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What You Need To Know About the Florida Wrongful Death Act

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The sudden loss of a loved one due to someone’s negligence is a heart-wrenching ordeal. You’re not only grieving their absence, but also carrying the weight of anger and injustice. Navigating this legal landscape while in the midst of such profound grief can seem overwhelming. Yet, you don’t have to face this alone. This blog aims to empower you with knowledge about the Florida Wrongful Death Act, a legal framework designed to give you a voice and seek justice for your loss.

At Cohen and Juda, we understand you may have questions and concerns, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to listen, offer guidance, and help you move forward. Call our office at (954) 424-1440 to speak with one of our Florida wrongful death lawyers.

Overview of the Florida Wrongful Death Act

In Florida, the Florida Wrongful Death Act (also referred to as the “Act”) is found in Sections 768.16-768.26 of the Florida Statutes. The Act allows civil lawsuits to be filed if the death of a person occurs as a consequence of a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty by another person or entity.

Eligibility in a Wrongful Death Claim

Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, specific criteria determine who may file a wrongful death claim and the rights of beneficiaries.

Who Can File?

According to the Act, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim. This representative can be named in the deceased’s will or estate plan. If there is no will, the court may appoint a representative.

Standing to Sue

To have standing to sue, you must be a designated beneficiary as defined by the Act, which typically includes:

  • Spouse: The deceased’s legally married partner at the time of death
  • Children: The deceased’s biological or legally adopted children, including minors and adult children
  • Parents: The biological or adoptive parents if the deceased has no spouse or children
  • Relatives: Blood relatives or adoptive siblings who were partly or wholly dependent on the deceased

Beneficiaries and Their Rights

Beneficiaries in a wrongful death claim are entitled to specific damages per the Act:

  • Spouse: Loss of companionship and protection, and for mental pain and suffering
  • Children: Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering
  • Parents: For mental pain and suffering if no other beneficiaries exist
  • Others: May recover the value of lost support and services depending on their relationship to the deceased

Beneficiaries are allocated damages as the court deems fair, considering the unique circumstances of the case.

Examples of Wrongful Death Claims under the Florida Wrongful Death Act

Car Accident

  • A drunk driver collides with a vehicle, killing the passenger. The surviving spouse and children may file a wrongful death claim for lost support, medical expenses, funeral costs, and emotional distress.

Medical Malpractice

  • A surgeon makes a critical error during surgery, leading to the patient’s death. The deceased’s estate and surviving family members can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Slip and Fall

  • An elderly person falls on a poorly maintained sidewalk, sustaining fatal injuries. Their children can pursue a wrongful death claim against the property owner for negligence and lost companionship.

Product Liability

  • A faulty airbag deploys improperly in a car accident, causing the driver’s death. The family can claim damages against the manufacturer for the defective product and its fatal consequences.

Negligent Security

  • A security guard fails to stop a trespasser who assaults and kills a resident in an apartment complex. The victim’s family may sue the property owner for security negligence and resulting loss of life.

These are just a few examples, and the specific details of each case will determine the validity and potential outcome of a wrongful death claim. It’s crucial to remember that this information is not a substitute for legal advice and consulting with a qualified wrongful death lawyer in Florida experienced in wrongful death cases is highly recommended if you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence.

Damages and Compensation

Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, you may be entitled to a range of damages. These are financial awards aimed at compensating for losses resulting from the wrongful death.

Types of Damages

You may seek two main types of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are quantifiable costs such as:

  • Medical and Funeral Expenses: Costs incurred from the deceased’s injury and death
  • Lost Support and Services: Income and support that the deceased would have provided

Non-economic damages refer to:

  • Pain and Suffering: Mental and emotional anguish experienced by survivors.
  • Loss of Companionship: The value of emotional support and companionship lost.

Calculating Damages

Damages are calculated based on specifics, including:

  • Deceased’s Life Expectancy: Estimated years the deceased might have lived
  • Deceased’s Earning Capacity: Past wages and potential future earnings
  • Relationship to Survivors: Spouse and dependent children’s relationship affects claim amounts

The court or an insurance company uses these factors to arrive at a financial figure.

Distribution of Damages

The distribution of damages follows a clear structure:

  • Estate: Pays for the deceased’s medical and funeral expenses
  • Survivors: Dependents such as the spouse, children, and in some cases, parents, receive compensation according to the loss endured

The estate’s representative is responsible for ensuring a fair distribution of damages to entitled beneficiaries.

Legal Process and Requirements

Navigating the Florida Wrongful Death Act requires understanding its specific legal procedures and stringent requirements.

Statute of Limitations

Different statutes of limitations under Florida law determine the timeframe within which you must file your claim. These timelines vary depending on the nature of your case. It is highly recommended that you promptly consult with an attorney to understand how the statute of limitations may impact your claim relating to negligence, nursing home neglect, or wrongful death.

Proving Negligence

To successfully bring forward a wrongful death claim, you must establish:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant had a duty to act reasonably to avoid harm
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty through action or inaction
  3. Causation: The breach directly caused your loved one’s death
  4. Damages: You incurred measurable damages due to the death

Trial and Settlement Procedures

Discovery Phase: Both parties exchange information related to the claim.

  • Mediation: Before trial, you may engage in mediation to seek a settlement.

Trial: If no settlement is reached, the case goes to trial where:

  • Evidence is presented by both sides
  • Witnesses may be called to provide testimony

Judgment: Is based on the trial findings, with compensation awarded accordingly if your claim succeeds.

Understanding the intricacies of the Florida Wrongful Death Act can feel overwhelming, especially during a time of profound grief. But knowledge is power. By equipping yourself with this information, you take a vital step towards reclaiming a sense of control and finding justice for your loved one.

Honoring Your Loved One: Navigating Grief and Justice after Wrongful Death

The sudden loss of a loved one due to wrongful death is an incomprehensible tragedy. Grief and confusion fill the void, often alongside complex legal questions. You don’t have to navigate this alone.

At Cohen and Juda, we understand the unique challenges and burdens wrongful death families face. With over 30 years of experience, we are dedicated to:

  • Providing unwavering support: We offer compassionate guidance and understanding during this difficult time.
  • Protecting your rights: We will fight for fair compensation for your loss, holding responsible parties accountable.
  • Easing the legal burden: We’ll handle paperwork, insurance claims, and legal proceedings, allowing you to focus on healing.
  • Advocating for your loved one: We will ensure their memory and legacy are honored through justice.

Don’t hesitate to reach out. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have. Let us help you navigate this difficult path with unwavering support and dedicated legal expertise. Call us today at (954) 424-1440 or fill out our online form to speak with a South Florida wrongful death attorney. We are here for you and we will personally fight for your rights!

Copyright © 2024. Cohen and Juda, P.A. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (post) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Cohen and Juda P.A.
8211 W Broward Blvd, Suite 310
Plantation, FL 33324
(954) 424-1440

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