Car Accidents

Recently, there have been a number of stories in the news regarding traffic fatalities directly related to high-speed driving. Here in South Florida, in fact, two men in their early 20s were just killed in the first week of the New Year, when the Eagle Talon they were in lost control on a curve, flew off the road, and collided with a tree in Coral Springs. Police believe speed was a causative factor in this Broward County car accident.

Speed has also been found to be the primary cause of the deadly November automobile accident of “Fast & Furious” star Paul Walker and his financial advisor Roger Rodas. No debris or damage to the road surface was found, no alcohol or drugs were found in the men’s systems, and no mechanical issues with the car were evident before the accident – but witnesses reported that the Porche Carrera GT that Walker and Rodas were in was likely traveling approximately 100 miles per hour at the time of the accident, along a stretch of road with a 45 mph speed limit.

Speed-related accidents and young drivers

One demographic of drivers most likely to be involved in a speed-related car accident is teen drivers. Speeding is implicated in over 30% of fatal car crashes involving young people in the United States. Even more disturbing is the statistic that over 50% of fatality accidents involving teens with 3+ passengers are at least partially the result of high-speed driving. Many of these accidents occur after dark, and are often single-vehicle crashes, where the driver simply loses control of the vehicle and runs off the road.

Why speed can be deadly

When you increase the speed at which a car is traveling, you increase the distance it continues to travel from the moment the driver notices an obstacle (or curve) until he or she can react. Speed also increases the “crash energy,” meaning that impacts are greater, making devastating injury and death more likely.
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Fatal Accidents on the Florida Turnpike

The Florida Turnpike is the nation’s 3rd most traveled toll road. To some, it is part of their daily commute. For many that live in Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County; it is the preferred route when visiting Disney, Universal Studios and other popular Orlando destinations. Unfortunately, this popular toll road also has its fair share of car accidents.

Anyone who is familiar with driving on the Turnpike will agree that it is not the most scenic road. Looking at the same picture ahead of you while driving on lanes that seem they have no end, can bore a driver and put them into a mental state where they may pay less attention to the road. When this happens, the driver puts themselves and anyone else they are sharing the road with in danger of being involved in an accident. Unfortunately, accidents on the Florida Turnpike usually occur at high speeds. This increases the chances of the accident being fatal.

Although the number of car accidents that result in fatality has dramatically decreased on the Florida Turnpike in recent years – largely due to the installment of new guardrails along nearly 170 miles of Turnpike median – it is still the scene of an alarming number of deadly crashes each year. The Turnpike, running 312 miles from Florida City to Wildwood, sees an average of 75 – 100 fatal crashes annually. This number is significantly down from the 142 fatalities that occurred in the year before guardrails went in, but the Turnpike is still one of the most dangerous stretches of high-speed roadway in the state.

I-95 is another deadly highway – with an average of 1.7 traffic fatalities per mile throughout the state of Florida. Due to the high speed limits on both the Turnpike and Florida’s highways, people drive more aggressively than on smaller roadways, and regularly exceed 60 mph, making car accidents more likely to result in fatality. One of the most accident-prone sections of I-95 is that which passes through Broward County. Not only does this stretch see high traffic volumes, but drivers along the Miami-Dade/Broward stretch of the highway are often distracted by smart phones, GPS systems, and MP3/Video players provided by in-dash technology. These distractions can cause car accidents on any roadway, but the traffic congestion and high speeds along I-95 make them far more likely to cause devastating accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities.
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Fatal Fall on Carnival Cruise is Just Another of Many Cruise Ship Accidents

When you go on a cruise ship, you anticipate having the vacation of a lifetime. This is not the case with a 39-year-old male when he boarded the Carnival Magic. He fell from his cabin balcony one evening and landed three decks below – being pronounced dead soon afterwards. Accidents and fatalities may seem to be rare on cruise ships, though this is not actually the case and occur more often than one might think.

Injuries on a Cruise Ship

By law, cruise lines are only required to report accidents to the state where the ship operates. Canadian professor of sociology, Ross a Klein, spent over 300 days on cruise ships over the span of 10 years. He noted that there were major discrepancies between what the cruise ship industry told the general public in comparison to what he observed.

Some common issues found on cruises include loss of power, fires, and people falling overboard. Other issues that have happened include ship abandonment drills, though the ships are rarely abandoned, which means that the staff are not truly prepared. Additionally, from 1972 to 2011, almost 100 cruise ships ran aground and 16 sank.

While you hope to never encounter an accident on a cruise ship, there are some important things to remember if it ever happens. Following these will help to maximize the likelihood of any kind of compensation for your injuries. This includes trying to stay on the ship for as long as possible so that you can return to the United States. Additionally, you want to obtain names and contact information for anyone who witnessed your accident. If you are unable to write them down, have a family member or friend write them down – contact information can include mobile number(s), home number and/or email address. You should also take pictures of where the accident happened. If it was a slip and fall or other type of accident that may have been caused by a tripping hazard, you should make sure to include the hazard in your photos. Additionally, read the terms on your passenger ticket, as they may involve time sensitive requirements. This means that you may have to notify the cruise line of an injury within a specific amount of time.
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Understanding Texting and Driving Laws in Florida

Reason for New Law

“I have to live the rest of my life without my daughter,” said Steve Augello, an activist for the “no texting while driving in Florida” law. Five years ago, Allie was involved in a fatal motor vehicle collision with another driver. Investigators concluded that the accident resulted due to the distraction of the other motorist who was texting and driving. Allie’s case is only one out of too many unfortunate cases resulting in personal injury or death due to the distraction of another driver. The U.S. Department of Transportation has revealed that in 2010, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle collisions due to these so-called “distracted drivers.” In 2011, this amount increased to a total of 416,000 people.

Scientists working for Direct Line auto insurance recently acknowledged that texting and driving could be more dangerous than driving under the influence. The research leading to this revelation included a simulator for the purpose of imitating a motor vehicle. Reaction times of drivers under the influence, and reaction times of drivers on their cell phones were compared. Specifically, the results yielded that reaction times of drivers on their cell phones is 30% slower than that of intoxicated drivers. Correspondingly, reaction times of drivers on their cell phones were 50% slower than that of regular drivers not under the influence and not on their cell phones.

It is undeniable that our society’s high interest for cell phones is playing a major role in the increase of accidents due to texting distractions. A cell phone this day and age is essentially a mini-computer. One can send emails, instant messages, texts, and more. With a majority of the states already banning text messaging while driving, it is not unusual that Florida has joined the no texting while driving bandwagon.

Clarity Regarding New Law

As of October 1, 2013, if a driver in Florida is suspected of committing a traffic violation while texting, said driver can be fined up to $60. In other words, a fine for texting while driving will only be imposed as a secondary offense when coupled with the suspicion of another traffic violation. The statute expressing this recent law is titled: “Wireless communications devices; prohibition.” The language used in the statute has the tendency to lead one to believe that the main issue is texting via cellphone while driving. Although cell phones are a part of the big problem, it cannot be ignored that there is a reason why the statute’s author used the broad term “wireless communications devices.” Thus, the statute supplies a definition for said term. A wireless communication device is any electronic device that can be held by hand and that serves as a portal for communication. It is true that cell phones win the gold medal for being the main problem, however, other devices such as I-Pad’s and mini-computers that can be held by hand and that serve as portals for communication, are also a part of the “distraction problem.”


The statute’s language expresses that no driver will be punished if the vehicle he is operating is parked or momentarily stopped (i.e., stationary). Thus, as previously referred to, only one that is simultaneously driving and texting, and deemed suspicious for committing some other traffic violation, is susceptible to punishment. Exceptions to the new law apply to law enforcement officials performing their duties and to persons communicating with law enforcement officials regarding suspicious activity. Also, one that is driving and receives information regarding an emergency, the weather, and/or traffic, is immune.

Repetition of Violation

The statute provides that if one is fined for more than one texting while driving violation within a five-year period, a moving violation will be imposed. A moving violation allocates points to the driving record of such violator.

Proving Cause of Accident

The billing record of a wireless user can only be used against him in the event of a motor vehicle accident caused by him while texting and driving, which results in personal injury or death. These records would be used in the legal proceeding as a source of evidence to prove the cause of accident.
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Hit and Run Accident on Interstate I-195

A story in the news recently brought home how reckless and irresponsible some Florida drivers can be. At approximately 1AM on a Friday morning, an unidentified driver struck a pedestrian in the eastbound lanes of I-195 near North Miami Avenue, and then kept going, leaving the victim in the middle of the road. It is possible that inclement weather may have played a role in the accident, but due to the lack of witness accounts and the driver leaving the scene, the cause is unclear.

Although the Highway Patrol is actively searching for the driver – seeking a vehicle with extensive damage to the front end and possibly a broken headlight – no witnesses were able to give a description of the hit-and-run vehicle, so they do not have any identifying information such as make, model, year, or even color. FHP is requesting that anyone with a possible lead call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers (305-471-TIPS).

Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident

In the case of any Florida vehicle accident, all drivers involved are required by law to remain at the scene to render aid if possible, as well as exchange insurance information, await the arrival of the police, and generally take responsibility for their actions – even in the case of a single-car accident not causing harm to another person. The penalties for leaving the scene can be severe. Unfortunately, all too many times drivers leave the scene of an accident for a variety of reasons: because they are intoxicated, uninsured, not licensed, driving someone else’s vehicle (borrowed or stolen), or know that they have outstanding warrants, for example.

FHP reports that hit-and-run accidents are on the rise in our state, with Miami-Dade and Broward Counties ranking first and second in number of hit-and-runs. Florida roads and highways are the scene of over ten percent of all pedestrian accidents in the US, and a startling number of these are hit-and-run cases. Personal injury and/or wrongful death often result from such accidents, and receiving compensation for such a devastating incident can be difficult, especially if the at-fault party left the scene immediately without taking responsibility for his or her actions. As an injured person or a surviving family member, you do have legal rights to compensation, from the responsible party and/or insurance companies of those involved. If you can identify the driver who hit you, you can sue for compensation for your injuries, as well as medical bills and lost wages.
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Wrong Way Car Accident Takes Lives of Two Girls on Sawgrass Expressway

Recently, a tragic story hit the news in Florida about two young Coral Springs women who were killed on the Sawgrass Expressway due to someone else’s negligent driving. Marisa Caran Catronio, the passenger in a 2012 Camry, died at the scene of the head-on collision that occurred when another driver entered the westbound Expressway lanes headed the wrong direction. The Camry’s driver Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante died four days later.

21-year-old Marisa and her best friend Kaitlyn (20) were driving home from a night out at around 1:45 on a Sunday morning, when a Hyundai Sonata going the wrong way on the Sawgrass hit them head on, killing Marisa at the scene and sending Kaitlyn to the hospital, where she remained on life support for four days until finally succumbing to severe head injuries. The driver of the other car survived the crash with serious injuries.

The heartbreaking story of two best friends killed in a collision went viral when it was found that the driver of the Sonata that hit them was allegedly a self-professed recreational marijuana user who often drank to excess. A Twitter account believed to be that of the driver showed multiple posts about drug use and getting drunk – including the message “2 drunk 2 care” which was posted just hours before the collision that took the two girls’ lives. Police are including the Twitter account in their ongoing investigation into the crash, but so far charges have not been filed in the deaths.

Although drugs and/or alcohol may have had a part in this tragedy, Marisa’s father Gary Catronio says that safety measures are needed to keep other drivers from entering the wrong side of the highway in the future. Mr. Catronio hopes to launch a campaign in his daughter’s memory to get onramps equipped with flashing warning signals or even spike strips to prevent accidents like the one that killed his daughter.

The NHTSA reports that an average of 350 people die each year in wrong-way freeway crashes, with drunk driving identified as one of the main culprits. Other lapses in judgment may also be a partial cause – talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, drinking, changing music or falling asleep at the wheel. Missing or ineffective signage may also contribute to the danger of head-on collisions such as this one.
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Fatal Hit and Run Accident Involving a Motorcyclist

In Fort Lauderdale, a motorcyclist was killed by a car traveling on Broward Boulevard. The motorcyclist was traveling east and was struck by a small car turning into a shopping plaza. A police spokeswoman said the car cut him off. Police know the car was a 2008 Ford Focus, though that is the only information they have. The motorcyclist, Kevin E. Gilliam, Jr., was taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.

Mr. Gilliam was wearing a helmet and safety gear. He was doing all he should have been doing. However, when the car made the left turn into the shopping center without paying mind to the motorcycle, he didn’t stand a chance. Now, the family of the motorcyclist is urging the driver to turn himself in since it was a hit-and-run. They are grief stricken and unable to move past this event because they do not know what happened and are trying to understand how a person can simply hit someone and keep driving as though there was no accident.

What to Do if You Are Involved or Witness a Hit and Run Accident

Some of the most common reasons for a driver to flee the scene of a car accident may include the motorist driving without insurance; they may have a warrant out for their arrest or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. In some cases the driver might simply leave the scene because they are afraid of the consequences they may face due to causing an accident.

Depending on the severity of the accident, the victim may have a chance to identify the other vehicle. If this happens, they should attempt to get a good look at the following:

• The license plate • The driver • Make, model and color of the vehicle • Other identifying details: bumper stickers, unique rims, after market items.

The family of the victim has the ability to hire an attorney on behalf of their loved one in order to seek justice for the accident that occurred. Any kind of vehicle accident falls under the jurisdiction of personal injury law. In this case, because the accident was fatal, the family of the motorcyclist should speak to a wrongful death attorney who also has experience with hit and run accidents.
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