The grave of someone who died as a result of a wrongful death

Losing a loved one is never easy. You may be in shock and consumed by grief, not realizing that a person’s death could be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Understanding what a wrongful death lawsuit is can help you understand why you should talk to a wrongful death attorney about filing a claim against the person responsible for your loved one’s death.

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Wrongful death laws in Florida 

Florida law allows eligible individuals to seek damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. Fla. Stat. § 768.19 lists the following reasons for filing a claim:

  1. Breach of contract: When a person dies because someone fails to fulfill their professional responsibilities, it can be a breach of contract. An example would be a paramedic failing to provide medical care while transporting a patient to the hospital. 
  2. Default: Default has to do with failing to fulfill an agreement. Suppose your neighbor had a dying tree near the property line. You’re concerned it will fall on your property and hurt someone. You enter a contract with your neighbor and pay part of the removal costs on the condition that they have the tree removed promptly. You sign a contract and pay your costs, but the neighbor doesn’t schedule the tree removal. The tree falls and kills one of your family members. You could sue for wrongful death due to default because the neighbor failed to fulfill the contract.
  3. Negligence: Negligence is a common reason for filing a wrongful death suit. Society has standards of acceptable behavior, and people are expected to act reasonably to avoid damage to people or property. Someone could be sued for wrongful death due to negligence if they failed to act reasonably and that failure caused someone’s death.
  4. Wrongful act: Wrongful deaths are criminal actions like homicide or manslaughter

Wrongful death vs. accidental death

In 2021, 224,935 people in the U.S. died from accidental deaths. These are deaths due to unexpected, unintentional circumstances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following leading causes of accidental deaths:

  1. Falls
  2. Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs)
  3. Poisonings

The most common causes of wrongful death suits include:

  1. Falls
  2. MVAs
  3. Bicycle and pedestrian accidents

Although accidental deaths may be unintended, if a person’s negligence, default, or breach of contract caused the accident, the accidental death may also be wrongful. 

Wrongful death vs. homicide and manslaughter

Wrongful acts resulting in a person’s death are grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. In these situations, the person responsible for the death may face two trials. Civil courts hear wrongful death suits, and criminal courts handle homicide and manslaughter cases.

Standard of proof

It’s easier to prove a wrongful death case because proving a wrongful act led to a person’s death establishes grounds for the lawsuit. To prove a person guilty of homicide or manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove the defendant committed the criminal act as defined by criminal law.


A wrongful death judgment results in a jury awarding damages to the claimant. Depending on the circumstances, the at-fault party’s insurance company may pay all or some of the damages awarded. The consequences of a criminal conviction for homicide or manslaughter involve a prison sentence.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Florida permits the decedent’s personal representative to initiate a lawsuit. The decedent’s family members would be involved in the suit. Still, a family member will only file the claim if they’re also the personal representative.

Who can be sued for wrongful death?

Any person whose actions or inactions cause a person’s death may be sued for wrongful death. A successful lawsuit depends on the claimant’s ability to prove that wrongful action, breach of contract, negligence, or default caused the decedent’s death.

What damages can be recovered?

Claimants can recover compensatory damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. Compensatory damages include the following:

  1. Economic damages: These damages involve calculating expenses, such as medical expenses and lost income, caused by the decedent’s death
  2. Non-economic damages: These damages compensate for the personal toll from the decedent’s death, such as loss of intimacy and trauma

In some cases, the claimants can seek punitive damages. Punitive damages aren’t about the financial or personal impact on the claimant; they’re consequences for the at-fault party’s conduct and apply to cases involving gross negligence or intentional misconduct

Factors in a wrongful death settlement

Several factors can affect the settlement amount for a wrongful death claim, including the following:

  1. Decedent’s age: Claimants often receive higher settlements for younger victims
  2. Earning capacity: The amount of money the decedent would have earned if they’d lived will affect the settlement amount
  3. Economic damages: Medical and funeral expenses and other costs can increase the settlement amount
  4. Life insurance: A decedent’s life insurance policy demonstrates their value and need for compensation and can increase the amount received in a settlement
  5. Victim’s dependents: The decedent’s financial responsibilities can impact the settlement. The claimant for a decedent with minor children may receive a higher settlement than a claimant for a decedent with adult children because they don’t require compensation for care costs.

Settlement amounts are reached through negotiation. Those who don’t reach an agreement can go to court, which could result in a higher judgment.

How long do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Florida allows two years for claimants to file a wrongful death suit. It doesn’t matter if the decedent was killed in a car accident, a slip-and-fall, or whether they died in Tampa or Miami. The statute of limitations applies to all wrongful deaths occurring within the state.

Who gets paid for wrongful death?

The money from a wrongful death suit goes to the victim’s family. The funds should compensate those who relied on the dependent for income or those who incurred the expenses caused by their death. 

Some of the damages may go to the victim’s estate. Depending on the decedent’s will, these damages may ultimately go to the immediate family members or be distributed among family members and friends named in their will. 

How can a wrongful death attorney help me?

A wrongful death attorney can confirm if you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Talking to an attorney is crucial because you may not know you have legal grounds to file a claim. When you contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we’ll explain your options and how much you could receive from a settlement.

When we take your case, you don’t have to worry about finding evidence or funds for a lawsuit. We don’t charge fees unless you receive damages from the at-fault party, and we’ll gather the evidence needed to get you the compensation you deserve.

Injured At Work? Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys now.


Accidents of Unintentional Injuries. (2023).

Gross Negligence. (2023).  

The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B) 768.19. (2023). 

The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B)

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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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