Losing a loved one in an accident of any kind is the most trying time for any family to experience. The emotional toll is compounded when that tragic death was caused by someone else’s reckless or careless actions and could have been avoided altogether. Family members who have suffered emotional and monetary damages after an accidental death of a beloved family member can pursue personal injury claims and – if necessary – a civil lawsuit against those who are responsible under provisions of the Florida Wrongful Death Act: [Fla. Stat. §768]. To learn more about your legal options, call our firm at 954-767-6500 to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Fort Lauderdale.
Wrongful death can be caused by any form of defendant negligence or even a willful act. Though any accident can lead to wrongful death, the most common involve:
- Vehicle accidents of all types: auto, large trucks, even motorboats, Jet Skis, trains, ATV’s and aircraft crashes;
- Medical malpractice;
- Defective products;
- Workplace accidents; and
- An on-premises accident (such as in a restaurant, retail store or someone else’s home).
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?
Florida law states that a wrongful death lawsuit must, “be brought by, and in the name of,” the personal representative of a deceased person. There can be only one personal representative “of record” in the lawsuit, even if there are many other family members who ultimately receive a share of the damages. The personal representative is just the “named plaintiff” in the claim or civil action and is usually one of the following direct relatives of the deceased:
- A spouse;
- A child;
- A parent;
- A blood relative who depends on the deceased for support or services; and
- Adoptive brothers or sisters of the family member who depend on the deceased for support or services.
Wrongful Death Damages the Defendant May Owe
Three types of damages are available to survivors in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit – economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages [Fla. Stat. §768.042]:
Economic damages are tangible financial losses that can be easily calculated, such as:
- Medical and funeral expenses;
- Loss of the victim’s expected earnings and job benefits; and
- The value of any property owned by the deceased family member destroyed in the accident.
Non-economic damages consist primarily of emotional losses such as:
- Pain and suffering for the deceased and family survivors;
- Loss of the care, protection, guidance and nurturing from the deceased; and
- Loss of consortium: This can include emotional consortium (love and companionship) as well as business consortium if, for example, a son who was part of a family-owned business dies in an accident caused by another’s negligence.
Punitive damages may be awarded by a judge or jury if the death was caused by the defendant’s willful conduct or blatant disregard for the deceased’s welfare. But by law, they are capped at three times the amount of the total compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff, or $500,000.
How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim in Florida?
There is a statute of limitations in which you may file a wrongful death claim as a result of any accident – including medical malpractice – of four years [Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(o)].
However, there are several exceptions to the statute, the most common being:
- A minor who is unable to understand his or her legal rights, and there is no presence of a Guardian ad Litem (someone who legally speaks for the plaintiff who is not their attorney of record), might extend the statute until the minor is a legal adult.
- If any defendant fraudulently concealed his or her role in the accident that produced the wrongful death.
A great many variables govern Florida’s wrongful death laws, more than can be shared in this brief primer. We welcome you to consult with one of our experienced attorneys if you are considering such a lawsuit. The Montero Law Firm offers a free, comprehensive consultation. Call 954-767-6500, email info@monterolaw or click here to fill out our case evaluation form.[/fusion_text]