What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Florida?
According to Florida Statute § 768.19, a wrongful death occurs when a person (or entity) causes another person’s death because of negligence, breach of contract or warranty, or reckless behavior. A claim can be made on behalf of the deceased if the negligence or wrongful act would have entitled them to pursue damages themselves (if they had not died). Wrongful death claims can be made after reckless actions involving:
- A car accident
- A medical malpractice incident
- A defective product
- A crime
Please note: If you pursue or win a personal injury claim that was the result of a crime, the civil case has no bearing on the criminal proceedings. While criminal cases involve proving a crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt, the civil suit involves providing liability and negligence “by a preponderance of evidence”.
Establishing Liability in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
To substantiate a wrongful death claim, it must be proven that the liable party:
- Owed the decedent a duty of care.
- Breach their duty of care.
- Caused the decedent’s death because of the breach of duty.
Determining who is liable can be complicated. For instance, after a car accident results in a loved one’s death, another driver, a pedestrian, the vehicle manufacturer, or another third party could be liable depending on the circumstances of the accident. To establish liability and substantiate the claim, you (and/or your attorney) can investigate the incident and collect evidence, including but not limited to:
- Medical and/or police records
- Witness statements
- Related videos or photos
- Expert testimonies
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?
A personal representative of the decedent’s estate must file a wrongful death claim. The representative is typically the executor of the decedent’s will or estate; however, if no one was named executor in the deceased’s will, a court-appointed representative can be named. In filing the claim, they represent and are acting on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members and estate, and the representative must list the names of the potential beneficiaries in the claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Damages
In personal injury suits, two types of damages can be awarded:
- Economic damages, which compensate for expenses or bills that have a clear monetary value
- Noneconomic damages, which compensate for losses the surviving family experienced that do not have an exact monetary value (i.e. pain and suffering)
Those who can recover damages (compensation) include the decedent’s:
- Surviving spouse
Florida Statute § 768.21 outlines the potential damages that can be awarded to the decedent’s surviving family as compared to the damages available to the decedent’s estate. Family members can receive financial compensation for:
- Medical and funeral expenses (that were initially paid by a surviving family member)
- Loss of support or services from the date of the deceased’s passing (with interest)
- Future loss of support or services (with consideration to the deceased’s life expectancy, probable net income, and relationship to the surviving family members)
- Loss companionship (as the deceased’s spouse or child)
- Loss of protection (as the deceased’s spouse)
- Loss of instruction or guidance (as the deceased’s child)
- Mental pain and suffering
The decedent’s estate can recover the following damages:
- Medical and funeral expenses (that were initially covered by the estate)
- Lost wages, earnings, or benefits (from the date of the person’s injury to their date of death)
- Earnings or benefits the decedent could have earned and left as a part of the estate if they had lived
Calculating damages is legally complex, especially as it relates to non-economic damages and future and potential earnings and support. You should consult with an experienced attorney as they have a better understanding of and familiarity with these calculations.
It is also important to note surviving adult children are not eligible to receive the same damages that minor children are. Parents of adult decedents are also unable to recover damages concerning medical malpractice or negligence suits. If you have questions about these stipulations, contact Hubbs Law Firm as we can thoroughly explain the legal statutes and how they affect your ability to recover damages.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
As with all lawsuits, wrongful death claims must be filed within a certain period of time (which is often referred to as a statute of limitations), In Florida, you must bring a claim forward two years from the decedent’s date of death. However, if you are filing a claim on behalf of a decedent who was the victim of murder or manslaughter, you can file a claim at any time (see Florida Statute § 95.11).
Contact Hubbs Law Firm Today
Losing a loved one is hard emotionally and financially, especially if the loss is unexpected. If you are suffering after a loss caused by someone else’s negligence, we are here to help you navigate the case legalities and are equipped to help clients:
- Collect evidence to prove negligence and establish liability
- Calculate the damages you may be owed
- Prepare for court (as it relates to understanding the process, courtroom etiquette, etc.)
- Be advised of possible case outcomes
Take the time and space you need to grieve and take care of your family; let our wrongful death attorneys handle the case legalities. Reach out to us today online or at (305) 570-4802. Your initial case consultation is free.