A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed in a Florida court when the wrongful act or negligence of a party causes the death of another. This type of claim is civil and not criminal. There are certain rules that apply to wrongful death cases that differ from personal injury claims. Florida law allows a wrongful death lawsuit – seeking a legal remedy for the death and losses resulting from it – when the death is caused by a wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract of another.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida
State law requires that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate – not the surviving family members – filed a wrongful death claim in a Florida civil court. A personal representative is commonly named in the deceased’s estate plan or will; if no personal representative is named, the court will appoint one. A wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family members – a personal representative is required by law to list every survivor who may have an interest in a Florida wrongful death claim.
Florida law allows the following surviving family members to recover in a wrongful death case:
- The surviving spouse, children, and/or parents of the deceased; and
- Any adoptive sibling or blood relative who was dependent, partially or wholly, upon the deceased for support.
If the parents are unwed at the time a child is born to them, he or she can recover damages in a Florida wrongful death case if the mother is the one who passed away. If the father dies, the child can only recover damages under the law in a Florida wrongful death case if (1) the deceased father formally recognized the minor as his own before passing and (2) the deceased father was previously obligated to financially contribute to the child’s support.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Time Limits in Florida
Every state has its own time limits, or statute of limitations when it comes to filing a lawsuit. In most states, including Florida, there is a separate law that governs wrongful death claims. Under Florida law, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the death. There are very few, and specific, scenarios under which this time frame can be paused or tolled. Failure to file a lawsuit in civil court within the statute of limitations will forever bar the claim. For this reason, it is extremely important to know the deadline set by the statute of limitations and follow it strictly.
Wrongful Death Damages in Florida
Because a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil, not a criminal claim, liability is expressed solely in terms of monetary compensation as damages. This does not mean that a criminal lawsuit may not accompany a wrongful death but, rather, that these lawsuits address different issues dealing with the same underlying facts. Damages that surviving family members can seek to include:
- Loss of companionship, protection, and guidance provided by the deceased;
- Financial support and services received by the surviving family members from the deceased;
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering as a result of the death; and
- Medical or funeral expenses that have been paid on behalf of the deceased by any surviving family member;
Other monetary compensation the deceased’s estate may be able to recover includes:
- Medical and funeral expenses paid directly by the estate on behalf of the deceased;
- Lost benefits, wages, or earnings including future earnings of the deceased; and
- The lost value of any earnings to the estate that it reasonably could expect to receive if the deceased had not passed away.
Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney in Florida
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to the fault of another in Pensacola – or anywhere else in the state of Florida – contact the Pensacola personal injury attorneys at Stevenson Klotz Law Firm. We will fight on behalf of surviving family members and seek just compensation for your tragic loss.
Following graduation from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Eric Stevenson held a number of positions including Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. Eric has been practicing with partner Christopher Klotz since 2015 litigating personal injury and car accidents in Alabama and Florida.