Wrongful Death Actions in Florida
If you have lost a spouse or family member because of someone else’s negligence or deliberate misconduct, you may have the right to sue the responsible party for wrongful death. A wrongful death claim might be appropriate where, for example, any of the following events directly causes death:
- medical malpractice;
- auto accidents;
- product liability;
- police brutality;
- work exposure to toxic substances; or
- on-the-job injury.
Elements of a wrongful death claim
Broadly, a wrongful death claim requires that the following elements be proved:
- death (generally of a spouse or close family member);
- caused by another’s negligence or misconduct; and
- the decedent would have had the right to sue for her injuries had she survived.
Sometimes, a wrongful death claim in civil court can follow a criminal conviction. A conviction, however, is not necessary because of the lower standard of proof employed in civil court. Whereas the prosecution in a criminal case must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the plaintiff in a civil case need prove liability only by a preponderance of the evidence. A “preponderance of the evidence” means that the plaintiff’s version of events is more likely true than not.
Moreover, the wrongful act responsible for the death need not be intentional. Misconduct resulting from negligence will also support a wrongful death claim.
Florida’s wrongful death statute
Florida, like most other states, has a wrongful death statute. (See §§ 768.16-768.26, Fla. Stat. (2015).) The statute specifies that a wrongful death action must be brought by the decedent’s personal representative, on behalf of the decedent’s survivors and estates. According to the statute, survivors include the decedent’s:
- parents; and
- any blood relatives or adoptive siblings who depend upon the decedent for support.
Additionally, a mother’s child born outside of marriage has an action for the mother’s death, but a father’s child born outside of marriage has no claim for the father’s death unless the father had recognized his responsibility for child support.
The personal representative may be someone named in the decedent’s will or estate plan to administer the estate, or may be appointed by the court. Courts will often appoint a surviving spouse as personal representative.
Damages available for wrongful death
Damages available under Florida’s wrongful death statute include:
- the value of lost support and services;
- lost companionship and protection (for the surviving spouse);
- mental pain and suffering;
- lost parental companionship, guidance and instruction (for any surviving minor children);
- medical and funeral expenses paid by the survivors, if any;
- loss of earnings (to the estate); and
- medical and funeral expenses paid by the estate, if any.
Consult an Orlando wrongful death lawyer
The Orlando wrongful death lawyers of The Baez Law Firm have experience throughout the state of Florida in helping family members and dependents find justice after the loss of a loved one because of another’s intentional or negligent misconduct. While nothing can bring back your loved one, the opportunity to recover damages can help ease your family’s burden during a difficult time. For a free consultation on your case, contact The Baez Law Firm today.