Losing a loved one is one of the most tragic things that can happen to a person. If that loss was due to someone else’s negligence, it can be more challenging to overcome your grief.
When these tragic accidents happen, you need closure. One of the best ways to get justice for your lost loved one is to file a wrongful death claim, where you can get financial compensation so you aren’t in debt for someone else’s mistake.
Wrongful death lawsuits allow you to get closure by holding the negligent party responsible. However, not everyone can file a wrongful death claim in Florida.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is a personal injury lawsuit where the negligent party’s actions resulted in the death of your loved one. Whether the action was intentional or not, the at-fault party is liable to pay for the damage that they caused.
Wrongful deaths can occur in a variety of personal injury situations, including:
- Medical malpractice
- Auto accidents
- Pedestrian collisions
- Defective products
- Slip and falls
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit allows you to seek financial compensation to help offset the losses resulting from the death of your loved one. It is also a way to seek justice for the negligent death and to prevent future accidents from resulting in the loss of someone else’s life.
Although no criminal charges can be pressed in a wrongful death lawsuit, the justice that families gain from this form of civil suit can help them get closure for their loss.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Florida?
According to Florida Statute Section 768.19, only the Personal Representative named in the deceased person’s will may file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased died without a Personal Representative, one will be named by the court.
Personal Representative is another term for an estate trustee or executor, someone named by the deceased to handle the distribution of their estate. In most cases, it is a spouse, family member, or close friend. This person will act in the interest of the deceased’s estate.
Ultimately, the damages recovered by the claim will not be given to the Personal Representative. It is added to the deceased’s estate and distributed to all the named heirs. This means that a wrongful death claim involves everyone named in the deceased’s will, such as their spouse, children, and adoptive relatives.
Additionally, the family of the deceased can sue for damages that affected them due to the negligent death. For example, they can file a claim for pain and suffering or lost income that the deceased provided to their household.
The family members that can sue are:
- Minor children
- Adult children, if there is no surviving spouse
- The deceased’s parents, when there are no other survivors
Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Wrongful death claims in Florida must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This means that if the individual dies due to medical malpractice from five years prior, you can still file a wrongful death claim.
Speak to an attorney if the statute of limitations has expired. In some circumstances, they can ask for a postponed claim.
What damages can you collect?
Civil court cases can only be resolved through financial means. According to the Florida Statutes Section 768.21, the estate and the survivors are both entitled to damages for the negligent death.
The estate can file for damages relating to the deceased, including their emotional suffering leading up to their death. The Personal Representative will represent the estate to collect damages that the deceased lost due to the accident. For example:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses (since these are often paid out of the estate)
- Lost earnings
- Loss of net accumulations, determined based on how much more the estate would have been worth if the individual had not perished due to negligence
- Pain and suffering while the deceased was alive
The survivors, such as spouses and children, can file claims for their losses relating to the negligent death. These are financial and emotional losses that they suffered as a direct result of losing their loved one.
- Loss of support
- Loss of financial contribution to the household
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Any expenses paid by the survivor that related to the deceased’s hospital bills and/or funeral expenses
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Florida for Assistance
Before worrying about who can file a wrongful death claim, you must first establish that the deceased’s passing was due to wrongful death. From there, you can make sure that you are eligible to file for compensation under Florida law.
Many factors can complicate your ability to file a wrongful death claim, including nuances of relationships and financial dependency issues.
Wrongful death claims are much more complex than basic personal injury claims. You should always seek legal counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney before you file a wrongful death claim in Florida. If you don’t, you risk losing your opportunity to collect damages that are rightfully owed to you.
Ensure you get justice for your loved one and prevent another deadly accident from occurring with the help of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath. Our wrongful death attorneys offer free consultations so we can show you our value before you commit to working with us.