Understanding Florida’s Wrongful Death Act
Losing someone you love is one of the most traumatic, heartbreaking experiences anyone can suffer through in life. This blog is meant as an informational resource for you and your family so that you are able to understand the specifics of a wrongful death action, and discover what you can do to recover the compensation that you deserve.
What Exactly is a “Wrongful Death” Action?
Basically, a wrongful death is when someone is killed as the result of the willful or negligent acts of another person. Under Florida law, when someone dies because of the wrongful conduct of another person, then the heirs of the victim have the right to file a wrongful death legal action against the person, or entity, that caused their loved one’s death.
A wrongful death case is a civil action where money damages are pursued. Obviously, no amount of money will ever be able to bring your loved one back to you, but financial damages are what the law affords in the civil realm. It is a completely separate action from any criminal charges that may have been filed against the party, or entity, that caused your loved one’s death.
The Party That Can Pursue the Wrongful Death Action
When someone passes away, they may leave behind a spouse, children, parents, etc. Who has the responsibility of taking legal action? A wrongful death action may be filed by the personal representative of the decedent. This can actually be anyone who is able to be appointed the personal representative by a court. The personal representative can be a family member, the victim’s spouse, or their attorney. This is the person responsible for recovering all damages caused by the death for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate.
Wrongful Death Codified
The Florida Wrongful Death Act is defined and set forth in §§ 768.16-768.26. According to this state statute, when a death is caused by a wrongful act, negligence, etc. and if the victim would have survived if not for the wrongful act, negligence, etc. then a wrongful death action can be filed by the estate’s personal representative.
Wrongful Death Damages
A wrongful death action allows the personal representative to pursue the “total value of lost support and services” beginning from the date of injury resulting in the death of the decedent. The types of damages that can be pursued include:
- Loss of companionship, protection and mental pain and suffering;
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance, along with mental pain and suffering (if the decedent is survived by children);
- Surviving parents of a child who died can seek damages for mental pain and suffering;
- Medical expenses; and
- Funeral expenses.
If Money is Recovered, Who Gets What?
The potential beneficiaries who may receive any money that is obtained either through settlement or judgment must be identified in the complaint and their relationships to the decedent must be stated. This helps prevent a mysterious cousin twice removed from suddenly showing up when a settlement is reached from claiming that they are entitled to a percentage of the funds obtained.
Time to Take Action
If you lost a loved one and believe their death was caused by the negligence of another person or entity, contact Gillette Law, P.A. to set up a free, confidential case analysis in Jacksonville or Brunswick. During this analysis, our team will review the facts and determine the best course of action. Again, there is no cost involved with such an analysis and we are here to help you and your loved ones.