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The Labyrinth Of Florida Wrongful Death Law

Historically, only someone who actually suffered injuries could bring a civil law suit. This created a strange loophole in the law: when the injured party died as a result of the wrongful actions of a bad actor, nobody could bring a civil law suit against the bad actor.

To fill this gap in the law, legislatures began to pass wrongful death statutes to allow certain people to file law suits on behalf of the deceased. One such law is the Florida Wrongful Death Act, which intricately governs who can file law suits on behalf of the deceased, when they can file them, and what they can recover from the bad actor.

If you’ve lost a loved one in an automobile accident or some other tragic event involving the negligence or recklessness of another party, navigating a wrongful death claim can become complicated rather quickly. Your best bet may be to consult with an attorney specializing in wrongful death claims who can present and litigate the claims in a way that maximizes the damages.

Who May File A Wrongful Death Suit?

Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, only the personal representative of the decedent is able to file a law suit against the bad actor. The personal representative can be designated by the decedent in his will or estate plan, or if there is no will or estate plan, is appointed by the court during the probate process.

The personal representative is required to file the law suit on behalf of the decedent’s estate and any survivors. Florida law limits survivors to

  • The decedent’s spouse,
  • The decedent’s children born of a marriage,
  • The decedent mother’s children born out of wedlock,
  • The decedent father’s children born out of wedlock if the father was legally responsible for the children’s support,
  • The decedent’s parents,
  • Blood relatives that were partially or wholly dependent on the decedent for support,
  • Adoptive brothers or sisters that were partially or wholly dependent on the decedent for support.

When Can A Wrongful Death Suit Be Filed?

A wrongful death suit must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death under the Florida statute of limitations. There are extremely limited exceptions to this two year rule, but in all but a handful of cases, failure to file a wrongful death claim within two years will result in the claim being barred. Therefore, it is important to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death to ensure you don’t forfeit your claim.

What Types Of Damages Can Be Recovered?

This is where the labyrinth really kicks in. The amount and types of damages available vary extensively based on who the decedent was and who the decedent’s survivors are.

The decedent’s estate is entitled to recover lost earnings from the date of injury to the date of death, loss of prospective accumulations to the estate, and medical and funeral expenses related to the injury and death.

Survivors are entitled to the monetary value of the loss of support and services of the decedent. Additionally, different types of survivors are entitled to different types of damages. For example, only the decedent’s spouse is entitled to damages for lost companionship and protection.

While some of those damages are reasonably easy to prove, damages such as prospective accumulations to the estate as well as the value of lost support and services are extremely hard to calculate and prove because they depend on estimations of the decedent’s lifespan and future earnings potential as well as estimations of the survivors’ life expectancies and future financial relationships with the decedent.

Calculations for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering are even murkier and require an experienced wrongful death attorney to successfully prove them.

Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

The Labyrinth Of Florida Wrongful Death Law

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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