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Florida driver blamed for wrong-way fatality gets 8-year term

Pensacola families whose loved ones die due to another person's careless or reckless behavior must act in a timely manner to recover damages. Florida wrongful death lawsuits have a rigid, two-year filing window starting on the date of a person's death. While the time period seems generous, a liability action takes time to prepare because the decedent's estate is involved.

Wills name personal representatives, who are charged with petitioning a court in wrongful death cases. Young victims of fatal car crashes may not have wills or spouses -- the court's first choice for a representative in the absence of a will -- which complicates the filing.

A 26-year-old South Florida driver died in 2011 when another car, driving in the wrong direction along a Miami causeway, slammed into his vehicle. The surviving driver was charged with the death. Prosecutors said the man's blood alcohol content level was triple the state limit.

The defense claimed the victim also was intoxicated at the time of the wrong-way crash, which may have affected the eight-year prison sentence the defendant received. The sentencing judge's decision placed the term near the midway point, between the shortest possible sentence of two to four years and the maximum of 15 years.

Upon release from prison, the defendant will be on probation seven years. The court decided the man could never again hold a driver's license.

The personal representative of a decedent's estate files a wrongful death complaint on behalf of beneficiaries -- a spouse, children or parents. Depending on the existence of a will and probate decisions, a personal representative may or may not be one of those beneficiaries.

Wrongful death claims involve legal counseling in two separate arenas � personal injury liability and estate matters. The more time an attorney has to prepare a civil case, the more likely the outcome will be favorable to loved ones left behind after an unnecessary death.

Source: WSVN-TV, "" No author given, Dec. 10, 2013

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