Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Law-Book-150x150In the State of Florida, there are special laws and procedures that apply to wrongful death cases. Only certain survivors of a deceased family member can pursue damages for the mental anguish and loss of services of a family member.  These provisions are codified under the Florida Wrongful Death Act in Chapter 768 of the Florida Statutes.
First and foremost, it should be pointed that no amount of money (even an award in the millions of dollars) can adequately compensate a child for losing a parent, a spouse for losing a partner, or a parent for losing a child.  The emotional pain and scars last a lifetime and there really is no way to quantify these damages.  From a legal standpoint, there is a process in place to the pursuit of a wrongful death case.  From an administrative standpoint, an estate will be opened to name a person as the personal representative of the estate of the deceased person.  Whether the deceased person also referred to as the decedent is a child or an adult, an estate must ultimately be opened so that there is a person authorized under the law to be the point person for the claims or lawsuits filed on behalf of the estate for the wrongful death.
With respect to the damages that can be claimed, there is no formula or math that is set forth by Florida law as to what award or settlement would be appropriate.  Generally speaking, there are factors that are considered when evaluating a Florida Wrongful Death case.  Here are some of the factors that are considered:

College-Campus-150x150College should be an experience full of adventure, learning, and growing for students. Unfortunately for some of these students, the college experience is ruined by immature and mean-spirited acts of hazing in fraternities and sororities.  There are physical and psychological effects from such hazing events.  In 2019, the Florida legislature passed a new set of Hazing Laws that could apply to situations that take in place in fraternities and sororities.

Law makers are cracking down on hazing across the country, but in Florida especially. The laws have evolved with the unfortunate nature of hazing. It should be noted that the absence from a particular hazing event is no longer looked at as a lack of involvement in the eyes of law enforcement. Even if an individual was not physically present at the hazing event, if he or she helped plan it, he or she can be subject to criminal charges. While this provision will most likely affect organization leaders, the new law could also hold school administrator’s responsible. This new provision is meant to act as a catch-all regardless of an individual’s level of involvement, as in the past general chapter members have gotten away with hazing, while only the heavily involved and officers were charged.

The new law is called Andrew’s Law, named after Andrew Coffey, a Florida State Univesity student who died in 2017 from alcohol poisoning. He was participating in a fraternity ritual where he was required to drink an entire fifth of alcohol, following the instructions from his “big brother”. Andrew was 20 years old when he died with a blood alcohol level nearly six times the legal limit, after falling into unconsciousness and being left alone until the next day. Florida State Univesity’s Greek Life program was altered by the school’s president after Andrew’s death.  The Chad Meredith Act was also signed in 2005 following the hazing death of a University of Miami student who died tragically in a fraternity hazing incident in 2001. The Act made hazing a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony if a victim was seriously injured or killed.

Toy-Block-Letter-A-and-D-150x150Proper supervision at a day care center includes ongoing monitoring during nap time. It should be noted that nap time is not the time for a day care center worker to attend to other tasks and children  There are risks associated with nap time including but not limited to suffocation and oxygen deprivation.  This is especially applicable to infants and toddlers.  Timely intervention in the form of removing an object from the child’s access, turning and repositioning the child, and CPR can and does save the lives of children at risk during nap time.

The Center for Disease Control reports that about 3,500 children die in their sleep every year. Excluding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the most common cause of sleep-related deaths is accidental suffocation. There are a number of precautions a parent can take to ensure the safety of their infant or toddler, but there is still a risk if the child attends a day care. Day care centers also must work to provide a safe environment during nap time.  One of the most important precautions caregivers must take while putting a baby or infant down for a nap is to place the child on their back. This reduces the risk of SIDS by providing the maximum amount of oxygen for a child. Day care centers should provide a child a stable surface  for sleep time or nap time like a firm mattress in a crib. Similarly, soft objects, like stuffed animals, and loose bedding should be removed from the crib. The primary job of a caretaker during nap time is to keep a watchful eye on all the sleeping infants and toddlers. It is vital that day care center workers provide their full, undivided attention on the children. When a parent is looking at day cares, they need to make sure that the caregivers have the proper training, such as CPR. Simple precautions like taking the time to watch infants and toddlers during naptime without distractions can save lives.

It was reported in Lansing, Illinois, where a ten month old child suffocated in his sleep while left unattended at a day care for over two hours. It was noted by media reports that there were no attempts at CPR by any of the day care center workers. The parents later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the day care center.

Day-Care-Center-Negligence-150x150Florida has warm weather virtually year round.  While this makes Florida a destination state for many tourists, it also makes Florida a dangerous place for infants and toddlers left in a day care center van.  Tragically, a children die or are injured as a result of the negligence of a day care center and its staff. While some incidents and injuries are unforeseen and unpreventable, leaving a child in a day care center van is one such avoidable accident.
In 2010, I published my first book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.  On Page 40 of the book is the following topic:
What Should Day Care Centers Do to Prevent Injuries Resulting from Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle? 

wrongful_death_book-150x150In Jacksonville, Florida and other cities throughout the State of Florida, a car crash is just about something you see every day. With the growth of the State and more and more vehicles on the road, car crashes are a common occurrence.  Tragically, some of these car accidents result in the untimely and tragic death of a  child.  As passengers of a vehicle, children are almost never at fault for the crash taking place.  Certainly, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the parents, family, neighborhood, school and community.  Having attending a number of funerals involving a child, it is clear that no words or compensation for that matter can console a parent or family member who has lost a child due to the negligence driving of another person.
In Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol reported a recent accident that tragically led to the death of two children and personal injuries of two other children.  It was reported that Symere Woolbright – age 5 – and Rickale Woolbright – age 10 – died as a result of this rear end crash.   See Children Killed in Jacksonville, Florida Crash – 2 Killed and 2 Injured
While some accidents may seem cut and dry as to fault or liability, there are a number of challenges and issues that go with the pursuit of a Florida Wrongful Death case on behalf of the parents of a child who dies as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  It is important to determine all applicable insurance policies that may provide coverage for the damages / losses as a result of the automobile accident.  Insurance companies do not always act in the best interest of the family of a deceased child.  The insurance company has a duty to act reasonably and timely.  If the insurance company fails to do so, the applicable insurance policy limits may be expanded to what is called extra-contractual compensation. It means that the insurance company may ultimately be pressured to pay out more than the applicable policy limits but only if it can be shown that the insurance company failed to act timely and reasonably.  To prove such conduct, documentation is vital.

Swimming-Pool-Liability-150x150Throughout the year, Florida has the distinction of being a state in which warm weather allows for swimming even through the Fall and Winter months. When a child dies as a result of a drowning incident, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the family and community.  According to statistics collated the Florida Department of Children and Families, 82 drowned in 2017 with another 56 who have drowned in 2018 as of this time. Children and adults, who happened to be strong swimmers, can still encounter trouble while swimming.  As such, it is important to have supervision and assistance nearby any time that a child or adult enters a pool. This is especially true for young children, toddlers, and infants who may lack these strong swimming skills or safety awareness.
We live in a world of constant and ongoing distractions in the form of our smart phones and tablets. In a way, our smart phones are making us a bit dumber and less aware of our surroundings. This often is the case when an adult is supposedly supervising a child.  With eyes fixated on the small screen of an iPhone or iPad, a small child may encounter trouble or danger in the form of any body of water including swimming pools, lakes, oceans, rivers, hot tubs, and even bath tubs.
A swimming pool related legal action requires the showing of four elements as follows:

Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;

Breach of Duty;

https://www.floridachildinjurylawyer.com/files/2017/08/Day-Care-Center-Hot-Van.001-150x150.jpegIn Florida and other warm weather States, the same tragic story seems to be reported every Spring and Summer.  A child is left by a day care center in a van or bus and dies as a result of hyperthermia.  The name of the child is different but the story seems to be the same.  The child was forgotten in the van or bus because roll call was not properly taken and double checked. These “Hot Car” or “Hot Van” deaths are among the easiest to prevent.  It does not require the investment of millions, thousands, or even hundreds of dollars to prevent.  It only requires a pen, paper, and the attentiveness of one staff member to prevent these deaths from taking place.  While it may be tedious to check and double check when children get on and off of a day care center or school bus – the mundane and tedious work is well worth the fact that the lives of children can be saved with this due diligence.  The fact is the we live in a world of distractions and multiple responsibilities on the part of day care centers and child care centers.  However, the fact that there are distractions and multiple responsibilities are never ever an excuse or defense to leaving a child alone in a hot van, car, or school bus.
A recent death of a 3 year old child in the Orlando area is yet one of many deaths reported when roll call or a head count was not properly completed.  When the temperature outside is in the 80s or 90s, the temperature inside in the vehicle can be 40 to 50 degrees or even hotter inside the vehicle.   In just a few minutes, a small child can go from healthy to dead when left alone and unattended in a hot day care center van, bus, or vehicle.  It was reported that Myles Hill, a 3 year old girl, was left on a day care center vehicle operated by Little Miracles Academy.  Following the death of the child, criminal charges were filed in the form of aggravated manslaughter by the State Attorney’s office.  You can read more about this topic at  3 Year Old Child Dies in Orlando Florida – Day Care Center Hot Van Death. 
When a child dies as a result of the negligence of a day care center, child care provider, summer camp, school, or other third party, the parents can file a wrongful death case against the responsible party, individual, and business.  In Florida, wrongful death cases are governed by both case law and statutes as set forth in Florida Statutes Chapter 768.

Swimming-Pool-Drowning-150x150In the State of Florida, warm weather allows for swimming and water related activities during most of the year. Of course, summer time is the most popular and populated swim period.  With hot weather in the summer, swimming can be a great way for children to play, relax, and have fun.  However, swimming related activities and locations can also be the site of a tragedy when a child dies as a result of a drowning.  Children are naturally curious. Furthermore, young children especially toddlers have very poor safety awareness.  Because of this, it is important that small children are properly supervised at all times and that swimming pools have proper barriers to the protection of toddlers and young children.
David Wolf, a partner with the law firm of Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A. is a child injury attorney based in Jacksonville, Florida who handles cases throughout the State of Florida. He is the author of 11 books including the book titled The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.  The book covers a number of topics including Homeowner’s Insurance, Swimming Pools, Water Parks, and Other Bodies of Water, Sports and Recreational Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.
It is reported that drowning deaths among all age groups is the sixth leading cause of unintentional deaths.  For children 14 and under, drowning is reported as the second leading cause of unintentional deaths.  Despite the known dangers of swimming pools for children, there are still a number of deaths reported over the summer and other times of years of a small child wandering into a pool area and drowning.

Pedestrian-Triangle-Sign-150x150In Jacksonville, Florida and other cities, drivers should be on the look out for pedestrians and bicyclists especially those who are young children.  Drivers should slow down in school zones, residential areas, crosswalks, and anywhere else there may be a child pedestrian or child bicyclist.  It should be noted that Florida is a comparative fault state.  As such, the injured child and / or parents of an injured child can bring a legal action for personal injuries or wrongful death even if the child may have been partially at fault for the incident or accident.  It should also be noted that children under the age of 6 years old cannot be held to be negligent or at fault as a matter of law in the State of Florida.

A recent tragedy was reported in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was reported that a child was hit by a vehicle while attempting to cross a street with other children at the intersection of A1A and the Wonderwood Connector in Mayport – Jacksonville Florida.  It was reported by the local media that the driver continued through the intersection on a yellow light.  It was also reported that the child, who ultimately died as a result of the pedestrian – vehicle accident related personal injuries, was in the sixth grade. You can read more about this story at Boy Hit While Crossing the Street in Jacksonville, Florida (Mayport).

The wrongful death of a child has a ripple effect through the family, neighborhood, school, and community.  It is heartbreaking for the parents and extended family.  It is extremely upsetting for the school.  It can be quite a bewildering experience to have a friend / classmate sit in front of a student one day and then never to return because of a tragic pedestrian accident.