In Florida, the personal representative of a decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the beneficiaries or heirs of that person. The suit may be brought by immediate family members such as a spouse, child, parent, brother or sister. These individuals may have lost financial or emotional support due to the death.
Andrew Pickett, a leading Florida wrongful death attorney, discusses what you need to know about wrongful death suits and gives more detail about who is eligible to file such a claim. By the time you are finished reading this article, you will have a better understanding of the legal process and your rights when it comes to wrongful death claims in Florida.
The Importance of Understanding Florida’s Wrongful Death Laws
It is critical to understand two factors regarding wrongful death laws in Florida: The statute of limitations and recoverable damages for a wrongful death act. Both can impact your ability to successfully file a lawsuit.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Florida?
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida is generally two years from the date of death (Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(d)). However, there are exceptions to this rule due to extenuating circumstances, such as if the decedent was a minor at the time of death or if there has been a delay in discovering the cause of death.
It is also important to note that this timeframe could be even shorter if there is an active insurance claim being processed for the same incident. Therefore, it is important to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Recoverable Damages under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act
The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows family members of the deceased to recover damages for their loss (Fla. Stat. § 768.21). These damages may include medical and funeral expenses and the wages or salary that would have been earned by the deceased.
Damages can also include pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to dying, along with the emotional distress suffered by their surviving family members. These damages include recovering the value of lost support and services from the date of the deceased victim’s injury with interest, along with the future loss of services and support from the death date reduced to the present value.
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How Florida Defines Wrongful Death
Florida defines wrongful death as when the actionable conduct of another person causes the death of an individual (Fla. Stat. § 768.19). This statement means that the death would not have occurred but for the negligent or intentional act of another person. It is important to note that wrongful death must be proven with evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Negligence vs. wrongful death
Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person. If a person behaves negligently, the repercussions of their actions may result in injuries to another. However, those injuries don’t necessarily kill someone. In contrast, wrongful death cases are mainly caused by negligence.
Wrongful death vs. Murder
First-degree murder is when a person intentionally kills another individual with malice aforethought. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, is when a person kills another individual without premeditation or malice.
Wrongful death is not murder; it is an actionable act that results in death and is not criminal in nature. The difference between wrongful death and murder comes down to intent: Murder requires intention, while wrongful death does not.
Wrongful Death vs. Manslaughter
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person without malice or premeditation. Unlike murder, manslaughter does not require intent and is considered a lesser crime. A wrongful death claim also requires proof that someone’s negligent or intentional act caused the death, but it does not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, like in criminal cases involving manslaughter or murder.
Does Florida Treat the Wrongful Death of an Adult and Child Differently?
Yes, there are differences in the statutes of limitations and damage recoveries for adults versus minors. In Florida, claims must be filed within two years from when the death occurred or was known or should have been known.
However, this statute of limitations is extended if the deceased was a minor at the time of death and/or when the wrongful death lawsuit relates to medical malpractice (Fla. Stat. § 95.11). Additionally, in cases involving minors, courts may also award grief counseling for parents and guardians that can help ease their emotional distress.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
According to the Florida Wrongful Death Act, certain family members of a deceased individual are permitted to file wrongful death claims. These individuals must prove that they suffered financial losses because of the victim’s death and that their loved one was killed due to another person’s negligence or intentional act (Fla. Stat. § 768.21).
Blood Relatives and Dependents are Entitled to File an Action for Damages
In Florida, the surviving spouse, child or parents of the deceased individual can file a wrongful death lawsuit (Fla. Stat. § 768.18). Any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters who are partly or wholly dependent on the deceased for services and support are eligible too. Certain conditions apply, so it is important to contact a wrongful death attorney in Florida to evaluate your eligibility.
Only One Person Can File Your Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
It is important to note that in Florida, only one action may be brought for the wrongful death of an individual by or on behalf of the survivors who have suffered damages because of their loved one’s death (Fla. Stat. § 768.20). This means that a single appointed representative, such as a surviving spouse or child, will serve as the plaintiff and be responsible for filing the claim on behalf of all eligible family members or dependents.
How Liability and Negligence are Established in a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
By establishing liability and negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, any eligible survivors may receive damages for their losses due to the untimely passing of their loved one. There are two aspects to establishing liability in a wrongful death case: duty of care owed by the defendant and breach of duty.
Proving the Defendant Owes the Deceased a Duty of Care
To prove a wrongful death case in Florida, the plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care and breached this obligation resulting in the loss of life. Generally, all individuals owe others around them a duty of reasonable care. The standard for determining whether an individual has acted reasonably can be complex and is often a highly contested issue in wrongful death cases.
Proving the Breach of Duty and Negligence Resulted in the Death
The plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant breached their duty of care, which ultimately caused the death. To do this, they must present evidence that establishes the defendant acted in an unreasonable or careless manner and that this negligence was the direct cause of death. This evidence can include medical records, eyewitness testimony, and other pertinent information that supports their claim.
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Types of Damages Available In a Wrongful Death Claim
There are three types of damages available in a wrongful death claim in Florida: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
In Florida, economic damages involve tangible or measurable losses, such as medical bills, funeral expenses and lost wages due to the death of the deceased. These damages can also include any future earnings or financial benefits that would have been received had the individual lived a normal lifespan.
Non-economic damages cover intangible losses such as emotional pain and suffering caused by the death of a loved one or loss of consortium, which is the permanent loss of companionship, comfort, services and society of the deceased (Fla. Stat. § 768.0415).
These types of damages are not available in every wrongful death case but may be awarded if it is found that the defendant acted with wanton disregard for human life or recklessness. Punitive damages are rarely awarded to plaintiffs. They are meant to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct and deter similar behavior from occurring again.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Suits in Florida
There are several types of wrongful death lawsuits in Florida. The ones that follow are some of the most commonly encountered in court.
Criminal Acts of Violence
If an individual is killed due to a criminal act such as murder or manslaughter, the surviving family members may bring a wrongful death suit against the perpetrator.
In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the attending physician’s negligence caused the death of their loved one. This may include improper treatment, failure to diagnose a condition in time, feeding errors, such as wrong food introduced in a feeding tube, or medication errors.
Fatal work injurieskill over 300 people annually in Florida. When individuals are killed due to hazardous working conditions, employers can be liable for their negligence. This may include failing to follow safety regulations, using inferior equipment or tools, failing to provide proper training or supervision, and violating any other applicable laws designed to protect workers in the workplace.
If an individual is killed due to another driver’s negligent actions while behind the wheel, this may constitute a wrongful death case. Some examples of car accidents that could lead to a wrongful death suit include speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), reckless endangerment or intentional negligence by another party.
Nursing Home or Elder Abuse
When a nursing home resident or an elderly person dies due to neglect or physical or emotional abuse by their care provider – or by failure to provide proper medical care, malnutrition or dehydration – this may constitute grounds for a wrongful death suit against the facility or care provider.
When an individual is killed due to a defective product, such as a faulty car part or dangerous drug, their surviving family members may be able to sue the manufacturer of that product for wrongful death.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who may claim damages for the death of another under Florida’s wrongful death statute?
Under Florida’s wrongful death statute, the surviving spouse or children of the deceased, their parents, and any other blood relative or adopted sibling who was dependent upon the decedent for support or services may bring a claim for damages. If there are no family members able to bring a claim, a representative from the estate of the deceased may bring a claim on behalf of the estate.
How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth in Florida?
The amount of damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit can vary widely depending on the specifics of the case. The average in Florida ranges from $500K to $1 million on average.
Can a fiancé sue for wrongful death in Florida?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act states that only the parent, their child, their spouse, or any other relative or adopted sibling that depends on the decedent for financial or emotional support is eligible to sue for wrongful death. That means the decedent’s fiancé doesn’t have the same legal rights as the eligible people named in the Act. In short, they cannot file a wrongful death suit and win.
What types of damages are available in a wrongful death lawsuit?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors can seek both economic and non-economic damages as well as punitive damages if warranted. Economic damages may include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost wages due to the death of the
How do I prove wrongful death in Florida?
In order to prove wrongful death in Florida, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the death. This may include showing that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to the deceased or that they acted with intentional disregard for human life. It is essential to consult an experienced attorney who can help prove your case and seek the maximum compensation available under the law.
What are the chances of winning a wrongful death suit in Florida?
The chances of winning a wrongful death suit in Florida depend on the specific facts and circumstances present. However, with an experienced legal team by your side, you can increase your chances of prevailing in court. An attorney will be able to build a strong case using evidence such as police reports, witness testimony, expert opinions and more. With their
At the Andrew Pickett Law Firm, we understand the financial and emotional toll a wrongful death can have on family members. We are dedicated to helping families get justice for their loved ones, and we will work tirelessly to ensure they receive fair compensation for their losses and get the justice they deserve. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful act of another,contact us today for a free consultation.