Wrongful Death in Florida – Who Can Sue and What You Can Do

Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing a loved one to an accident or event that could have been avoided adds the pain of injustice to the pain of loss. If you have lost a loved one through an event that you believe was caused by negligence, please contact an expert in wrongful death cases to help you. Wrongful death lawsuits require an expert because they are not as straightforward as they may seem.

What is Wrongful Death?

The right to sue in the case of wrongful death is established in Florida’s Wrongful Death Act that specifically states:

768.19 Right of action.—When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person… and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person or watercraft that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured.

Therefore, any negligent, reckless, or intentional act on the part of an individual, organization, or institution, or any breach of warranty or contract, including product liability, which causes someone’s death, is a wrongful death. 

What Are Some Causes of Wrongful Death?

The causes are similar to causes of personal injury in Florida:

  • vehicle accidents (auto, motorcycle, train, bus, boat, airplane, bicycle)
  • pedestrian accidents
  • slip and falls
  • dog bites or other animal attacks
  • recreational activities (jet skiing, parasailing, rock diving, bungee jumping, parachuting, hang gliding)
  • sports injuries
  • product malfunction or liability
  • negligent care of premises, business or residential
  • workplace accidents
  • accidental drowning or poisoning
  • medical malpractice

Who Can Sue in a Wrongful Death Case?

It is critical to act quickly because the statute of limitations under the Florida Wrongful Death Act is two years. But who can sue for wrongful death?

The answer to this question is somewhat complicated. A lawsuit can be initiated by surviving family members, including spouse, children (minor or adult), parents, dependent blood relatives or adoptive siblings, or a child born outside of wedlock, assuming the parent has taken responsibility for the child. It can also be initiated by the estate or by an entity that the deceased named in a will as his or her personal representative.

Not all these people have the right to sue at the same time, however. For instance, if an adult dies leaving a spouse or dependent children, the parents of that adult cannot sue for wrongful death. But in any wrongful death case, there are a variety of damages that can be claimed by different individuals.

What Damages Can Be Claimed?

Some of the damages are similar to those involving personal injury:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of protection
  • Loss of support and services
  • Reimbursement for medical expenses and funeral expenses
  • Future lost earnings, including pension
  • Lost accumulated value of the estate and investments, had the person survived

Different family members can claim these damages – and some cannot. For instance, an adult child cannot claim damages for loss of protection or support (unless handicapped) but can claim damages for lost services, if the deceased had been providing ongoing service in some manner to the adult child.

As an expert in wrongful death lawsuits, I can help you determine the fullest extent of damages that can be claimed and by whom.

What Must Be Proven in Wrongful Death?

The criteria you must prove:

  1. The conduct of the defendant amounts to a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty
  2. The conduct caused the death of the decedent
  3. The victim would have had the right to sue the defendant if he/she had survived
  4. Those who have brought the suit have the right to do so under the law

These criteria sound straightforward, but if your attorney does not reference these elements in the initial complaint and establish that you have the supporting evidence, the judge is likely to dismiss the claim. In addition, defense attorneys have many strategies to undermine what would seem to be clear evidence. Therefore, your attorney must know the tactics defense attorneys use and develop powerful strategies to prevent these attacks or overcome them if they do arise.

What Should You Do if You Believe You Have a Wrongful Death Case?

Do not delay. Because of the two-year statute of limitations, you must act quickly. Contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

As a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer and a native of Florida, I am committed to helping residents all over Florida as well as visitors to our great state who have suffered personal injury or wrongful death here. Even if you are past the statute of limitations, call me immediately. In some cases, the “discovery” period applies, meaning that the statute begins when you discovered the negligence that caused the injury or death.

Because of my expertise and my reputation as an attorney who wins cases, defense lawyers respect me and often offer generous settlements to avoid expensive court cases. However, if they do not offer a reasonable settlement in a timely manner, I will take your case before a jury and fight for your rights.

Money cannot make up for the loss of your loved one; however, it can offer you a sense of closure, confidence that justice has been served, and the financial support you need to continue without the one you love. Contact me today at (954)448-7288 to see how I can help you.

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