Losing a loved one is devastating to any family, especially if the death happens suddenly and is because of the negligence of another individual or entity. Florida law recognizes the grief, heartache, and hardship that follows after the wrongful death of a loved one and allows surviving family members to take legal action against these responsible parties.
While legal action won’t bring a loved one back, it can help provide you with a sense of justice, knowing that the responsible parties are held accountable. Consulting with an experienced attorney about filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be a critical step in your healing process. A wrongful death lawsuit can also help you recover damages from the responsible party and can help ease the burden of any financial stress that results from your loved one’s passing.
Under Florida’s legal statutes section 678.18, surviving family members are allowed to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties if an individual is killed in a manner described as a wrongful death.
For a wrongful death to qualify as such, the victim must have died through a wrongful act, a breach or default of contract, or because of negligence.
Under Florida law, only one person can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their loved one. This person is typically the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate and is normally chosen while that individual is still alive. If there is no estate plan or will in place, a representative can be appointed after their death.
When a personal representative files a wrongful death lawsuit, any compensation paid out will go to the victim’s estate and will be allocated toward any survivors. Only beneficiaries and dependants will be eligible to recover damages sought out by the appointed representative. Eligible beneficiaries in a Florida wrongful death claim include:
A plaintiff filing a wrongful death claim because they have suffered damages from their loved one’s passing will be eligible to collect three types of damages under state statute 768.21. These include economic, non-economic, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
Florida recognizes economic damages as tangible and calculable losses. Economic damages are designed to restore an individual to their financial standing after an injury has taken place. In the case of wrongful death, economic damages include costs the decedent accrued because of their death. Typically, losses associated with economic damages include:
Under Fla. Stat. § 768.0415, Florida recognizes non-economic damages as a way to compensate a victim or survivors of a decedent for the immeasurable and intangible losses they’ve suffered. Plaintiffs can seek non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit if they have suffered the following losses:
Punitive damages are not designed to compensate the victim, their beneficiaries, or dependants for their financial losses or pain and suffering. Instead, punitive damages are designed to hold a responsible party accountable for their negligent behavior. Punitive damages may be awarded if a defendant is found to have acted with wanton disregard for human life or recklessness. Although plaintiffs can seek punitive damages, these damages are rarely granted.
Spouses and children are, more often than not, the victims who suffer the most after an individual’s passing. For this reason, spouse and children can recover damages, including:
It’s important to note that Florida law does not allow a decedent’s fiance to file a wrongful death claim or to be counted as a beneficiary.
Under Florida law, the court will examine each beneficiary to determine how damages will be allocated. Because of the degree of closeness spouses and children are to the decedent, these beneficiaries typically receive the greatest award.
However, other factors that determine what allocating damages include:
A wrongful death attorney can help you and your family forge a path forward during what is undoubtedly one of the hardest moments in your life. A wrongful death attorney will help you understand your legal rights and options, can help you establish a robust claim, and will fight for the compensation you and your loved ones deserve.
Wrongful death claims can easily become complicated. Factors including how the death happened, the negligent party or parties, and whether a will or estate plan existed can add extra layers to confusion.
When you work with a Tampa wrongful death attorney, you can expect legal advice, including:
A wrongful death attorney can help you understand how Florida law applies to your loved one’s case and will weed out all the details of your claim.