Seeking Justice: Understanding Wrongful Death Laws

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By Marcus Fernandez

The loss of a loved one is always a challenging time for surviving family members. It’s more difficult when someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct causes the loss. Nothing can replace a departed loved one, but wrong death claims offer a way for a family to recover damages. This may ease the financial distress caused by the loss of monetary support the deceased relative provided. Wrongful death laws give family members the ability to recover damages caused by the death of a loved one. 

This comprehensive guide to wrongful death claims focuses on the rights of a family to seek justice when negligent behavior and intentional misconduct cause the death of a loved one. Learn how the trusted attorneys at KFB Law are with you at each step of the journey to hold the at-fault party accountable for your tragic loss.

What is a wrongful death claim?

People die from illness and injuries all the time. The law designates a death caused by the wrongful act of another person or entity as a “wrongful death.” A wrongful death under Florida law is caused by the wrongful conduct of another party, including:

  • Negligence
  • Careless and reckless behavior
  • Medical malpractice
  • Conduct intended to cause injury or death, including the commission of a criminal act
  • Defective  product 

For example, a driver reading a text message on a cellphone could be found negligent for being distracted, failing to stop at a red light, and killing a pedestrian crossing the street. An injured pedestrian would have the right to recover damages to compensate for their losses through a personal injury claim. However, the death of the pedestrian creates a wrongful death claim.

A personal injury claim is brought by the injured person against the party whose fault caused the accident. A wrongful death claim under Florida Law is brought by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. A wrongful death claim is brought for the benefit of the deceased person’s estate and surviving members of their family.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed by an estate representative in Florida

The wrongful death law in Florida differs in a critical way from the laws in some states because it does not authorize the spouse, children, or other surviving members of a decedent’s family to file a lawsuit. Instead, a lawsuit claiming damages for causing the wrongful death of a decedent must be brought by the court-appointed representative of the estate of the deceased. 

When a person dies leaving a last will, the estate’s representative is called an “executor.” If a person dies without a will, the personal representative for the estate is called an “administrator.”

An estate representative has only two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a lawsuit to recover damages. An important exception to the two-year rule applies in cases where the death was the result of murder or manslaughter. These are criminal offenses. An estate representative can file a wrongful death claim at any time. Whether or not the person responsible for committing the crime has been arrested, charged, or convicted does not change the fact that the two-year statute of limitations does not apply to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Damages awarded in wrongful death cases 

Nothing can bring back a loved one caused by the acts of another party. Still, the law holds the at-fault party accountable by awarding damages to the estate and surviving members of the decedent’s family. Surviving family members include the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. It also includes blood relatives, including adoptive brothers or sisters, who depended on the decedent for support.

Damages that may be awarded to the surviving family members may include the following:

  • Compensation for lost financial support and services of the deceased.
  • Compensation for loss of companionship and services of the deceased.
  • Mental pain and suffering caused by the death.
  • Medical expenses and funeral expenses that a family member paid.

Children can recover damages for losing parental guidance, companionship, and instruction.

Estates in a wrongful death claim may recover wages and earnings lost by the decedent, funeral and medical expenses paid by the estate, and the anticipated future value of the estate had the decedent survived.

Get help from a Tampa wrongful death attorney

Wrongful death claims are complicated and require the services of experienced legal counsel. The personal injury attorneys at KFB Law have years of experience recovering compensation for estates and surviving members of the families of people killed through the conduct of others. Contact KFB Law for a free consultation.