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Wrongful Death: An Overview

Losing a loved one is never an easy thing to go through. While you are grieving the loss, you are expected to handle all the details of the death’s aftermath, too.

A loved one’s passing can be even more difficult to deal with when it’s caused by someone else, it shouldn’t have happened, and/or could’ve been avoided if certain elements were present.

Read on for an overview of wrongful death cases in Florida.

Wrongful Death Explained

While it’s common for criminal charges to be pressed against someone who kills another person, civil charges can also be pressed against the individual in the form of wrongful death. That means if your loved one is killed and criminal charges are brought against the individual, you—a family member of the deceased—may also file a lawsuit for wrongful death.

The Florida Wrongful Death Act (§ 768.16 - 768.26) permits the decedent’s family members to bring about a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity that is believed to be responsible for the death of your loved one.

Wrongful Death Claims

Essentially, wrongful death is a tort claim that can come about when a person is responsible for the death of another. While this type of claim can be brought about in alignment with a criminal charge, it’s a legal action that’s detached from any criminal charges.

Wrongful death claims seek to compensate the survivors of the decedent, like children and spouses, in addition to the estate itself.

As a family member of the decedent, you may file a wrongful death suit to help supplement any of the following losses:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Lost support

You may file a wrongful death suit if your loved one’s death was caused by “the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters.”

Additionally, Florida state law usually allows damage claims for losses encountered from the date of the injury up until the date of the death, including interest, as well as expected future earnings.

Statute of Limitations

In Florida, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years. That means you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death suit for your loved one’s passing. Florida state law requires that you have one of the following relationships to the decedent in order to file for wrongful death:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents of the decedent
  • Blood relatives partially or fully dependent on the decedent
  • Adoptive siblings who are partially or fully dependent on the decedent

Damages for Survivors to File For

As long as they apply to your situation, you may file for any of the following damages associated with wrongful death:

  • Lost support and services to survivors
  • Lost companionship and protection for the surviving spouse, in combination with pain and suffering
  • Lost parental companionship, direction, and guidance for minor children; along with pain and suffering
  • The parents of a decedent child can claim damages of pain and suffering
  • Medical and/or funeral costs

Damages for the Estate to File For

So long as they apply to the estate’s circumstances, the estate may file for the following damages:

  • Lost earnings of the decedent from the date of the injury up until the date of the death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest
  • Lost prospective net accumulations of an estate, which may have rationally been expected if not for the wrongful death, reduced to present monetary value
  • Medical or funeral costs that have been paid for by or on behalf of the decedent

It’s important to keep in mind that the money awarded to each survivor in the wrongful death claim, as well as to the estate itself, are listed separately in the verdict.

Punitive Damages

While most states don’t allow punitive damages to be awarded in wrongful death cases, Florida is an exception. Florida state law allows for punitive damages in wrongful death lawsuits.

In order to be awarded punitive damages, you’ll need to prove that the person you’re suing, or the defendant, is guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Gross negligence is defined in Section 768.72 of the Florida Statutes; “the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”

For example, let’s say that your loved one is killed in an accident with a drunk driver. You sue the defendant for $100,000. The court sides with you stating that the driver acted in a way that is grossly negligent and in-turn awards punitive damages of $300,000 (three times the compensatory damages), for a total of $400,000. As you can tell, your monetary award can significantly increase the damage values in a wrongful death case.

We’re Here for You

If you’ve lost a loved one due to the careless actions of another, you may be able to recover compensation. Here at Harmon Parker, P.A., our attorneys are highly skilled in Florida wrongful death law and have helped hundreds of other people just like you obtain justice. Let us see if we can help secure justice for you and your family, too. Don’t wait—contact our office with your case right away.

Call Harmon Parker, P.A. today at (813) 452-4144 to learn more about how we can help you recover over a free consultation.