Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences anyone can endure. The pain is immeasurable, and coping with such a loss — especially if it was because of the negligence of another — can be overwhelming and difficult to process. 

Fresh flowers at a grave site

Amid grief, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options. Doing so allows you to hold responsible parties accountable, and it will hopefully keep them from similar actions so that no one else has to suffer as you and your family have. 

At the law office of Jack Bernstein in Tampa, Florida, our team is committed to representing victims and their families following a wrongful death so that justice is served. While we know we cannot undo the pain you and your family are suffering, we can help ensure that negligent parties are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Contact our team today to schedule a confidential free case consultation.

How to file a wrongful death lawsuit

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be an impactful way to ensure your loved ones’ rights are represented, even after their passing. A wrongful death lawsuit not only represents the decedent, but it can ensure important people like children, a spouse, and even parents do not have to experience any additional pain and suffering that may have resulted from financial losses caused by their loved one’s death. 

To proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to understand what this type of legal action is, how it can help a decedent’s survivors, and what steps you need to take to file one. 

Under Florida law, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the estate and surviving family members can bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit.
This happens after a surviving family member seeks out the guidance of a legal expert. A wrongful death attorney can then determine if you have a solid claim. If you do, they will proceed with the collection of evidence to build a strong case against liable parties. 

It’s important to note that if you plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should act quickly. Doing so allows your legal team to collect critical evidence while it is still fresh. Under Florida law, a plaintiff has two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This ensures that the case can be resolved as quickly as possible. However, if the wrongful death was the result of manslaughter, there is no statute of limitations. 

What constitutes a wrongful death?

A wrongful death lawsuit represents the victim’s family or estate. This type of legal action is filed when an individual loses their life due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another individual or entity. 

A wrongful death is often associated with a crime that results in an individual’s death. While these types of cases are criminal cases, wrongful death claims often extend beyond just criminal actions.

A wrongful death can happen as a result of a car accident, medical malpractice, workplace accident, or even accidents that occur in public or private establishments. 

To have a successful wrongful death lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish liability by demonstrating that the defendant’s actions directly caused the victim’s death. Additionally, a plaintiff must show that the surviving family members have suffered damages as a result.

Criminal case vs. wrongful death lawsuit

In cases where wrongful deaths involve criminal acts, prosecutors will take criminal action against a responsible party. A criminal case can only be brought forward by prosecutors and is intended as a way to hold a criminal accountable for their actions. The outcomes of a criminal case vary, depending on the circumstances of the crime, but will often result in penalties — including fines, probation, and jail and/or prison time. 

Unlike a criminal case, a wrongful death lawsuit is a type of tort claim (civil claim) that can be brought forward to hold a negligent party accountable for their actions that led to your loved one’s death. Civil claims are a way for individuals like you to hold other individuals accountable for negligent actions. It’s also important to note that because the repercussions of a criminal case are much more life-altering, a prosecutor has to show that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. When filing a civil lawsuit, the standard of guilt is much lower. 

Unlike criminal cases, civil cases are designed to offer restitution to a decedent’s surviving family members. This restitution takes on the form of damages. 

Economic damages

Economic damages are designed to compensate a victim’s family for tangible and calculable losses that resulted from the death. This can include things like: 

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Property damage
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of benefits
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Value of services such as household care, childcare, and other contributions
  • Expenses for psychological counseling for surviving family members

Non-economic damages

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are more difficult to assess because they refer to incalculable and intangible losses. Examples of non-economic damages can include things like:

  • Pain and suffering 
  • Grief and loss of companionship
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Damages vs. incarceration

Damages cannot be claimed in a criminal case. Plaintiffs who want to seek damages must file a civil claim in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit to recover losses they’ve sustained. Criminal cases seek to hold a defendant responsible for their action not through damages but through incarceration and other fines or consequences. 

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Under Florida’s wrongful death damages statute, only surviving immediate family members and dependents can bring forward a wrongful death claim for damages. More specifically, the surviving spouse or children of the deceased, their parents, and any other blood relatives or adopted siblings who are identified as dependents can file a claim. 

A wrongful death attorney can help you get justice

A wrongful death attorney shaking hands with their client. Between them is paperwork and a gavel.

It can be overwhelming and even intimidating to pursue legal action after your loved one’s wrongful death. You may still be processing the emotions. You may be unsure whether you have a case, and you might not know where to start or even if you want to pursue a lawsuit.

This is where seeking the guidance of an experienced wrongful death attorney can prove invaluable. A wrongful death lawyer can help you determine the strength of your case, can help identify additional parties that may be liable, and will ensure that justice is executed to the fullest extent of the law if your loved one has died because of the negligence of another individual.

Contact our team today to schedule your free case consultation and learn about your legal rights and options.


FLA. STAT. § 768.21.

FLA. STAT. § 910.03.

FLA. STAT. § 95.11.

Tampa Car Accident + Personal Injury Lawyers

Jack Bernstein Personal Injury Attorney

For more than 40 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Throughout his career, Bernstein has been a strategist thoroughly dedicated to the idea of protecting the rights of his clients. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

Mr. Bernstein has the experience and expertise to handle a wide range of injury cases. Among the types of plaintiffs Mr. Bernstein represents are individuals involved in car accidents caused by drunk drivers or other exhibiting negligence, medical complications resulting from carelessness caused by a physician or a medical facility, including brain injury, bicycle, motorcycle, moped and truck accidents, admiralty law and cruise ship accidents, accidental drownings, all types of wrongful death lawsuits, along with most injury, catastrophic occurrences and legal malpractice issues.

Our firm handles every type of personal injury and accident case, using negotiation and litigation tactics effectively. We handle cases throughout Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, FL. With a staff of approximately 40 people, including six lawyers and 34 support personnel, we have the legal resources to get the justice you deserve and the maximum recovery for your losses. Schedule your free consultation today; we are always here to help.

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