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Florida Wrongful Death Basics – Who Can Sue?

If someone you love dies due to another’s negligent or intentional act, you may be able to recover damages yourself for that death.  Florida laws regarding wrongful death claims are complex. What follows is some general information about the law, but there are exceptions to most of the situations described. Make sure you work with an attorney who is experienced in wrongful death claims and litigation to find out about your specific situation.

Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act (Florida Statute Section 768.16-26), the wrongful death claim is brought by the court appointed personal representative of the estate of the deceased, who shall recover for the benefit of the decedent’s “survivors” and “estate” all damage, as specified in the Act, caused by the injury resulting in death.   The beneficiaries of a recovery for wrongful death include the following “survivors,” which term is  defined under Section 768.18 to include:

  • The surviving spouse;
  • The decedent’s children;
  • The decedent’s parents; and/or
  • Other close relatives, such as siblings, that relied on the deceased for financial support.

The personal representative of the estate has a duty to both the survivors and the estate to allocate the proceeds of the wrongful death claim in a fair an equitable manner. University Medical Center v. Zeiler, 625 So.2d 120 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993).

Under Section 768.21 (1) each “survivor” may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value.  However, under Section 768.21(3), where there is no surviving spouse, only the children of the decedent, can recover damages for loss of parental companionship, instruction, guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of the injury.

Under Section 768.21(6), the personal representative may recover for the decedent’s estate “loss of the prospective net accumulations” which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present value, which may be recovered by lineal descendants.

Keep in mind that in cases where the wrongful death arose out of medical negligence, as opposed to a car accident or other type of negligent act, and the victim is not survived by a spouse, under Florida law, only children of the decedent who have not attained the age of 25 are entitled to recover damages for pain and suffering.

Experienced Clearwater Wrongful Death Attorney

Florida law governing wrongful death claims are complex. It is important to have a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help you after the tragic loss of a loved one. The skilled Clearwater wrongful death attorneys with Roman & Roman, P.A., can help you navigate this complex area of the law.

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