The sudden loss of a loved one can devastate family members. It can be very challenging to determine how to move forward with your life through this grief, especially when the incident that claimed your loved one’s life was preventable.
Unfortunately, too many Pensacola families grapple with these complex legal questions after an accident caused by another party’s negligence.
When an accident happens, Florida law recognizes that victims, including family members of someone who died due to their injuries, are entitled to compensation. When a deceased person’s estate opens a claim against the at-fault party, this is called a wrongful death claim.
If you have questions about your right to file a wrongful death claim in Florida and the next steps involved in doing so, you need a local lawyer to help guide you through the process.
Reach out to the Pensacola wrongful death attorneys at Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers in Pensacola, FL, for help with your claim.
Which Legal Statutes Define Wrongful Death in Florida?
There are several applicable legal statutes related to wrongful death in Florida.
Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation under Florida’s wrongful death laws (Section 678.18). Even if a separate investigation into the death yields a criminal case against the at-fault party, wrongful death lawsuits are brought in civil court.
Florida Statutes Section 678.21 defines the damages available under a wrongful death lawsuit. Florida law also governs the time limit for a case to be filed after death. Lawsuits may not be filed later than two years after the death of a loved one, with a few exceptions.
In cases filed against a government entity, the statute of limitations may be extended to four years. Medical malpractice cases must be filed within two years of determining the cause of death. For murder cases, the two-year time limit starts when the responsible party is identified or arrested.
The wrongful death statutes in Florida enable the filing of a lawsuit in cases involving negligence, default/breach of contract, or wrongful acts that ultimately led to someone’s death. This can include many circumstances, such as slip and fall, car, bike, pedestrian, truck, motorcycle accidents, assaults, and medical malpractice.
Who May File for Wrongful Death Benefits in Florida?
A lawsuit to recover wrongful death damages in Florida may only be filed by one individual: the personal representative of the deceased party’s estate. This individual will be appointed if they have not been named in the deceased’s will.
Although the personal representative is the only one who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, compensation from that suit is paid out to the victim’s estate and survivors. This means that those proceeds are ultimately distributed to the deceased’s survivors and dependents.
Who Can Claim Wrongful Death Damages in Florida?
There are strict rules about who is entitled to wrongful death damages. Spouses, children, and parents may have a legal right to claim wrongful death damages.
In general, spouses and children under the age of 25 are entitled to recover damages. If no surviving spouse exists, all children are eligible for damages.
Children born out of wedlock are classified as survivors of deceased mothers, but children may only be a survivor of a deceased father if the father recognized a support responsibility for those children.
Any blood relatives or adoptive siblings of the deceased may also be considered survivors if they depended on the deceased individual for services or support.
If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the parents of the deceased can receive damages from a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Damages Available
Any of the following may be included in a claim for damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Burial and/or funeral expenses
- Medical costs
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of parental support
- Losses sustained by a decedent’s spouse
- Loss of services
What damages can a surviving spouse collect?
Surviving spouses are eligible to obtain compensation for their loss of protection, companionship, support, and services in addition to damages for their emotional suffering.
What damages can surviving children collect?
Children can recover compensation for lost educational and financial support. Children under age 25 are classified as minors and may also collect damages for loss of instruction, companionship, and parental guidance, in addition to losses for mental suffering. Minor children typically receive more damages than adult children.
What damages can the estate of the deceased collect?
The estate of the deceased party also has an interest in damage recovery from a wrongful death case. Florida Statutes 768.21(6) outlines what a personal representative may pursue in a lawsuit:
- Loss of net accumulations from the estate is expected when there are spouse or lineal descendant survivors or adult survivors over age 25 with no recoverable loss of services/support, and a parent of the deceased is still alive
- Lost earnings between the date of the deceased’s injury and their death
- Funeral or medical expenses filed against the estate, such as final medical bills
Net accumulations are determined as the expected funds descendants would have saved on their estates if they lived a typical life expectancy.
This is calculated as the sum of estimated gross income after personal expenses, survivor support, and tax payments. To identify the specific damages in a wrongful death case, hire a qualified lawyer to help with totaling all costs.
Get Help with Wrongful Death Claims in Florida Now
Once you understand who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, you need to hire a lawyer to help with wrongful death damages in Florida.
No amount of money will ever replace the loss you experience as a surviving family member in a wrongful death claim. However, filing a wrongful death lawsuit may enable you and your loved ones to get the support you need to move on with your life and honor the legacy of your family member.