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What is a Wrongful Death in Florida and Can I Sue If I Lost a Loved One?

on  Personal Injury

Know Your Rights After the Loss of a Loved One: Explained by Our Wrongful Death Lawyer in Florida 

There are many different types of personal injuries that a victim could sustain after a negligent accident or intentional act of harm by another person or business.  However, the ultimate personal injury is often said to be wrongful death.  And our wrongful death lawyer in Florida knows that it is more common than you may think.

For instance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 36,000 people die each year in fatal motor vehicle accidents.  Further, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) report that almost 3,200 of those fatalities occur in the Sunshine State.  While most people think motor vehicle accidents as the top cause of unintentional death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that almost 40,000 people die each year in the United States from falls—over 4,000 more deaths than all types of motor vehicle accidents combined.  What is even more shocking is that a John Hopkins University study found that approximately 250,000 deaths per year in the United States were due to preventable medical errors or medical malpractice.  This is over three times more than motor vehicle accidents and falls, combined.

Facing the wrongful death of a family member can be simply overwhelming, especially when it is due to the reckless, careless, or intentional conduct of another.  Many families are left frustrated, confused, and unsure of where to turn or what to do.  But in times of great uncertainty, families can turn to Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA for the guidance they need and the support they deserve.  We offer FREE case evaluations and we can help a family identify what needs to be done to protect the rights of their loved one and the entire family.  Learn how our wrongful death lawyer in Florida can help you by calling (305) 694-2676.

What is a Wrongful Death in Florida?

Wrongful death is a type of cause of action or legal claim that an individual can bring.  It is largely a creature of statute, meaning that the Legislature has set forth the requirements for bringing and maintaining a wrongful death action in Florida.  This is done under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

The most important aspect to note is that not every death is considered a “wrongful death.”  Rather, under Florida stat. section 768.19, a family will only have a right of action “[w]hen the death of a person is caused by a 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 ensured . . . .”

This means that a family will only have a cause of action (or claim) for the wrongful death of their loved one if their loved one would have been able to maintain a personal injury action against defendant or defendants, had he or she not passed away.  Some common examples of personal injury actions that may result in the wrongful death of a person and give a right of action to a family include the following:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Slip and falls or trip and falls
  • Product liability cases
  • Dog bites or animal attacks
  • Construction accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home abuse, neglect, or malpractice
  • Intentional torts or crimes like assault and battery, murder, manslaughter, or fatal sexual assaults
  • Boating accidents, and
  • Any other types of reckless, careless, or intentional actions that were a proximate cause or a substantial factor in causing a loved one’s death.

If you are unsure whether the loss of a loved one constitutes a wrongful death, ask for help.  This is a huge task, especially when grieving after the loss of a loved one.  Call our compassionate and experienced legal team at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA to learn whether you and your family may have a right to action under Florida law.  We are here to help you, and all calls are confidential and private.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Florida?

Not everyone can commence a wrongful death action in Florida after the loss of a loved one.  Only an individual with “standing,” or legal authority to sue can bring an action.  Generally, there are two ways that standing can be conferred to an individual.

First, an individual could have been previously appointed by the deceased as the “personal representative” of a deceased’s estate in a Last Will or other testamentary document.  This confers standing to that individual to commence an action on behalf of the estate.  While this is a strong document, know that it can be challenged by the deceased’s other loved ones or beneficiaries.

Second, an individual could be conferred standing under Florida stat. section 768.18 as a “survivor,” who includes the following:

  • Spouse
  • Child or children
  • Parents
  • Any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters who were partly or wholly dependent on the decedent, and
  • Others who may be able to petition a court for appointment, as deemed appropriate by a judge.

What Compensation May a Family be Entitled to Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act?

The legislative intent of the Florida Wrongful Death Act is stated very clearly “to shift the losses resulting when wrongful death occurs from the survivors of the decedent to the wrongdoer.”  As a result, the statutory scheme provides an extensive amount of damages that an estate may be entitled to under the law.  “Damages” is a term used for the relief requested by a party in a legal action.  In personal injury actions, damages are typically monetary in nature.  This is especially true in wrongful death actions, as no amount of compensation can bring back a lost loved one.

The specific types of damages that a family may be entitled to are governed by Florida stat. section 768.21, which provides the following types of relief:

Each Survivor:

  • Value of lost support and services from the date of the loved one’s injury to death
  • Value of the future loss of support and services from passing
  • Measured from the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, among other factors
  • Medical or funeral expenses relating to decedent’s injury or death (if paid for by this individual)

Surviving Spouse:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of protection
  • Mental pain and suffering from the date of the injury
  • Medical or funeral expenses relating to decedent’s injury or death (if paid for by this individual)

Children (minor children or all children if there is no surviving spouse):

  • Lost parental companionship
  • Loss of instruction
  • Loss of guidance
  • Mental pain and suffering
  • Medical or funeral expenses relating to decedent’s injury or death (if paid for by this individual)

Each Parent of a deceased minor child or of an adult child if decedent had no spouse or children:

  • Mental pain and suffering
  • Medical or funeral expenses relating to decedent’s injury or death (if paid for by this individual)

For Decedent’s Estate (Could be Surviving Spouse, Children, or Parents): 

  • Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of passing
  • Loss of prospective net accumulations of an estate which might reasonably have been expected
  • Any medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injuries or passing that have been charged against the estate

Did You Lose a Loved one in Florida?  Ask Our Wrongful Death Lawyer For Help

It can be simply overwhelming when the loss of a loved one unexpectedly strikes a family.  Unfortunately, as the statistics above demonstrate, far too many families face this reality every day.  You do not have to go it alone.  The compassionate and well-trained staff at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA is standing by and ready to discuss what your legal options may be under Florida law.  Our award-winning and experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer can help guide you and your family during this difficult and confusing time.

And we can do this for you and your family without any upfront financial cost or obligation.  We only get paid if we recover compensation for you in a settlement, court verdict, or arbitration award.  Learn how we can help your family by calling (305) 694-2676 to schedule your consultation.