Money is Not the Only Motivation
Those that do not want to be held accountable for their actions often spread propaganda about the motivations of personal injury clients. The most frequent false claim is that personal injury clients just want money. The truth is much more complex. Of course, it’s about the money. But not in the way the wrongdoers portray it. Money is a symbol of justice. Making wrongdoers pay money holds them accountable for their actions, deters future conduct, and replaces financial support that was lost because of the wrongdoers’ actions.
The first thing most of our clients think about after a family member has been the victim of a Florida wrongful death accident is the grief they are experiencing. Money serves as a symbol to measure that grief. But that is not the main motivation. The number one motivation for bringing a wrongful death claim is overwhelmingly about holding the wrongdoer accountable for their actions and trying to deter future wrongful conduct of the wrongdoer and anyone else that might become aware of what happened. The next most common motivation is replacing lost financial support.
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No two wrongful death cases will have the same value. But the factors that go into determining value are always the same. The first thing to consider is how much insurance coverage is available. Many times, the case is worth much more than the insurance available. But the case must be settled for the insurance limits because the wrongdoer has no more assets to pay. If you go to trial and get a large verdict, the wrongdoer will simply declare bankruptcy and wipe out the part of the judgement in excess of the insurance coverage.
The second thing to consider is who are the wrongful death beneficiaries and what were their losses. In Florida the following are the people entitled to recover:
- All Spouses
- All Minor Children
- Adult Children When There is No Spouse
- Parents of Adult Children With No Spouse And No Children
- Parents of Minor Children
The third thing to consider is the ages of both the decedent and the beneficiaries. This is because damages are dependent on life expectancy. For example. If the decedent or the beneficiaries had already led a full life and did not have many more years to live, a jury would more than likely award less money for the loss. On the other hand, if the decedent or the beneficiaries are younger, a jury would more likely award more money for the loss.
The fourth thing to consider is the wrongdoer and or the subject of the wrongdoing. Juries tend to award more money when a large corporate defendant is involved, the case involves a defective product, or the conduct was particularly egregious. This is most likely because the jury knows a large verdict will deter future conduct.
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The final thing to consider is the credibility and or likeability of the beneficiaries. The bottom line is that juries tend to award more to people that are truthful and likeable. For example, a jury will more likely award less money to a parent that had very little involvement with their decedent child.
To give you an idea of how juries value wrongful death cases, we have provided below some recent Florida verdicts. It is important to know that these cases were handled by many different lawyers across the state and that it is not possible to compare one case to another. In the end, there are so many different variables that go into a verdict that each jury decision is unique.
2012 Miami Dade County, Florida Verdict of $163,229.00
In this fatal auto accident, two sons brought a wrongful death claim for the death of their father. The jury verdict included $50,000.0 to each of the adult sons for their loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering and $63,000.00 in medical and funeral expenses. The total verdict was $163,000,00. This verdict seems quite low. Factors that may have played a role in the low verdict include the involvement by the sons in the father’s life and the age of the father and the sons. Pazmino v. Urritia
2014 Broward County, Florida Verdict of $485,781.00
In this fatal bicycle versus car accident case, the decedent was survived by a spouse and one minor 19 year old child with cerebral palsy. The mother and the minor child lived in Argentina. The jury included no money for the spouse. Most likely because she was estranged from her deceased husband. The testimony established the daughter was in frequent phone contact with the decedent. The jury verdict included $433,288.00 for the minor child and $52,552.00 in medical expenses for a total of $485,780.00. Brobeck v. Ellis
2013 Broward County, Florida Verdict of $15,494,032.00 In this fatal crash injury and entrapment death case the decedent was survived by a common law wife and one minor child. The verdict included no money for the common law wife because Florida law does not recognize common law marriage. As a result, the jury would not be allowed to include any money for the common law wife. The jury verdict for the minor child was a whopping $15,000,000.00 for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering plus an additional $283,488.00 in loss of support and another $210,544.00 in other damages. This amount was reduced 30% due to the decedent’s comparative negligence. Stoelze v. Rechten
2011 Duval County, Florida Verdict of $5,386,000.00 in this fatal shooting negligent security case against a nightclub the decedent was survived by a minor child. The verdict included $161,000.00 for loss of net accumulations, $225,000.00 four loss of support and services, and $5 million for loss of parental companionship and pain and suffering of the minor. Glaze v. Royal Terrace
2016 Lee County, Florida Verdict of $923,000.00
In this wrongful death pedestrian car accident case the decedent husband was survived by his wife. The jury verdict included $23,081.75 for medical expenses, and $900,000.00 for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering. Estate of Okerlund v. Lapon
2014 Broward County, Florida Verdict $456,000.00 In this fatal medical malpractice case the 65 year old decedent was survived by her husband. The verdict included $200,000.00 for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering, $120,000.00 for loss of support and services, $11,000.00 for funeral expenses, and $125,000.00 in medical expenses. The reason this number may be so much lower than other cases may have to do with the advanced age of the decedent and the spouse. Enoch v. Memorial Regional Hospital et al.
2014 Palm Beach County, Florida Verdict of $1,460,000.00 In this wrongful death medical malpractice case the 60 year old decedent was survived by her husband. The jury verdict included money for the husband’s loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering along with medical expenses. Estate of Marks v. Coleman et al.
2011 Broward County, Florida Verdict of $3,000,000.00 In this fatal bicycle versus auto accident case the decedent was survived by a spouse. The jury verdict was $3,000,000.00 for the spouse reduced by 70% because of the decedent’s comparative negligence. Donley v. E&S Landscaping
2014 Pinellas County, Florida Verdict of $6,584,674.00
In this fatal medical malpractice case the minor child decedent was survived by his two parents. The verdict included $84,674 in medical and funeral expenses, $3,500,000 to the mother for her loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering and $3 million to the father for his loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering. Epple v. Thomas Umstead et al
2011 Broward County, Florida Verdict of $1,320,000.00
In this wrongful death auto pedestrian accident case the adult child decedent was survived by his two parents. The jury verdict included $1,000,000.00 to the decedents mother for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering, $200,000.00 to the decedents father for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering, and $120,000.00 in medical expenses. Estate of Metheny v. Wallbusters Inc.
2014 Pasco County, Florida Verdict of $25,910,000.00
In this defective motor vehicle rollover case the decedent wife was survived by her spouse and four minor children. The jury verdict included $910,000.00 in loss of support and services, $4,000,000.00 in loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering for the husband, $3,000,000.00 for the first child, $4,000,000.00 for the second child, $6,000,000.00 for the third child, and $8,000,000.00 for the fourth child. Estate of Salliotte v. Ford Motor Company et al.
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Our law firm has handled numerous wrongful death cases over the years. We know the law, we know the defense experts and we know how to prove your case. If you want to hold someone accountable for causing a fatal auto accident, or Florida fatal accident attorneys are here to help. Call us today to get the process started.