What Is Considered Wrongful Death in Florida?
Suing for wrongful death in Florida allows the family members of a victim to pursue justice for the unexpected and tragic demise of the person they love. Of course, not every untimely death can be considered “wrongful,” and not every state has the same statutes as Florida.
The last thing you want to think about after losing a loved one is money, but if their death resulted from someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. The money will never bring your precious relative back nor make up for their absence. Just compensation may, however, allow you to recover from any undue financial hardships, giving you time to mourn.
If you’ve lost a loved one because of the negligence of another party, you deserve the peace of mind that comes with holding that party accountable. You don’t need to battle in the civil system alone. Call Colling Gilbert Wright today at (407) 712-7300 to schedule a FREE case evaluation with an Orlando wrongful death lawyer. Let us help you get the justice and closure you deserve.
What Is the Definition of Wrongful Death in Florida?
Section 768.19 of the Florida Wrongful Death Act states that the tragic passing of a loved one is considered a “wrongful death” if it is “caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person…and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.”
Simply, if your loved one passes because of the recklessness or negligence of another person, it is considered a wrongful death. Further, if your loved one could have filed a personal injury claim, had they not passed away, their death could be regarded as wrongful.
Some causes of wrongful death may be:
- Vehicle accidents
- Pedestrian/bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
- Product liability
- Premises liability
- Work accidents
- Intentional acts (murder or death as a result of criminal acts)
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Florida?
A wrongful death claim aims to award the victim’s family with economic and non-economic compensation for their terrible loss. Florida has their own rules when it comes to who can pursue a wrongful death claim.
The deceased party’s survivors and dependants are eligible to recover compensation for damages in a wrongful death suit. These generally include:
- Blood relatives and/or adoptive brothers & sisters who were partially or fully dependent on the deceased
However, according to § 768.20, “the action shall be brought by the decedent’s personal representative, who shall recover for the benefit of the decedent’s survivors and estate all damages…caused by the injury resulting in death.” This personal representative is the one who will file the wrongful death suit. They must also file a list of potential beneficiaries and their relationship to the deceased.
The personal representative acts on behalf of the survivors and dependants of the deceased. They may be selected during the deceased’s lifetime and named in the will, or they may be chosen after death if there is no will.
In Florida, the requirements to serve as a personal representative include but are not limited to the following:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must be physically & mentally capable of serving
- Must not have been convicted of a felony
- Must not have “been convicted in any state or foreign jurisdiction of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person or a disabled adult” (§ 733.303)
If the personal representative is out-of-state, they must be related to the deceased by blood, marriage, or adoption. If an institution or corporation is named as the personal representative, it must be authorized to act as a fiduciary in Florida.
What Damages Can Be Claimed for Wrongful Death?
Damages awarded in a wrongful death claim will differ from those pursued in a personal injury claim. In Florida, these potential damages are categorized as damages awarded to the family and damages awarded to the estate.
Damages awarded to the deceased’s family, per § 768.21(1–5), consist of:
- Medical/funeral expenses paid by a family member
- Loss of support & services
- Loss of companionship & protection
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction, & guidance
- Mental pain & suffering
Damages awarded to the deceased’s estate, per § 768.21(5)(6a)(6b), consist of:
- Medical/funeral expenses paid by the estate
- Loss of earnings from “the date of injury to the date of death”
- Loss of “prospective net accumulations of an estate”
In some cases of wrongful death, punitive damages may be appropriate. If the defendant or wrongdoer acted with intentional misconduct or gross negligence, they might be held liable for punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from behaving in the same or similar manner.
The complexity of the damages involved in a wrongful death case can be intimidating. When you are reeling from the recent death of someone you loved, it can seem impossible to assemble a case. It is crucial to contact a competent, experienced Orlando lawyer if you feel you have a claim for wrongful death. While you focus on healing, they can handle the ins and outs of building the case and fight to hold the liable party accountable for their actions.
How Is a Wrongful Death Claim Different from a Criminal Homicide Case?
In the wake of a wrongful death, justice may be sought in two different types of legal cases: a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court and/or criminal prosecution. Sometimes, both avenues will be used to hold the negligent party accountable. However, there are differences between these two approaches.
- A criminal charge is filed by the government, whereas a civil suit is filed by a personal representative on behalf of the decedent’s survivors and dependants.
- The defendant in a civil action is punished financially, whereas a criminal defendant is punished with prison/jail time, fines, probation, and others.
- The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case than in a civil suit. In a criminal case, guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil suit, the burden of proof comes down to a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, if it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the victim’s death, the case has been proven.
Though both courts can be utilized to find justice for the victim(s), it may be harder to convict a defendant in criminal court than to be awarded a settlement in civil court. However, the criminal court’s decision should have no bearing on a civil suit’s success.
An Orlando Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
The loss of a loved one is devastating. When that loss is the fault of someone else’s negligence, it is even more tragic because it was unnecessary. Section 768.17 of the Wrongful Death Act states, “It is the public policy of the state to shift the losses resulting when wrongful death occurs from the survivors of the decedent to the wrongdoer.” Though a wrongful death claim cannot bring your loved one back or mend the hole in your heart that they’ve left, it can prevent undue financial burden and give you a sense of justice, allowing you to focus on healing.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help shift some of your losses to the party responsible for your sorrow. Contact the lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright today for a FREE consultation. We will explore your options for obtaining compensation in your wrongful death in Florida.