Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida?

When your loved one dies as a result of another party’s negligence or misconduct, you may struggle to cope with grief and a sense of injustice. When you experience additional financial concerns, such as lost wages, medical bills, and funeral expenses, it often adds anxiety to the loss of your loved one. 

Although a wrongful death suit cannot change an accidental death, it can help secure your family’s financial future, while holding the at-fault parties accountable for their role. However, not everyone can file a wrongful death claim. If you believe that your loved one’s death occurred due to negligent or preventable circumstances, contact a wrongful death lawyer to determine if a wrongful death suit is the best option. 

Survivors Who May Be Eligible to Seek Wrongful Death Suits

Under Florida law, a deceased person’s estate may bring a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for losses when the person’s death resulted from the “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another person or entity. 

A wrongful death lawyer or other personal representative should be present in court to initiate the official complaint. This personal representative of the decedent files suit on behalf of all eligible family members. A court will appoint a representative if one is not named in the decedent’s will. 

A complaint on behalf of all survivors means that immediate family members are eligible to be named in wrongful death suits and typically include:

  • The deceased’s spouse. If the decedent was married, the spouse is eligible to be named in the wrongful death suit. Because the lawsuit is filed on behalf of all dependents, it will also include damages for other eligible family members. 
  • The deceased’s children. In Florida, a child of any age may recover for lost
    support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to the time of their death. However, minor children, defined as those under the age of 25, are entitled to more significant damages than adult children. 
  • The deceased’s parents. Parents of a deceased minor child under the age of 25 may recover the value of lost support and services, future lost support and services, mental pain and suffering, and any medical or funeral expenses paid under certain circumstances. 
  • Blood relatives or adoptive siblings. If a blood relative or adoptive sibling was partially or wholly dependent on the deceased person for support or services, they might be able to seek damages such as lost income and, potentially, pain and suffering. 

What Damages Can Be Recovered from a Wrongful Death Claim? 

Once negligence is established, the amount of damages required to compensate the aggrieved party must be determined. The types of damages a survivor is eligible to recover generally depends on the survivor’s relationship with the decedent. 

Lost Support and Services

Each survivor may recover lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to their death and future loss of support and services.

The statute defines these financial damages in several categories. “Support” is considered lost contributions of property and money. At the same time, “services” represent tasks, such as household duties routinely performed by the decedent, that will be an expense to the survivors.

In evaluating loss of support and services, a jury may consider the following questions:

  • What was the survivor’s relationship with the decedent?
  • Was the amount of the decedent’s income available to the survivor?
  • Will the decedent’s services need to be replaced with a nanny or housekeeper’s cost if the decedent was a stay-at-home parent?

Awarding a monetary value to lost support and services for an adult is measurable, whereas calculating the financial loss for a child’s death is harder to determine. A jury may assess the child’s age, health, and work expectancy. 

Medical and Funeral Expenses

Each survivor may also recover funeral expenses if the survivor paid for them. Any medical expenses from the accident and ultimate death are also usually included in a wrongful death suit. 

Lost Parental Companionship

In Florida, minor children under the age of 25 may be awarded damages for the lost benefits of the parental relationship. The degree to which the parents were involved in the child’s life may be a significant factor in how much minor children may recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance.

Emotional Damages

In the case of spouses, emotional damages can include lost companionship and mental pain and suffering. Because emotional trauma is intangible, the jury may consider the strength of the relationship between the decedent and the surviving spouse to determine a value for mental pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages

In some instances where there is intentional, reckless, and malicious conduct, punitive damages may also be awarded to the surviving family members. Punitive damages exist to punish a particular behavior, although there is a limit to the amount that can be recovered. 

Call an Experienced Tampa Bay Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

If you have lost a loved one because of another person’s actions, please contact our experienced wrongful death attorneys at The Fran Haasch Law Group. We can evaluate your case and determine your legal rights under Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute. Contact us today at (727) 784-8191 for a free, no-risk consultation. 

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