When the negligent or wrongful act of one party results in the death of another person, Florida law allows the decedent’s survivors to seek compensation for losses caused by the death by filing a wrongful death claim. A survivor can be the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, if they are dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. A child born out of wedlock of a mother is considered to be a survivor, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act describes what damages a survivor can claim and the statute of limitation for taking legal action after a wrongful death.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Section 768.21 of Florida’s Wrongful Death Act lists what damages can be claimed in a wrongful death action:
- Each survivor is entitled to recover the value of lost support and services, starting from the date of the decedent’s injury to their death, with interest, along with future loss of support and services from the date of death.
- The surviving spouse can recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection as well as mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
- Minor children (those under the age of 25) of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, are allowed to recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, guidance, mental pain and suffering from the date of the decedent’s injury.
- Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of the child’s injury.
- Medical or funeral expenses related to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by a survivor who has paid them.
There’s a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida
However, the decedent’s survivors only have a limited time in which to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute of limitation for filing a wrongful death claim in Florida is almost always two years. Waiting until after the two year time limit may result in the court refusing to hear the case.
There’s an exception if the death was the result of a homicide or manslaughter. In 2010, the Florida Legislature passed what is known as the “Jeffrey Klee Memorial Act,” which removes the statute of limitations in cases involving homicide, allowing civil actions to be commenced at any time. Named after Jeffrey Walter Klee, whose body was found inside a van at the bottom of a Florida canal more than 30 years after he’d been killed, the Act recognizes the fact that it may take many years beyond the original date of injury before a victim’s body is recovered and/or to identify and apprehend the responsible party and bring them to justice.
Answers to Your Wrongful Death Questions
Only the decedent’s “survivors” can bring a wrongful death claim in Florida. “Survivors” means the decedent’s spouse, children, and parents. It can also mean blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters when they are partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services.
Some of the damages survivors are entitled to include:
– Funeral and burial costs
– Pain and suffering
– loss of services, financial support, companionship and/or parental guidance
The spouse of a decedent can also receive compensation for the loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection as well as mental pain and suffering. Damages for pain and suffering can also be collected by parents of a deceased child.
The most common causes of injury deaths in Florida are:
– Falls (Especially for those over 65.)
– Motor vehicle traffic accidents (The number one cause of injury deaths for those 10 – 24 years old and the second leading cause for those 25 – 64 years old.)
– Suffocation (Especially among infants.)
– Drowning (Especially for those ages 1-4.)
Most wrongful death cases have two sad features in common: most could have been prevented, and they can all be caused by negligence on the part of another individual or persons.
Did You Lose a Loved One Too Soon?
If you have lost a loved one and are unsure if you need to take action for a wrongful death claim in Winter Haven, Lakeland, Lutz or other Central Florida community, we urge you to reach out to Tania Rivas and the Rivas Law Group without delay.
Our personal injury attorneys are here to listen to your story and discuss your legal options. Don’t let the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida prevent you from getting the justice you — and your deceased love one — deserves.