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Do You Need an Autopsy to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?


A medical examiner recently issued his findings in an autopsy performed on a Florida man who died in a car accident involving Venus Williams. The Palm Beach County doctor said that 78-year-old Jerome Barson died from complications of blunt force trauma in the June 9 car accident. Specifically, he suffered lacerations to his spleen and fractures to his pelvis and spine.

Barson’s widow, who was driving the couple’s Hyundai Accent when they crashed into the side of Williams’ SUV, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tennis star. She claims that Williams was driving negligently and caused the crash. Police initially thought Williams ran a red light, but surveillance video showed that she entered the intersection lawfully. Williams argues that Barson wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and that the couple’s car wasn’t adequately maintained. The official cause of the accident — and who was at fault — has not yet been determined.

But the autopsy results will help Barson’s widow prove that her husband died in the car accident and not from other causes.

Why Are Autopsies Important in Wrongful Death Cases?

While Florida law does not require an autopsy, a medical examination will help prove the cause of death. Autopsy results are more helpful than a death certificate, which doesn’t provide all the facts. Learning the cause of death is important in a wrongful death case because it is only then that two other important questions can be answered:

  1. Was the death preventable?
  2. Was the death caused by negligence?

Keep in mind that an autopsy might also prove that you don’t have a viable wrongful death claim. For example, if you believe that your loved one died because of medical malpractice, an autopsy could prove that he or she actually died from natural causes. But either way, an autopsy will help your family understand what happened, which is why it’s important to have one performed.

A Surviving Spouse

Under Florida law, surviving spouses, children, and parents of minor children are entitled to wrongful death compensation:

  • Surviving spouses are entitled to lost support and future loss of support. This means that a surviving spouse who depended on a deceased husband or wife’s income may recover the value of that support. Several factors are considered in making that value determination, including the replacement value of the decedent’s services and the joint life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent.
  • A surviving spouse may also recover for the loss the decedent’s companionship and for mental pain and suffering caused by the accident.
  • Minor children (and all children is there is no surviving spouse) may also recover for lost companionship and mental pain and suffering.
  • Parents of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering. If there are no other survivors in the event of an adult child’s death, his or her parents may recover for mental pain and suffering.

Additionally, if a survivor paid for the decedent’s medical or funeral expenses then he or she may recover those damages as well.

Contact Us Today

Contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you have lost a loved one in a car crash or another tragic accident. We will help you file a wrongful death lawsuit and recover compensation for your loss.

The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.




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