When you hire a funeral home, the facility agrees to take on certain contracted responsibilities to you and your family for the care of your lost loved one. That duty is dictated by state and federal regulations, as well. If there is a breach of that duty – whether intentional or otherwise – that has caused damages, then you have grounds for a funeral home negligence suit.
There are two primary categories of damages funeral home negligence can incur:
Compensatory and Punitive Damages. This post is designed to provide those who feel they may have fallen victim to mortuary negligence with the information you need to help determine what type of damages apply in your specific situation.
If, after reading, you still have questions, a knowledgeable Texas injury attorney can help you find the answers.
Compensatory Damages in Florida Funeral Home Negligence Cases
Just as the name would suggest, compensatory damages are designed to provide compensation for damages that you suffer. This means reimbursement for actual out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred as a result of proven negligent actions. There are a number of compensatory damage types, and exact damages sought will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding your case.
Here are a few of the most common types of funeral home negligence damages awarded by the court:
Economic Damages. These are hard costs related to things like loss of wages, and loss of future earnings due to the negligent actions of the funeral home. For instance, if you’ve had to miss work, or expect to be out of work in the future because of the damage the funeral home has caused, then you have real costs stemming from the negligence. Medical costs are also considered economic damages, and we address those separately below.
Emotional Distress Damages. Most funeral home negligence suits address emotional distress, and that can sometimes be difficult to prove. However, issues such as depression or anxiety can be medically well-documented and presented as evidence – records of seeking psychological treatment or medical prescriptions, for instance.
Physical Distress Damages. Sometimes our mental and emotional stress manifests physically. Physical ailments such as high blood pressure, heart problems, back and neck pain, and the medical treatment in relation to them will allow the court to understand your costs of physical distress.
Punitive Damages in Florida Funeral Home Negligence Cases
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are specifically designed to punish the funeral home for grossly negligent or particularly egregious actions. They are awarded at the discretion of the court.
Often the judge wishes to make an example of the defendant, and feels compensatory damages aren’t enough to deter the offender or others from the same actions in the future. In cases where it’s discovered that a funeral home cremated the wrong decedents, for example – handing over the exact cost of cremation to victims doesn’t really feel like justice, does it? In fact, it’s probably not even enough to justify the offending facility or others to implement further preventative measures.
Another situation in which punitive damages are awarded is when the judge simply doesn’t believe other damages amount to a reasonable punishment. The cost of anti-depressants, for instance, may not accurately reflect the pain and suffering inflicted upon the survivor(s).
If you are still in the planning stages after the loss of a loved one, the best plan of action is to conduct due diligence before you end up in this situation. Consumers should do their research and be involved as much as they can in the process. Working with your funeral home representative should feel comfortable – like planning with a professional – and he or she shouldn’t sound like a used car salesman.
Research more than one funeral home, ask questions, request quotes. And keep in mind, deep discounts and cheaper costs can be a big red flag.
If, however, you have already experienced this type of negligence, the best thing you can do to protect your rights and get justice is to consult with a skilled lawyer.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.