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Florida Wrongful Death Claims and Laws

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Wrongful Death on April 20, 2020

If you recently lost a family member, spouse or loved one in an accident in Florida, you might have a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is a civil cause of action against someone for negligently, intentionally or carelessly causing another person’s fatal injury. Most states, including Florida, allow certain parties to bring wrongful death claims in the pursuit of monetary damages. While a financial award will not make up for the grief you suffered, a successful claim could help your family move forward with greater peace of mind. Understanding how these claims work in Florida is important as a plaintiff.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit falls under the umbrella of civil law. Civil law awards restitution to injured victims or surviving family members of negligence. By contrast, criminal law serves to punish the at-fault party for committing a crime. You might have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit whether or not the defendant broke a law. Some wrongful death suits occur in conjunction with criminal cases against the defendant while others do not.

In a civil wrongful death claim, the burden of proof is to show the defendant was negligent, and that this is why your loved one lost his or her life. Negligence does not have to reach the level of criminal activity to have a claim. It can refer to any breach of the expected duty of care for the situation, such as a physician’s breach of proper patient care in a hospital. A lawyer can help you understand whether you have grounds for a wrongful death claim in Florida, beginning with the state’s official definition of wrongful death.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death?

Florida Revised Statute 768.19, part of the Wrongful Death Act, gives the state’s definition of this civil tort. It defines wrongful death as the loss of life related to another person’s wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty. It goes on to state that a person may have the right to bring a wrongful death action if the event would have given the victim the right to file a personal injury claim had death not ensued. Many different types of accidents could give a plaintiff grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida.

  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Fall
  • Workplace accident
  • Swimming pool accident
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective product incident
  • Criminal attack

If you are not sure whether the death of your loved one qualifies as wrongful under Florida’s legal definition, speak to a lawyer about your specific situation. A lawyer can review your case, often at no charge, and let you know if you have the elements of a wrongful death claim. If so, your lawyer may be able to help you file the paperwork in your county to bring a claim against the right defendant by the statute of limitations.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Not just anybody can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. The state’s wrongful death laws limit this privilege to only certain parties. According to Statute 768.20, the deceased person’s personal representative must bring the wrongful death action. The deceased person’s will might name a personal representative, or else the courts will appoint one.

The personal representative will file the claim for the benefit of all the decedent’s surviving loved ones, as well as for estate damages the fatal injury caused. Survivors who can receive benefits include the decedent’s spouse, children and parents, as well as any blood relative or adoptive sibling that can prove dependence on the decedent.

Who Can You Sue?

Your family may be able to file a wrongful death claim against many different parties, as well as multiple defendants at once depending on the situation. The personal representative in your wrongful death claim can file a lawsuit against any individual or entity responsible for causing the death of your loved one. This could be an employer, motor vehicle driver, product manufacturer, doctor, hospital, landowner, the government or many other parties. Identifying the appropriate defendant(s) in your wrongful death lawsuit is a task a lawyer in Florida can complete for you.

Florida Wrongful Death Laws

To have a successful wrongful death claim in Florida, you will need at least a basic understanding of how to navigate the state’s laws. You will need to know the statute of limitations on bringing a claim, for example, as well as what to expect from the claims process. Hiring a wrongful death lawyer can save you from having to sort through Florida’s statutes alone. Your attorney will handle things for you with skill and proven legal strategies.

Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is one of the most important laws to know during a Florida wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a claim. Failing to meet your deadline will most likely result in the courts barring your family from any financial recovery. A missed statute of limitations is something the courts take seriously. Most courts will refuse to hear a case a plaintiff files past the time limit.

In Florida, in most wrongful death lawsuits, plaintiffs have two years of the date of death to bring their claims (Statute 95.11). The two-year time clock starts ticking on the date your loved one dies, not necessarily the date of the accident that caused the injury or illness. The courts have some exceptions to the general rule, in which they will postpone the statute of limitations. For example, if the state files a criminal case against the defendant for the same incident, the civil courts will most likely toll your deadline until two years from the date of the resolution of the criminal case.

Damages for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The damages, or financial compensation, you could receive through a wrongful death claim in Florida depend on the unique case. Florida Statutes section 768.21 states that surviving loved ones may recover the costs of lost support and services, lost companionship, lost protection, mental pain and suffering, lost parental companionship for surviving children, medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and losses to the estate.

The potential value of your wrongful death claim will depend on the factors of your claim, including the age of the decedent, his or her income, the effect the death had on your family, and the actions of the defendant. Discuss your case in more detail with a Tampa wrongful death attorney today for more information. A lawyer can help you navigate Florida’s wrongful death laws and fight for full compensation for your family’s losses.