Court Rules Evidence of Pain and Suffering is Allowed in Florida Wrongful Death Claims

In car accident cases, the jury relies on the evidence presented at trial to determine whether the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages, and if so, what compensation the plaintiff is owed. While economic losses incurred for medical treatment or repairing a vehicle are easily calculable, determining appropriate damages for non-economic harm such as pain and suffering is less straightforward. Rather, in assessing the appropriate compensation for pain and suffering a jury will usually rely on the injured party’s testimony and an account of how the accident occurred.

Until recently, it was unclear whether a plaintiff could produce evidence of how an accident occurred to establish pain and suffering in a wrongful death case. A district court applying Florida law just ruled, however, that plaintiffs in a wrongful death case could submit evidence regarding the way a fatal car accident occurred to show their pain and suffering. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to a South Florida fatal car accident you should speak with a capable South Florida wrongful death attorney regarding the facts of your case and what damages you may be able to recover.

Facts Regarding the Accident

Reportedly, the defendant driver was a 99-year-old man who was known to be a dangerous driver. At the time of the accident, he was driving a large recreational vehicle without working headlights on the wrong side of the road at night, when he struck the plaintiffs’ decedent’s car. The decedent ultimately died due to her injuries, after which the personal representatives of her estate filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant driver’s estate. The defendants conceded liability but argued that the plaintiffs should not be permitted to introduce evidence regarding how the accident occurred. The plaintiffs and the defendants both submitted motions regarding what evidence should be admitted.
Evidence of Pain and Suffering Under Florida Law

In its analysis of the parties’ motions, the court noted that it was well established that under Florida law, a plaintiff in a personal injury case could offer testimony and evidence as to the manner in which an accident occurred to establish a claim for pain and suffering. The court stated, however, that whether such evidence was admissible in a wrongful death case was less clear under Florida law. In determining whether to admit evidence of how the accident occurred for damages for pain and suffering, the evidence must bear some relation to the facts of the case. Thus, it would not be admitted in every case.

The court also held that evidence of how the accident occurred may be precluded if it is unfairly prejudicial. Ultimately, the court held that if a claim for pain and suffering relies in part on the unique nature of how an accident occurred, then such evidence can be relevant to prove the existence and degree of pain and suffering.  Here, the court held that the senseless nature of the accident increased the plaintiffs’ mental anguish and pain and suffering. As such, the court permitted the plaintiffs to introduce evidence of how the accident occurred.

Consult a Seasoned South Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to a fatal car accident you should consult a seasoned  South Florida wrongful death  attorney regarding your case and what compensation you could potentially recover. The South Florida wrongful death attorneys of Donaldson & Weston will aggressively pursue any compensation you may be owed following the death of your loved one. You can contact us at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to set up a free and confidential meeting.


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