What is wrongful death? An action against an individual or company for negligently causing the death of a person is called a “wrongful death action”.
It is different from a case where someone is injured by another but then dies from some other cause (such as a person suffering from terminal cancer is hurt in a car accident and subsequently dies from the cancer, not the accident).
Those cases are called “survival actions” because the right to bring a case survives after the injured person dies.
In order to bring a wrongful death action in Florida a “personal representative” of the decedent’s estate must be appointed by the probate division of the court. The personal representative is most often a surviving spouse or other family member but does not have to be. The personal representative is a figurehead responsible for accumulating and dispensing the assets of the estate (and bringing the lawsuit).
Who can recover for the death of a loved one?
The Florida Wrongful Death Act is found in sections 768.16 to 768.26 Florida Statutes. It sets forth just who can recover in a lawsuit.
A surviving spouse may recover the value of lost support and services in the past and future and for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering (grief).
Children can recover for loss of support and services. Minor children (and all children if there is no surviving spouse) can recover for lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance and for mental pain and suffering. (Beware that the laws on medical malpractice are somewhat more restrictive).
Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering. If there are no survivors the same may be recovered for each parent of an adult child (again medical malpractice has special restrictions).
The “estate” can recover loss of earnings of the deceased (less what he or she would have paid the survivors for support) and loss of “net accumulations” of the estate (basically what the deceased would have had left at the end of a normal life span).
Generally, wrongful death actions have a 2 year time limit on filing a lawsuit but any particular case may have circumstances that change the applicable rules. An attorney must hear the particulars of your case to give any valid advice.