As an Florida shooting death lawyer, I regularly receive phone calls from those who have lost loved ones from shooting events. Over the last year or so, we have received an alarming increase in those calls. Whether we can help by filing a wrongful death lawsuit, or not, varies greatly depending on the particular facts of each case.
(If you are wondering whether you might have a shooting death case, please call or text — 24 hours a day — (407) 383-7290. A wrongful death lawyer will call you back as soon as possible after receiving any message.)
There are a vast number of ways that someone can lose their life through a shooting. Perhaps the most memorable shooting call that I have received was from a family member of one of the victims of the Orlando Pulse massacre (whose case, unfortunately, we could not accept, due to limitations in Florida’s Worker’s Compensation statute). But any shooting death call, and I have received many, is equally tragic.
First Question After A Shooting Death: Who Might Be Able To Sue?
The first question is whether the person calling me can recover for losing their loved one caused by a shooting death. Only certain people are entitled to recover for the death of a loved one, regardless of the cause. For shooting death cases, generally the spouse, children under 25, children over 25 (but only if there was no surviving spouse), parents (but only if there were no other survivors), and financially dependent blood relatives IF the dependence was very significant (like total dependence by someone with a complete and total disability). The rules regarding who may recover after a shooting death are the same for all wrongful death lawsuits (except medical malpractice, which is more restrictive), and you can find those here.
Next Question After A Shooting Death: Is There A Possible Case?
The next question is whether there is any type of lawsuit that can be pursued. Wrongful death lawsuits require that there be some person, or organization, or company, who was negligent. That means there has to be someone, with money or insurance to collect, who did something wrong.
Obviously, anytime you have a shooting (unless it was self-defense), you have someone who did something wrong. You have the shooter. But, almost always, we can’t sue the person who fired the shot. Many times, the family and police investigators don’t even know who did the shooting. Even if they know, the criminal generally has no money, insurance, or assets. A criminal would have to have substantial assets for us to sue them, because collections and bankruptcy laws make it very easy for most people to get around paying judgments. Most of the time that means that we are trying to determine whether anyone else might share in the blame.
Usually Not A Good Defendant: Police & Prison Systems
One of the common calls I receive is people who want to sue either the police, or prison officials, for releasing someone with known dangerous tendencies, who then shot their loved ones. There are statutes that limit recoveries against government agencies. More importantly, convincing a jury that police or prison officials were negligent in releasing a criminal is an extremely unlikely scenario. So, while technically there might be a case, we would not pursue this type of case.
Possibly A Very Good Defendant: The Property Owner
The most common type of shooting death case that we will accept is based on negligent security, which is a subset of premises liability. That means that we sue the property owner, for failing to provide adequate security. Usually these are most promising when they happen on commercial property (like a mall or other business), in a high crime area.
In these cases, the law requires that we show that there was a reason for the property owner to anticipate the shooting (which means there was history of similar crime in the immediate vicinity — meaning within a 1 mile radius), yet the property owner negligently failed to provide adequate security. We have to carefully investigate these types of cases to be sure that there was sufficient crime, and insufficient security.
You can get a very general idea of the crime rate in the area surrounding your crime by entering the address here, and searching for similar crimes during the approximately three (3) month time-frame immediately before your loved one became a victim. As an Orlando wrongful death lawyer, I do a quick / preliminary review of the crime rate in the area before I decide whether I can accept a case. IF I believe there was enough crime to pursue a case, then we would hire a security expert to do a comprehensive analysis of the crime rate, in much more detail than you can find on any website.
If the shooting happened in a low crime area, then we may not be able to pursue a shooting death case. However, if you lost a loved one due to a shooting, please let us decide whether we think we can prove the case.
If there was high crime, then we also have to prove that there was insufficient security. The level of security that is required, again, we prove by hiring a security expert to evaluate the security measures in place on the property.
What Is The Value Of A Shooting Death Case?
The value of a shooting death case varies based primarily on these factors:
(1) The amount of insurance coverage of the business where the shooting took place. Very often, companies have 1 or 2 million dollar policies, but not always. This amount is usually the maximum we can recover.
(2) The closeness of the relationship between the person who died, and the person who calls us. Wrongful death damages are largely determined by the closeness of the relationship between the decedent (person who died) and survivor (person who called us). That means, for example, if the relationship was very estranged, such as a child who hadn’t spoken to their parent in 25 years, the damages are usually lower. However, we have recovered substantial sums for those who have lost a loved one, even when the relationship was estranged. We can provide more information about this issue during a free consultation, if you give us a call.
(3) The degree of negligence of the security. If a mall had a high level of security, and they were doing everything within their power to prevent crime, then the value of the case is somewhat lower. However, we delve deeply into the evidence to evaluate all aspects of security, depose security guards and their employers, consider the frequency and location of security patrols, and consider the adequacy of all other security measures. Very often, there are problems with even the most seemingly comprehensive security plans. But, if security was spectacular, that would be a factor in what amount we would advise a client to accept when settling a case (because, if the case goes to trial, we have to prove to a jury that the security was inadequate, and the defense would present all evidence showing they did everything they could in terms of security).
(4) The level of similar crime in the immediate area. More crime generally means more security should have been provided.
Overall, if a shooting death happened in a high crime area, on commercial property, then there is a very good chance we could pursue a valuable case. We can provide more information about the types of verdicts and settlements you might expect, depending on the particular facts of your case, if you give us a call.
If you have lost a loved one due to a shooting death, please call or text (407) 383-7290, 24 hours a day. Someone will respond as soon as we receive your message (often immediately or within a very short time-frame). Please explain that you need information about a possible shooting death case. We can be most helpful if someone who is entitled to bring the lawsuit calls us. You can read more about who can sue here.