There are few things more devastating than the untimely loss of a loved one. This becomes even more tragic when the death was avoidable or preventable. In the state of Florida, when someone dies as a result of another party’s negligence or intentional act, a wrongful death lawsuit may help survivors recover compensation for their loss.
The following guide provides an overview of some of the most important things you need to know about wrongful death claims in Florida.
What is Considered a “Wrongful Death” in Florida?
Under Florida law, a “wrongful death” occurs when a person’s death is caused by a “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty.” Some examples of wrongful death include:
- Medical malpractice
- A negligence-based incident (such as a vehicle accident)
- A defective product
- An intentional act (including crimes)
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
While some states allow a deceased person’s family to file a wrongful death lawsuit, in the state of Florida, this must be done by the personal representative (executor) of the deceased’s estate. This person is acting on behalf of both the estate and the surviving family members. When filing the claim, the personal representative must provide a list of all potential beneficiaries.
What Must You Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
To win a wrongful death claim, you must be able to prove that the at-fault party was negligent or otherwise liable for a wrongful act that caused the death. This requires providing evidence that:
- The party owed a legal duty to the deceased
- The party’s action or failure to act violated that duty
- The individual died as a result of that violation
- The beneficiaries and the estate suffered losses as a result of the death
What Types of Damages Can You Receive?
The amount of compensation you can receive from a wrongful death lawsuit often depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. In Florida, you may sue for damages related to:
- Medical bills, funeral expenses, and other related costs
- Lost wages, benefits, and inheritances that the deceased would have provided to the family
- Loss of companionship, care, love, and guidance the deceased would have provided to the family
Who is Eligible to Receive Wrongful Death Damages?
Not all family members can receive compensation from a wrongful death claim. The state of Florida defines a “survivor” as the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. In some cases, blood relatives and adopted brothers and sisters are also included if they are partly or wholly dependent on the deceased for services or support.
A child born out of wedlock to a mother is also considered a survivor. However, one born out of wedlock to a father is not considered a survivor unless the father has recognized a responsibility for supporting the child.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
Florida’s statute of limitations limits the amount of time you have to file a wrongful death claim. Typically, you must file your lawsuit within two years from the date of death. If you wait too long, you may not be able to pursue damages. However, there are some exceptions that can change the timeframe. Consulting with a wrongful death attorney is the best way to determine whether you still have a valid basis for filing a claim.
Consult with a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney
While there’s no replacement for the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the responsible party liable and help you and your family get back on your feet. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Gallagher & Hagopian are here to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free case review.