It’s always tragic to lose a loved one. And it’s even more tragic when the loss is the result of someone else’s negligence. What makes this situation so difficult is the realization that if the person responsible had only exercised a minimal amount of care, their loved one would still be alive. The loss of a family member can affect the surviving relatives in more ways than one. Our loved ones not only provide us with emotional support and companionship, but they also support us financially. So, when a relative dies, it’s often difficult for the bereaved to make ends meet.
Fortunately, when a person dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, surviving relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. With the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney, surviving relatives can seek financial compensation for the losses associated with their loved one’s death, such as lost wages, funeral expenses, and lost companionship. In this article, we’ll go over five things you should know about wrongful death lawsuits in Florida.
#1: Surviving Family Members Don’t File the Claim
In Florida, the family members of a deceased person aren’t responsible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Rather, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, who may or may not be a member of the deceased’s family, may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the surviving family members. The personal representative of the estate is the only person authorized to file a wrongful death action, and that person is usually named in the deceased’s will. However, if the deceased didn’t leave a will, the court usually appoints the deceased’s surviving spouse as the personal representative. If the deceased person doesn’t have a surviving spouse or if the surviving spouse declines to serve, the deceased person’s heirs will choose the personal representative by a majority vote. If the heirs can’t agree on a personal representative, the court will decide who’ll serve.
#2: Only Certain Family Members Are Eligible for Compensation
When a person is killed due to the wrongdoing of another, certain family members of the deceased may be entitled to financial compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, not all family members are entitled to compensation. Parties who may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit include the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents. Other blood relatives or adopted siblings who were financially supported or received other services from the deceased person may also be eligible to obtain financial compensation.
#3: Surviving Family Members May Be Entitled to Damages
If a wrongful death lawsuit succeeds, family members may be entitled to damages, which is the sum of money that the law provides for the breach of a duty or right. Many people suffer demonstrable financial losses after the death of a loved one, and damage is intended to compensate family members for those losses. Common damages that may be recovered in Florida wrongful death lawsuits include compensation for:
- The loss of support and services provided by the deceased to family members
- The deceased’s loss of companionship and protection
- Mental pain and suffering
- The loss of parental guidance, instruction and companionship
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
In addition, other types of damages may be paid directly to the deceased’s estate. For example, the estate may collect damages equal to the benefits and wages the deceased person likely would have earned during his or her lifetime had he or she survived. Furthermore, other damages paid by the estate as a result of the death may also be recovered as damages, such as money taken from the estate for medical treatment.
#4: Certain Elements Must be Proven to Win a Wrongful Death Claim
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the party seeking compensation, also called the plaintiff, must prove that the negligence of the other party, also called the defendant, resulted in the death of a loved one. To prove negligence in Florida, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed a legal duty to the decedent
- The defendant breached the duty owed to the decedent
- The decedent died because of the defendant’s breach
- As a result of the death, the decedent’s estate and beneficiaries suffered losses
#5: Time is of the Essence When Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
After the death of a loved one, there’s only a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If this deadline is missed, the beneficiaries and estate of a deceased person lose the chance to receive financial compensation for their losses. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. In Florida, the personal representative of an estate has two years after a person’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are exceptions that can extend the deadline. So, if you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another, you should contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you don’t miss your chance at financial compensation for your loss.
Contact Our Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
The experienced wrongful death lawyers at Harrell and Harrell, P.A., are here for you. Our experienced and knowledgeable team of personal injury attorneys at Harrell and Harrell vigorously represents the family members of people who have died due to the negligent actions of others. We’re proud of our track record of verdicts and settlements and are confident that we can help you achieve a satisfactory outcome in your wrongful death lawsuit. Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a talented wrongful death attorney.