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When Negligence Leads to Loss: Recovering for the Death of a Loved One in Florida

Suffering any type of personal injury can be a devastating event. Enduring a traumatic injury can leave you having to deal with problems of ongoing pain, difficulty in carrying out your normal tasks at work, and a general loss of enjoyment for the things you once loved. Having to see you endure the lasting effects of being injured also negatively impacts your loved ones and those around you. Often times I hear those that have suffered a serious injury express much more concern for those around them and how their diminution in quality of life has affected their family than complain about how their injuries have impacted themselves.

While being the victim of someone else’s negligence and suffering injury as a result can leave you and your family overwhelmed, when an act of negligence ends up resulting in the death of a loved one, the impact on those family members left behind can be devastating. In Florida, when an act of negligence that would originally result in a claim for personal injuries ends up resulting in an untimely death, the claim becomes not just one for personal injuries, but a claim for wrongful death. Florida Statute 768.19 specifically provides that a wrongful death action may be brought if the death of the decedent was caused by the defendant’s conduct and “the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.” What this means is that if you are injured as the result of another’s wrongdoing and bring a lawsuit to recover for personal injuries and your injuries end up being fatal, your family members may now have a wrongful death claim. Your original personal injury action does not survive and the only way to recover money damages for the wrongdoer’s conduct is for your “survivors” under the Florida Wrongful Death Act to bring a new claim.

Who is considered a “survivor” under Florida Law?

One of the most important things to know is whether or not you qualify to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of your loved one. Under Florida law, only the decedent’s personal representative of the estate can bring a wrongful death claim. The personal representative of the estate may recover money damages for loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, as well as loss of what is called “prospective net accumulations of an estate,” which is essentially saying the amount of money which might have reasonably been expected to have been obtained if it weren’t for the untimely death.

Also of importance is determining who is entitled to collect damages. In order to be able to claim money damages as a result of the death of a loved one, you must be considered a “survivor” under Florida law. A “survivor” means the decedent’s spouse, children (those under 25 years old), parents, and any blood relatives or adopted brothers and sisters when they are relying partly or wholly on the decedent for services.

What type of damages are you entitled to as a survivor?

If a parent is killed as the result of someone else’s negligence, then the surviving children should have the ability to obtain compensation as the result of such a devastating loss. Nothing can replace the untimely loss of a parent. In attempts to hold the wrongdoer responsible for causing this loss, Florida law provides that children should be able to recover damages for such things as the loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance, as well as for mental pain and suffering.

Along with children, when you lose your spouse as the result of another’s negligence, there is nothing the law can do to replace the magnitude of that loss. The law in Florida recognizes this loss by allowing the surviving spouse to recover for what the law calls “loss of companionship,” “loss of protection” and for mental pain and suffering from the date of the injury.

If you lose a loved one as the result of someone else’s negligence, it is important that you speak with an attorney. Florida law imposes a strict 2 year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. This means that you have two years from the date of the loss to bring a claim. This is different than the time period for bringing a typical claim for negligence in Florida, which allows four years. If you have questions or need to speak with an attorney regarding the loss of loved one you’ve experienced, please call Dolman Law Group 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

Wrongful Death