Florida’s Wrongful Death Act

by Bonner Law | Sep 16, 2020 | Legal Questions/Issues

The death of a family member or loved one impacts a family for a lifetime. In addition to the inevitable grief, shock, and sadness, families may also face financial hardships due to the lost financial support of the deceased, medical bills and funeral expenses. When someone is killed because of the negligence of another or due to an intentional or even criminal act, or because of a defective product, a claim can be pursued under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.  If a loved one’s death is caused by the wrongful actions of another, family members can recover for their pain, suffering, and financial losses by filing a Wrongful Death claim against the responsible party.

Virtually any type of accident or incident that could lead to a claim for Personal Injuries can lead to a claim under the Wrongful Death Act if the injuries that are suffered cause death.  This includes Motor Vehicle Accidents, Trucking Accidents, Bicycle or Pedestrian accidents, Medical Malpractice, Boating Accidents, Work-Related Accidents, Defective Products, intentional acts or violent crimes.

 Unlike a claim for personal injuries, a claim for Wrongful Death must be brought under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act which is found in sections 786.16 – 768.26, Florida Statutes.  A claim for Wrongful Death can only be brought by the Personal Representative of the Estate of the Deceased.  This will be the person designated as the Personal Representative in the Decedent’s Will or, if there is no Will, whomever is appointed by the Probate Court.  The Personal Representative then brings the claim on behalf of the Estate and any eligible Survivors.  The statute provides specifically who can be a Survivor, and in some instances excludes certain family members from claiming certain damages.  Typically, Survivors include the Decedent’s Spouse, Children, and in certain cases, the Parents.

The Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim is two (2) years from the date of death.  It can be longer in the case of a claim for Medical Malpractice that caused a death.  The Wrongful Death Act specifically lists the damages that can be recovered and who can recover those damages.

Damages Recoverable

The type and amount of damages a statutory Survivor can recover depends on their relationship to the Decedent. Survivors who depended on the Decedent for financial Support can be reimbursed for the value of the lost Support prior to the death, and for the estimated value of the lost support in the future.  Survivors may also have a claim for lost Services such as cooking or cleaning or maintenance around the house.  In determining the value of the claim for Lost Support, the probable future income of the deceased had they not died prematurely will be calculated, and specific relationships of survivors will be considered. This means that closer family members will likely receive more reimbursement. The life expectancy of both the Decedent and the Survivors will be considered.

These determinations and calculations are often complicated, and an experienced Wrongful Death Attorney will know how to maximize the recovery of all the family members entitled to make a claim.  Survivors can also recover the cost of Medical Bills and Funeral Expenses that are incurred as a result of the Decedent’s injuries and death and the Estate can recover the value of what the Decedent would have accumulated and saved over a lifetime had there not been a premature death.

Additional damages for Mental Pain and Suffering that resulted from the unexpected death, include Pain and Suffering of the surviving family members as well as any potential Pain and Suffering of the Decedent prior to their death. Furthermore, Spouses can recover for Loss of Companionship, and children who lose a single Parent can also recover for loss of Parental Companionship, Guidance, and Instruction. These are only some of the possible Damages.

The Damages recoverable under Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute and include the following:

  • Medical, funeral and burial expenses, and Net Accumulations of the Estate;
  • Compensation for the Decedent’s Pain and Suffering from the time of injury to death;
  • Losses suffered by the Decedent’s Spouse, Children, or Next of Kin, including:
  • Pain and Suffering of the Statutory Survivors
  • Loss of Financial Support
  • Loss of Services
  • Loss of Gifts or other Valuable Gratuities
  • Loss of Parental Training and Guidance
  • Loss of Society and Companionship

If you have questions about whether you may have a claim under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, contact Bonner Law at 305-676-8800 for a free consultation. We have over 30 years of experience litigating Wrongful Death claims in Florida.