Who may file a wrongful death case in Florida?

When a person dies in an accident caused by negligence, his or her loved ones can find their lives impacted on many levels. However, not everyone can file a wrongful death case.

Florida law allows two types of claimants to sue for wrongful death. The first type includes the decedent’s spouse, children, parents and dependent blood or adoptive relatives. They are collectively referred to as “survivors.” The second category is the “estate,” which is the legal collective designation for the decedent’s property that is left behind. The estate’s beneficiaries include those who get a portion of the estate under the terms of a will or of Florida’s intestacy statutes, in the absence of a will. The estate can sue through a personal representative, who files a claim on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Damages available to the estate

The estate may recover damages for medical and funeral expenses due to the injury, lost earnings and net accumulations. Recovery for lost earnings may be available in a case where the decedent did not die immediately after the accident but did lose earnings due to injuries. Net accumulations refer to the sum of what the decedent would have left behind had he or she lived out a natural lifespan. Projecting net accumulations can involve complex calculations and projections based on the decedent’s earning potential, investments, prior earnings, expenses, financial habits and many other factors.

Additional damages available to survivors

Survivors may recover additional forms of damage for mental pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of guidance (if a parent died), loss of support and services. Support and services generally consist of practical tasks the decedent used to perform, which the survivors will now have to pay someone to do. On the other hand, loss of companionship may be difficult to quantify and will often depend on individual circumstances, such as the specific relationship between the decedent and the survivors.

Limitations

In some cases, damages may be unavailable or limited. For example, Florida places a cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases of medical malpractice, although courts have carved out exceptions under specific circumstances.

Evaluating damages in a Florida wrongful death case can offer complex challenges. An experienced attorney can assess your case and provide the information and support you need to proceed.