When it comes to filing a wrongful death claim in Florida, learn about who is (and isn’t) eligible under state law
If your loved one was killed because of another person’s negligence, you might be qualified to file a wrongful death claim. However, if claim is filed in Florida, there are specific rules regarding eligibility that you should know about before you start filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is Wrongful Death?
While there are many different types of wrongful death cases, these claims are all compensation lawsuits that are brought to civil court. A wrongful death claim is a result of someone’s negligence or direct act that caused the death of another individual. Every state has its own law when it comes to how the aggrieved party can file the lawsuit, and regulations also exist in determining the persons who are eligible for wrongful death compensation.
A wrongful death claim differs from murder, homicide and manslaughter in that the case is brought to civil court rather than criminal court. The main purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is NOT to punish the defendant for breaking a law, but rather to compensate the deceased’s surviving loved ones (plaintiffs) for their loss.
Florida has set restrictions on when and how a certain family member can file a wrongful death claim. Most residents don’t know how to handle the situation, which is why they immediately try to seek justice by going straight to court. However, it’s critical that you speak to an attorney first to explore your available options and understand your rights under the law of the state.
Wrongful Death Law of Florida
In Florida, all claims for wrongful death are addressed in the state’s legal statutes (section 678.18), which says that if the loss is due to any of the reasons listed below, the law grants the surviving members of the family to file a lawsuit:
- Wrongful act
- Breach or default of contract
There’s also a statute of limitations that concern wrongful death claims. The time limit residents of Florida can file a wrongful death lawsuit is set at within two years from the time of death. In some special cases, the personal representative or attorney for the family may be allowed an extension for the claim. However, the majority of wrongful death lawsuits are only accepted within the 2-year period.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawyer or other personal representative should be present in court to initiate the official complaint. This representative should be named in the estate plan of the deceased or someone whom the court has appointed. This particular representative will file the claim on behalf of all the members of the family who are suffering due to the loss of their loved one — whether emotionally or financially.
The representative must also list all the surviving family members who have an interest in the lawsuit. These family members often include:
- The deceased’s spouse
- The deceased’s children (minor children, defined as those under the age of 25, are entitled to higher damages than adult children)
- The deceased’s parents
Other relatives who depended on the person who dies for financial support may be eligible as well, but only after the deceased’s primary beneficiaries (listed above) have a chance to file a claim.
Wrongful Death Damages Eligible Plaintiffs May Collect
The surviving family members who are eligible to file a wrongful death claim under Florida law can ask to receive compensation for the expenses they have paid since the passing of their loved one, such as the funeral expenses and medical bills. In addition, lost wages, benefits, and other earnings will be given to the family based on the amount that the deceased would have contributed in their natural lifetime.
If the case involves the loss of a child, financial help will be given to the parents or surviving relatives for emotional and mental suffering. For spouses, compensation for loss of protection and companionship may also be awarded. If the person who died contributed or paid for the education and other regular expenses of another family member, compensation may be awarded for this as well.
Why Hire a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney?
Before you can file a claim for damages, you must establish that it was indeed a wrongful death and that you are eligible for compensation based on your relationship with the deceased person under Florida law.
There are many special rules and additional factors that can make it difficult determine who can recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, and when. These complicating factors include things like common law marriages, divorce, remarriage, intention to remarry, adopted children, children born out of wedlock, stepchildren, posthumous children (a child unborn at the time of the parent’s death), illegitimate children, stillborn children, divorced parents, financial dependency and more.
Simply put, wrongful death claims are almost always quite complex, which is why you should seek counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney in Florida.