Drowning deaths can be catastrophic. Families who have lost a loved one to drowning may feel like their world has been turned upside down, and it can often feel like a difficult road ahead. Sometimes, just learning what happened to cause the drowning death can be difficult, and even if the cause is obvious, it may feel like it was an accident that no one was responsible for. The Miami drowning death attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. know that that is not always the case and that in many cases, someone is responsible for accidents that lead to drowning deaths.
For help investigating a drowning death and holding the responsible parties accountable for the death of a loved one by drowning in Miami, call Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind today. Our Miami drowning death attorneys represent the spouses, parents, and children of those killed in drowning accidents and fight to get them compensation for their loss. For a free legal consultation, contact our law offices today at (866) 386-1762.
When Can You Sue for a Loved One’s Drowning Death in Miami, FL?
Suing for a loved one’s death is a complex process that you should always get legal assistance with. Our Miami drowning death attorneys represent families of deceased drowning victims in lawsuits to help them get compensation from the at-fault parties. Determining when you can sue for death by drowning in Florida means looking at a few different rules, including rules about who is entitled to sue for a loved one’s death and when some individual or company might be responsible for a drowning accident.
Who Can Sue for Drowning Deaths?
Under Florida law, victims are usually entitled to sue for injuries they face in an accident. However, when the victim is killed in the accident, they usually do not have time to file their case before their death. Instead, their loved ones can file for them.
Specifically, the right to sue for a loved one’s death passes to the spouse, children, or parents of a deceased drowning victim. These family members are able to file a wrongful death claim to get compensation for the harm that the deceased would have been able to sue for in court, plus they can claim damages that they faced personally because of the death. Talk to a lawyer about what damages you could be entitled to claim.
Boyfriends and girlfriends, dependent siblings, and grandparents who care for a deceased drowning victim are not included on this list. Still, these kinds of relationships might still be entitled to damages if they can make a claim as part of the decedent’s estate, i.e., if the victim had a will that named them as beneficiaries. They could also be entitled to claim actual damages they faced, such as medical expenses that they paid, but it is important to talk to a lawyer to see whether your claim can proceed and how to file it.
When is Someone Responsible for a Drowning Accident?
To sue an individual or entity for someone’s drowning death, you need to be able to show that they had some involvement in the death. Property owners are often “involved” simply because an accident happened on their property, and they can typically be held responsible for accidents caused by dangerous conditions on the premises. Drownings that occurred after a fall from a boat could be the responsibility of the boat owner or operator, especially if the accident happened because of unsafe conditions on the boat, because the victim was served too much alcohol, or because the boat operator negligently allowed an overboard accident to go unaddressed.
Drowning deaths also occur under somewhat suspicious circumstances in many cases. It can be difficult to know what happened, who witnessed the accident, and who might have been involved until an investigation can be held, potential witnesses can be found, and an autopsy can be performed. In cases where the circumstances leading up to a drowning accident involved reckless horseplay, intentional assault, or an unreasonable failure to call for help, the responsible parties could be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The legal standard for responsibility in an accident case is much lower than in a criminal case. In criminal cases, the prosecutor must show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant intentionally or recklessly committed murder or manslaughter. For a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties, you merely need to show that they negligently caused the death “by a preponderance of the evidence” – a “more likely than not” standard.
Proving Fault in a Drowning Death in Miami Accident Cases
As mentioned, the family of a deceased drowning victim must show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant in the case caused their loved one’s death through “negligence.” Negligence, by its common definition, means that the person failed to use proper care in how they did something. In a legal sense, it has a much more specific meaning that involves showing four factors were met to make up a “negligence” cause of action:
First, you have to show that the defendant owed the victim a legal duty. This could be the duty to keep their property safe from hidden dangers if the case of a boat owner or landowner. In the case of a teacher or babysitter who was responsible for watching the victim, the duty might be the duty to use reasonable care in monitoring them and avoiding injury. The duty is usually based on the specifics of the relationship between the defendant and the victim and is often slightly different in each case. Legal duties can also be set by statute, such as laws against drunk boating.
In most cases, there is no requirement that someone dive in to save a drowning victim, but boat operators and lifeguards might have a duty to at least take steps to get the victim help. If anyone begins assisting with this kind of rescue, they have a legal duty to continue to use reasonable care and skill during the rescue or else negligence during the rescue could be what ultimately causes the death and would violate their legal duty.
Second, you have to show that the defendant breached that legal duty. This usually happens if their actions were unreasonable, given the circumstances at hand. If other reasonable people in the same situation would have acted differently or taken more care, the defendant can often be found in breach of their legal duties. A breach of duty is often much clearer when the duty is based on a statute, such as drunk boating statutes. Proving a breach of that duty merely means showing that they did something the law said not to do; reasonableness is not usually taken into account.
Third, you have to show that the defendant’s breach of duty actually caused the accident. If the accident would have happened regardless of what the defendant did, then their actions or inactions were not necessarily a cause of the accident, and the courts might not be able to hold them liable.
Lastly, you must show that there were damages in the case. The death of a loved one certainly qualifies, but you can also prove the existence of financial and noneconomic harms in the case.
Suing for Drowning Deaths in Miami, FL
If you can prove all of the elements listed above, then you could be in a strong position to file a lawsuit and recover damages for the death of a loved one in a lawsuit. It is always important to talk to a Miami drowning death attorney about whether you have a strong case and what problems you might face. Your attorney can help you decide whether your case might best be compensated through a lawsuit or whether there are insurance policies that should adequately compensate you instead. Ultimately, if you do file a lawsuit for your drowning death case, it is important to know what to expect in your claim.
Stages of a Drowning Death Claim
All personal injury and wrongful death cases start with a “complaint” filed in court that details the elements of the case and who was responsible. This lays out who you are suing, what you think they did wrong to cause the death, and what damages you seek. Your lawyer will prepare these documents, file them in court, and serve a copy to the defendant. The defendant is then allowed to respond, and the court will accept filings back and forth until the case proceeds forward.
The next pretrial stage will be “discovery” – the stage where both sides can ask each other questions, request evidence, and set up depositions to get on record what happened. The evidence collected at this stage often helps both sides see how strong their case is, and many cases settle at this stage if either side sees their case weakened after getting a look at the full picture of what happened.
If the case continues without settling, it will go to trial where both sides get to present evidence to a judge and jury for the jury to ultimately decide the case. The victim’s side gets to go first and present evidence to the jury through witness testimony, then the defendant gets to put on their own witnesses and evidence. At the end, your lawyer will get the last word to the jury before they receive jury instructions and leave to decide the case.
Settling vs. Going to Trial
In most personal injury cases, the court will ask both sides to try to settle. Settlement can be beneficial to everyone since it means skipping some of the time and expense of trial and still getting damages. However, some defendants and their insurance companies will seek to make payouts as low as possible to save money. This might mean missing entire areas of damages you could be entitled to or offering less than you deserve for a settlement. However, the money saved by avoiding additional attorney’s fees and court costs could make a settlement “worth it.”
Our Miami drowning death attorneys can help you make the decisions of whether to fight for justice in court or whether to accept a settlement for your loved one’s death. Most cases ultimately end in settlement, but important cases such as wrongful death claims have a higher chance of going to trial because of the seriousness of the conduct and the potentially high damages available.
Damages in a Miami Drowning Death Lawsuit
Ultimately, no amount of money can replace a lost loved one. However, there might be expenses and financial hardships that you and your family now face after the loved one’s death, and it may be vital to file a lawsuit to recover these damages so that your family can move forward.
Talk to a lawyer about what damages you may be able to claim. Many people are surprised to find out what kinds of damages they can in a lawsuit for wrongful death by drowning. Our Miami drowning death attorneys often help victims collect damages they might not have thought of.
Damages for the Deceased
In most cases, you can claim financial compensation for damages that the deceased would have been able to claim had they survived the accident and filed the case themselves. This often means collecting damages for the medical expenses related to their care after the accident, which would mean end-of-life care in cases of drowning death.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
When your loved one passed, there were likely expenses that also fell to you related to this death. Things like medical bills, funeral expenses, and burial costs are some of the most common damages claimed by families of the deceased in a drowning death case.
In addition, you can also claim compensation for harm to your family’s financial status. If the victim brought income to your family, it can be difficult for a family to move on without that paycheck – especially in cases where the deceased was the sole financial provider. Lost wages for the deceased can be an important part of any wrongful death lawsuit, and you should talk to a Miami drowning death lawyer about how to project these damages and claim them as part of a lawsuit. Sometimes, lawyers will need to present financial experts as witnesses to help show the jury how these calculations were made and why the damages you are claiming are justified.
Other Noneconomic Damages
In addition to these expenses, you and your family will often face different types of harm that might not be physical or tangible but can nonetheless result in compensation. For instance, a spouse’s lost companionship is something that cannot be replaced, but you can claim damages for this. Similarly, the loss of a parent or child can lead to “mental pain and suffering,” according to the Florida wrongful death statute, and this can also be claimed.
The death of a parent or spouse often means that household chores, childcare tasks, and other services that they provided the family now need to be covered by someone else. This could mean that you need to hire someone to mow the lawn or look after children during the day, all of which can result in additional expenses. These damages can also be claimed in many wrongful death claims.
Court Costs and Attorney’s Fees
Lastly, you might be entitled to court costs and attorney’s fees. Talk to a lawyer about getting these costs covered as part of your lawsuit. In many cases, a contingency fee arrangement can be made so that you do not need to pay up front for these expenses, and your lawyer will instead get paid out of your winnings. This means that injury and wrongful death attorneys like those at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. often get paid only if their clients win their case.
Where Do Drowning Deaths Occur in Miami?
Miami has many different places where drowning deaths could occur. Our Miami drowning death attorneys can help with wrongful death claims from any drowning accidents in the city and surrounding areas, including drownings involving any of the following:
Dangerous Water Features
There are many people with pools, ponds, and other water features on their property that could cause accidental drowning deaths if they are not properly secured. In many cases, things like pools are considered “attractive nuisances” that might inspire a neighbor’s child, for example, to investigate the water. This means that these kinds of features might even need to be protected against accidental entry and trespassing to prevent drowning.
Drowning in the Home
Many drowning accidents occur not in bodies of water, but in the bath or other in-home water features. This is most common in tragic accidents involving negligent supervision by nannies, babysitters, and other such people.
Accidental drowning deaths in the ocean can often happen when swimmers are not as strong as they think, when they go out too far, or when they lack the proper supervision to keep them safe. In some cases, property owners could be liable, as could lifeguards or other responsible individuals. In many cases, “swim at your own risk” rules might work to insulate lifeguards, but anyone who renders aid and does so negligently could be liable for a drowning death.
Drownings often occur when people fall off of boats. Whether this be a cruise ship, a ferry, a pleasure boat, or a fishing boat, an accidental drowning death involving a fall from a boat could be the boat owner or operator’s responsibility. At the very least, the boat operator might have a duty to call for aid or look for the overboard person, and failing to do so could put them at fault.
Intercoastal Waterway Drownings
Drownings in Miami’s Intercoastal Waterway is used for travel, for shipping, and for many other reasons. People are often killed in drowning accidents if they fall into the Intercoastal Waterway, whether they fall from land next to the water, from bridges over the water, or from boats and ships on the water.
Miami River Drownings
The Miami River’s banks include areas like the Miami Riverwalk where there are no barriers between pedestrian areas and the water itself. Unsupervised children and others could run a risk of falling into the water under various circumstances. Other land along the River could also lack the proper safeguards necessary to prevent falls into the River, and property owners could be liable for such accidents.
Commercial Boating and Shipping Accidents
Sailors, fishers, and longshoremen could be killed in drowning accidents in the Miami area. These workers drown because of unsafe conditions in their workplace, whether that be dangerous conditions on the boat or on the dock. They could also face injuries if they are not given proper safety gear, flotation devices, or lighting to stay safe. Unreasonable orders to work in dangerous or inclement weather could also lead to boat accidents and drowning deaths. Any of these issues could potentially put the worker’s employer at fault for their death.
Call Our Miami Drowning Death Injury Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
Losing a loved one is a tragic accident that should never happen. If someone’s negligent actions or inactions were the cause of an accidental drowning death, the surviving family of the deceased could be entitled to sue the responsible parties to seek financial compensation. Compensation for lost wages, funeral costs, and more could help a family move on after a deadly drowning accident. Without the help of a Miami drowning death attorney, you could have trouble filing your case, determining whom to sue, and calculating how much to claim in your case. For a free legal consultation and more help understanding how to move forward with your Miami drowning death case, call Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. Our Miami drowning death lawyers have over 30 years of experience helping victims and their families. For a free case consultation, call us today at (866) 386-1762.