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What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim arises when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. Wrongful death actions are designed to provide compensation for relatives who depended on the deceased for financial and/or emotional support. Surprisingly, the right to file a wrongful death claim is a relatively new concept. These suits were not allowed at Common Law, but state and federal courts created the right to bring wrongful death actions in the last century. Wrongful death suits can include any type of fatal accident, such as a car accident, a complicated medical malpractice case, or a products liability claim. Further, individuals are not the only ones who can be held legally responsible for negligently causing the death of another: persons, companies, and governmental agencies can all be legally at fault for acting negligently.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Florida, the Wrongful Death Act specifies that potential beneficiaries who could recover damages for Wrongful Death include the following: the Decedent’s Estate and the Decedent’s Survivors. The potential Survivors are defined in the Florida Wrongful Death Act as:

  • the Decedent’s Spouse,
  • Children,
  • Parents
  • any Blood Relatives
  • Adoptive Brothers and Sisters who are dependent on the Decedent for support or services.

Keep in mind that these Survivors may not all be eligible as Survivors to recover damages under Florida Law in every case. For example, if there is a Surviving Spouse, the children able to recover damages must be under the age of 25. Parents of a deceased Adult Child (over 25) can only recover damages if the decedent has no surviving Spouse or Children. There are other limitations in Florida. For example, in medical malpractice actions, when the decedent is a Parent, the adult children (over 25) do not have a claim. Also in medical malpractice actions, when the decedent is an adult child (over 25) the parents do not have a claim.

Recently, adding a wrongful death action after a plaintiff dies in a personal injury suit has been made easier by the Florida Supreme Court. In Karen Capone v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., the Florida Supreme Court held that when a Plaintiff in a personal injury action dies, the cause of action does not die with him. The personal representative will be added to the suit and have an opportunity to add a wrongful death action or other claim.

What Can Be Recovered?

Survivors may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedents injury to their death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present day value. Additionally, medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s death may be recovered by the survivor who has paid them. Experienced attorneys like the Dolman Law Group use economists and accountants to help value the economic loss based on the decedent’s probable net income as well as the replacement monetary value of the decedent’s services to the survivor.

Also, a court may elect to impose punitive damages, which are appropriate in cases where a wrongful death was the result of intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent actions. Punitive damages are meant to punish the offender, and they are awarded to discourage others from behaving similarly.

If you have lost family due to the negligence of another person, you have our sympathies. Hire an experienced attorney who can help you get compensated so you can mourn your loss without worrying about the costs associated with losing a loved one. Contact Dolman Law Group today at 727-451-6900.