Many states, including Florida1, have statutes that allow beneficiaries to file a suit and recover for the wrongful death of the decedent. A wrongful death claim is essentially a civil lawsuit that arises when the acts of one person (their negligence) causes the death of another person. In Florida, this statute specifically states that “when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract,” the estate of the deceased person may bring such a lawsuit.
Examples of Wrongful Death Suits
Wrongful death suits can arise out of multiple different situations. One example is when a piece of machinery malfunctions and then someone gets injured and later dies. Another example is in cases of car accidents when the injured party later passes away. Wrongful death claims can also be pursued as part of medical malpractice claims – such as when a physician or a mid-level provider prescribes medication without consulting patient’s pre-existing condition – and the patient dies as a result. Companies can also be sued under the wrongful death statute. For example, if a company manufactures a defective pharmaceutical and the person who was using it dies, the company can be sued for the wrongful death of the decedent.
Persons allowed to File a Wrongful Death Claims and Timeline to File
According to Florida law, a personal representative of the decedent’s must file the wrongful death suit. Who the personal representative will be is determined by a person’s will or any other similar estate plan. In cases where the person died without a will, or intestate, and did not have any other estate plan, their personal representative will be appointed by the court in the jurisdiction of where the person lived. These lawsuits are generally filed on behalf of the estate and the person’s surviving family members. The person’s family members who will be entitled to recover are the person’s spouse, children, and parents or any other blood relative or adoptive sibling who is “partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services.”
Florida law also mandates when these lawsuits must be filed. This is called the statute of limitations. After the statute of limitations has passed, a suit can no longer be filed and all legal rights with respect to the filing of a wrongful death suit are extinguished. That time in Florida is four years. In a very specific set of circumstances, that time can be postponed.
If a wrongful death claim settles before trial, a court may appoint a guardian ad litem and conduct a special court hearing to approve the settlement on behalf of the minor children. Typically parties representing the plaintiffs and defendants as well as any guardian ad litem will attend the court hearing.
Damages that can be recovered under the Wrongful Death Statute
Florida law2 also sets forth specific categories of damages that can be recovered under the Wrongful Death Statute. According to Florida law, both the surviving family members and the estate can recover damages. The surviving family members can receive damages for the value of support and services the deceased person had provided to the surviving family member, loss of companionship and guidance provided to the family member, mental and emotional pain and suffering in cases where a child is lost, as well as compensation for any medical and funeral expenses any family member has paid for the deceased person. The individual’s estate can receive damages for lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, this includes the potential for future earnings as well, medical and funeral expenses that were paid by the estate, and the value the estate could reasonably have been expected to acquire if the deceased person had lived.
With respect to family members, spouses typically have claims for lost companionship of the deceased person and for that spouse’s emotional trauma that arose from the death. The decedent’s minor children can also be awarded damages for the lost benefits of their relationship with the deceased parent, including comfort and support. The only circumstances in which parents can recover are those where their child was still a minor and specifically for their emotional trauma and the lost relationship with the child. Parents of adult children cannot typically recover in many cases.
In certain cases, where there is intentional, reckless, and malicious conduct, punitive damages may also be awarded to the surviving family members. Punitive damages exist in order to punish a certain behavior, although there is a limit to the amount of punitive damages that can be recovered.
Call Our Experienced New Port Richey Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
If you have lost a loved one because of the actions of another person or a third party, please contact our skilled and experienced attorneys at the Dolman Law Group. We can assist you with evaluating your case and determining what your legal rights are and whether or not you have a claim under Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute. Please call our office at 727-853-6275 today for a free consultation.
New Port Richey, FL 34652