What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A Wrongful Death Lawsuit is a civil lawsuit which is brought on behalf of a deceased loved one whose death was caused due to another person’s intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct. Because the deceased cannot file the lawsuit on his or her behalf, a wrongful death action allows for the Personal Representative of their Estate, which is typically a spouse or family member of the deceased, to bring a claim for damages against the party that caused the loved one’s death. The Personal Representative of the Estate brings the lawsuit to recover benefits on behalf of all of the “survivors” of the Estate, as defined by the Wrongful Death Act.
Survivors may include the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents, as well as other blood relatives in certain circumstances. In order to determine whether you are a survivor who may recover damages for the death of a loved one, give us a call. It’s a free call and one our attorneys who specializes in wrongful death cases will be able to determine whether you fit the Act’s definition of a “survivor.”
Wrongful death lawsuits are most typically filed against corporations, hospitals, doctors, professionals, and other insured people or entities whose negligence (or whose employee’s negligence) caused the death. The vast majority, if not all, of the people or entities who are sued for wrongful death have insurance, which will pay for the defendant who is sued to have a lawyer and to settle the lawsuit or pay any ultimate judgment.
How long do I have to bring a lawsuit for Wrongful Death?
In almost all circumstances, a wrongful death action must be brought within two years of the date the person died as a result of negligence. There are, however, some very narrow exceptions to that rule. Filing a lawsuit within the two year statute of limitations is absolutely critical. Failure to file within the limitations period could close the door forever on any wrongful death action in the future. Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death is crucial to properly interpret the statute of limitations and begin gathering evidence to support your wrongful death action.
What damages are available in a Wrongful Death lawsuit and who may recover them?
The Wrongful Death Act lays out the damages available to family members and the decedent’s Estate in a very detailed and somewhat confusion fashion. According to the Act, each “survivor” as defined by the Act may recover the value of lost support and services in the past (from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death) as well as future loss of support and services from the date of death. In evaluating the value of a claim for loss of support and services, consideration will be given to the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available for distribution to the particular survivor, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor.
Additionally, the surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of a deceased minor child (defined as a person under 25 years old) may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child (over 25 years of age) may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.
Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may also be recovered by a survivor who has paid them or by the Estate. Finally, the Personal Representative of the Estate may also recover damages for the Estate in certain circumstances, like loss of prospective net accumulations of the decedent, e.g., the money that the decedent would have been saving if he or she had not passed away.
Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking advantage of a free consultation with an experienced attorney in our firm who can explain all of the intricacies associated with wrongful death law in Florida as it has been interpreted and shaped by Judges across the State. The Act itself is found in sections 768.18-768.26, Florida Statutes. But, you can’t rely on the Statutes themselves for an accurate or complete interpretation of wrongful death law in Florida.