Losing a loved one is extremely painful and difficult for families and friends to accept—especially when that loss is directly attributable to someone else’s negligence. In Florida, a “wrongful death” refers to a death caused by another’s wrongful act, negligence, omission, or default.
If someone you love was killed as a result of another person’s negligence or intentional act, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under the law. Since the deceased is not available to testify about the underlying accident at deposition or trial, wrongful death cases can sometimes be difficult to prove. The knowledgeable and compassionate Florida wrongful death attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA may represent you by filing a claim or lawsuit on behalf of your loved one’s estate—and, if necessary, litigating the case through the Florida court system.
Choosing a Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we know that this is an extraordinarily painful time for you and your family. The last thing on your mind may be seeking legal action against the party that caused your loved one’s death. While no amount of compensation could ever replace your loss, you should not have to endure unnecessary financial burdens because of another person’s negligence or recklessness. If your loved one was a primary provider, you will need money to help you and your family move into the future.
Our caring and compassionate Florida wrongful death lawyers can meet with you personally to discuss your case. We offer free consultations to make that easier for you. With offices located across the state of Florida, we are easily accessible for most Floridians. We can also meet with you virtually during this time. During our first consultation, we will listen to your story and examine your case. Our lawyers will answer your questions and help you explore all your legal options during this time. Our main goal is to help you through this ordeal and offer you the support and guidance you need to put your life back together again.
To schedule a free consultation or case evaluation with a Florida wrongful death attorney, please call us today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online.
Bases for Florida Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful deaths may come about from many circumstances in Florida. The most common bases for Florida wrongful death claims include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Negligent supervision
- Defective medical devices
- Defective drugs
Due to the many high-speed roadways and highways in Florida, motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately all too common. A motor vehicle accident may serve as the basis for a wrongful death claim when one driver is killed as a direct result of the other driver’s negligence. Most of these cases involve drunk driving, speeding, distracted driving, or reckless driving.
Filing a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A Florida wrongful death claim or lawsuit may ordinarily be filed on behalf of the deceased’s husband, wife, child, parent, or sibling. Before filing a wrongful death claim under Florida law, several steps must occur.
- An estate must be opened on behalf of the deceased
- A personal representative must then be appointed to administer the estate
- A claim or lawsuit must then be filed on behalf of the estate—usually against the at-fault person or entity who brought about the deceased’s untimely death
Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations ensures that claims and lawsuits are filed in a timely manner. If cases languish for too long, evidence becomes stale and potential trial witnesses may become unavailable for various reasons. Imposing time deadlines for filing suit allows trial evidence to remain fresh—and for the timely resolution of cases.
Under Florida law, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case is ordinarily two years from the date of the deceased’s death. In most cases, absent some limited circumstances, this is a hard-and-fast deadline. In other words, if a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit is not filed within the applicable time period, the estate may be forever barred from filing a claim or lawsuit—or from seeking monetary recovery—at any point in the future.
Since time may be of the essence in a wrongful death case, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate should not delay in taking legal action. The knowledgeable Florida wrongful death attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can file any wrongful death claims or lawsuits in a timely manner.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida
If you decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate, a Florida wrongful death attorney can assist with proving all of the legal elements of the claim, including:
- Duty of care – The first step to proving negligence in a Florida wrongful death action is to show that the at-fault party or parties owed the deceased a duty of care under the law. For example, in a motor vehicle accident, a defendant driver owes a plaintiff motorcyclist (not to mention all other drivers who operate their vehicles on the roadways) an affirmative duty to drive in a reasonably careful and prudent manner. This means that the driver has a duty to operate a vehicle in the same way as a “reasonable” driver acting under the same or similar circumstances.
- Breach of the applicable duty of care – To prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant(s) violated the standard of care that was owed to the deceased under the circumstances. For example, in the case of a motor vehicle accident, if a driver ran a red light or stop sign and collided with a motorcyclist in the middle of a traffic intersection, thereby bringing about the deceased’s death, that act would likely constitute negligence on the part of the defendant driver.
- Cause – For the deceased’s estate to recover in a Florida wrongful death action, the estate must prove that the negligent acts of the defendant(s) caused the deceased’s death. In other words, the estate must show that the deceased’s death was foreseeable—and that it would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence.
- Damages – Damages in Florida wrongful death cases may be proven by a combination of lay and expert witness testimony. Available damages in Florida wrongful death cases consist of both economic and non-economic damages. The damages available to the deceased’s estate include medical costs and expenses, future lost wages (as a result of the deceased’s death and inability to work), conscious pain and suffering, and funeral expenses. In addition, family members can claim damages for the value of support and services provided by the deceased, emotional and mental pain and suffering, and more. A Florida wrongful death attorney may help you prove the nature and extent of the estate’s damages.
Florida Wrongful Death FAQs
Losing a loved one is not only devastating emotionally, but it can be devastating financially, as well. In Florida, accidents are the third-leading cause of death, coming behind only heart disease and cancer. If you have lost a loved one in Florida as the result of an accident caused by someone else’s careless, reckless, or even intentional actions, read on for more information about seeking compensation for your emotional and financial loss through a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal claim filed in civil court on behalf of the family members of an individual who died as the result of someone else’s careless or reckless actions.
Florida law requires that a personal representative—either named by the deceased in their will or appointed by the court—file the lawsuit for the benefit of family members including:
- The deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents; or
- Any blood or adoptive relative who was partly or wholly dependent on the deceased for support and services.
What must be proven in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit?
To successfully prove that another person or entity is liable for your loved one’s death, you must show:
- The death was the result of the at-fault party’s careless or reckless actions or failure to act.
- The death occurred as the direct result of the at-fault party’s wrongdoing.
- The death affected the family members of the deceased, resulting in expenses and quality-of-life impacts.
Is a Florida wrongful death claim the same as a survival action?
In Florida, the deceased’s family members or estate can file a survival action if a legal claim was proceeding when the death occurred. For example, if your loved one was severely injured as a result of an accident and they filed a personal injury lawsuit to recover expenses and impacts caused by the injury but they passed away before the case was resolved, the family can file a survival action to continue to seek the damages described in the initial claim.
I had a miscarriage after a car accident. Can I file a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver?
No. Unfortunately, in Florida, the death of a fetus is not considered a wrongful death. However, if a car accident resulted in an injury to you that caused the death of your fetus, you can obtain compensation for your expenses and the emotional impact of your loss through a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced attorney can talk to you about this legal process.
If my cousin died as a result of an accident, can I file a Florida wrongful death claim in Florida?
A personal representative of your cousin’s estate will need to file the claim on behalf of family members. If you were wholly or partly dependent on the deceased for support and services while they were alive, an attorney can help you prepare a wrongful death claim.
The person who caused my loved one’s accident was arrested at the scene. Does this mean I can’t file a Florida wrongful death lawsuit?
The criminal process of arresting someone for committing a crime is an entirely different process than a civil claim seeking compensation for financial and emotional impacts to the decedent’s loved ones resulting from the death. Because these are two separate processes, they can be conducted simultaneously, even if the at-fault party is incarcerated when you file your claim. This is in part because it is almost always the at-fault party’s insurance carrier that provides compensation on behalf of their insured, not the at-fault party personally.
What types of accidents could lead to a Florida wrongful death claim?
Any type of accident in which an individual suffers a fatal injury can give rise to a wrongful death claim.
Some common types of accidents that lead to this type of claim include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including those that involve passenger vehicles, rideshares, taxis, buses, motorcycles, commercial trucks, pedestrians, bicyclists, aircraft, or watercraft.
- Premises liability accidents, including slip/trip and falls, swimming pool accidents, negligent security, elevators or escalators, or dog bites.
- Defective products, including auto parts, foods or medications, children’s toys, or appliances.
- Medical negligence, including birth injuries, missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, failure to provide adequate follow-up care, medication errors, and more.
- Nursing home abuse or neglect.
- Intentional acts, such as domestic violence, child abuse, or assault.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim in Florida?
In most cases, you must file your wrongful death claim in court within two years after the death occurred, or within two years of discovering the injury that resulted in death. In limited circumstances, this time limit can be tolled. One relatively common circumstance that often results in the tolling of the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case is if the death occurred as the result of a homicide. This is because it can take a long time before the individual who committed the homicide is identified and apprehended.
Your attorney will let you know if your case qualifies for a toll of the statute of limitation.
How long does it take to obtain compensation through a Florida wrongful death lawsuit?
The time that it will take to resolve your case depends. If your case is simple and straight-forward, you may receive a settlement within a matter of months. However, many cases are far from straightforward and can take far longer.
Some circumstances that can slow down a resolution in this type of case include:
- Appointing a personal representative.
- Gathering information about the deceased’s survivors.
- Waiting for autopsy results.
- Filing a claim for monetary damages or negotiating a settlement.
- Filing a claim in court.
- Discovery, which takes place in the early period of a court case, and includes obtaining statements and documents from the opposition, sharing any relevant documents you have, and conducting witness depositions.
- A mediation conference, which provides a formal setting in which to negotiate a resolution.
- Waiting for a court date based on the court’s calendar of cases.
- Appealing a decision in a case if either party disagrees with the judgment of the court.
My spouse died as a result of a car accident. Will PIP provide compensation or do I need to file a Florida wrongful death claim?
The personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase when you registered your car in Florida provides a $5,000 death benefit. However, death permits individuals to cross the serious injury threshold and file a wrongful death claim. An experienced wrongful death attorney can explore both options with you.
What type of compensation can I receive through a Florida wrongful death lawsuit?
Florida allows eligible family members to seek both economic and non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. The term “damages” refers to a payment made in compensation for harm done. Economic damages refer to a payment made in compensation for the expenses the victim’s family incurred as a result of the death. Non-economic damages refer to a payment made for the quality-of-life impacts that the deceased’s family members suffered as a result of the death.
Some examples of items commonly included in damage claims in wrongful death cases are:
- The loss of support and services provided by the deceased to their family members.
- The loss of companionship, protection, and guidance provided by the deceased to their survivors.
- Emotional distress stemming from the loss of a child.
- Medical and funeral expenses the family members paid directly.
The deceased’s estate can also recover damages through a wrongful death lawsuit, including:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings that the deceased would have been reasonably expected to make if they had lived.
- Medical and funeral expenses that the estate paid directly.
My spouse died as the result of an accident in their workplace. Can I file a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against their employer?
Generally, workplace deaths are compensated through the state’s workers’ compensation program. Most employers are required to purchase a workers’ compensation insurance policy for their workers and this policy includes benefits for survivors if a work-related death occurs within one year of the date of the accident, or within five years of continuous disability.
The following benefits are available, up to a maximum limit of $150,000:
- Compensation for funeral expenses, up to $7,500.
- Compensation for dependants.
- Educational benefits to be used by the surviving spouse.
There are some exceptions when survivors are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit after a work-related death.
- When the accident that resulted in the death was caused by a third party who was not the victim’s employer or co-worker.
- When the employer failed to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees as required by law.
Is my award from a Florida wrongful death lawsuit taxable?
The Internal Revenue Service has determined that most types of settlements or awards that are received as a result of a personal injury are not considered income and, therefore, are not taxable.
Bause a wrongful death claim is the result of a personal injury that led to death, the only portions of the award that may be taxable are:
- Any punitive damages. Punitive damages are not compensation for physical harm, but punish the defendant for particularly egregiousconduct. Because of this distinction, punitive damages can be considered income and taxed.
- Any tax deductions you took in previous years for medical expenses related to your injury must be paid back if you receive an award that includes medical expenses.
- Any compensation for emotional distress if your distress did not result from a personal injury.
Why do I need an attorney to file a Florida wrongful death claim for me? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just handle it myself?
Many people are tempted to handle civil claims on their own. However, the process of recovering damages for a wrongful death can be extraordinarily complex. An experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer can provide services focused on helping you to obtain the maximum amount of compensation that is available for you.
Those services include:
- A no-obligation, free case evaluation where you have time with an attorney to ask your legal questions, learn more about the firm, and learn about your legal options.
- Determining all sources of liability and all insurance resources you can go after to provide you and your family with the compensation you deserve.
- Providing a damages estimate, based on the financial and emotional consequences you and your family have suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.
- Gathering and organizing evidence and witness testimony that can be used to prove your case.
- Negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance provider in an attempt to garner a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
- Providing advice and guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting any offered settlement.
- Timely filing all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction, and attending all pre-trial conferences and hearings on your behalf.
- In lieu of a settlement agreement, representing you at trial. This includes delivering opening and closing arguments, presenting evidence, and examining witnesses.
- Assisting you in collecting your settlement or award.
- A convenient, client-friendly contingent-fee payment scheme. What this means is that you owe nothing for your attorney’s services unless and until there is a successful resolution to your case.
Let the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA help you to understand your legal options. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at any time.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Today for a Free Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation
If one of your loved ones has died in an accident that was caused by someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you need a knowledgeable attorney on your side representing the deceased’s estate from beginning to end. The Florida wrongful death attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA may negotiate with the insurance company on behalf of the estate, and if necessary, litigate the case in court.
To schedule a free consultation or case evaluation with a Florida wrongful death attorney, please call us today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online.