Losing a loved one causes pain enough. It can feel many times worse when an untimely loss occurs due to the actions of another person, company, or entity. If you experience such a loss, you may be able to hold another party responsible through a wrongful death claim.
Here, we help you learn what you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits in Florida, and how a lawyer experienced with wrongful death claims can help you navigate your difficult situation.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit filed when someone’s accidental death is the result of negligence or a wrongful act. The Florida Wrongful Death Act (Chapter 786, Sections 768.16-768.26) states that a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought in the case of a wrongful act, default, negligence, or breach of contract.
How are Damages Awarded in a Florida Wrongful Death Suit?
The goal of a wrongful death claim is to seek monetary damages (as outlined in 768.21) to account for the several losses encountered. In Florida, wrongful death damages are awarded in two ways: to the estate and to the survivors of the deceased.
Recoveries for an estate can include:
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of the estate
- Lost earnings
- Medical and funeral expenses
Recovered damages for survivors can include:
- Loss of support and services
- Medical and funeral expenses, if paid for by the decedent’s survivors
- Mental pain and suffering for the parents or from the minor children’s loss of companionship, instruction, or protection
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The decedent’s representative or lawyer must file the wrongful death claim. If the decedent has no estate plan or will, the court appoints a representative. While the representative files the claim, they can do so on behalf of surviving family members, including:
- Children up to age 25
- Blood relatives
- Those who were financially dependent on the decedent
- Adoptive siblings
Keep in mind that, under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, if the decedent has no surviving spouse, their children who are 25 years or older can only receive damages relating to lost parental companionship and guidance. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the appropriate survivors who can recover and types of damages that can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can be the Target of a Wrongful Death Claim?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death, anyone from a single individual to an entire company can be sued for damages in Florida. No matter the case, a wrongful death claim seeks to hold all negligent parties responsible.
For example, if your loved one dies in a vehicle accident caused by a single driver’s negligence, the suit will likely be filed against the driver and the owner of the vehicle (under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine). Alternatively, if the death is caused by the driver of a semi-truck with faulty brakes, your wrongful death attorney will likely seek damages against the driver, their employer, and, if applicable, the companies involved in manufacturing, repairing, or maintaining the brakes on the truck.
What are the Most Common Wrongful Death Claims?
The most common types of wrongful death claims include crashes involving vehicles, semi-trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles or pedestrians or roadside workers, slip and fall or work-related accidents, and medical malpractice.
Other, less common types of wrongful death claims involve aviation accidents, defective products, boat accidents, drownings, accidental overdoses, or poisoning. In some cases, a wrongful death suit can be filed if a person’s non-lethal injury ultimately leads to or causes their death.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims?
Yes, Florida residents, per statute 95.11, have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. The deadline to file the claim can be extended, but only under certain circumstances, such as fraud, concealment, or a deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Even then, seven years is the maximum period for filing.
When Should You Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?
If you believe you need to file a wrongful death lawsuit or an extension, or if you are not entirely sure your case qualifies, reach out to an experienced wrongful death attorney to help you understand whether you have a case and the best way to pursue it. Remember, in the case of large companies or even well-prepared individuals, you could be going up against powerful legal teams, so you will need an experienced attorney on your side to ensure you do not have to settle for less than you deserve.