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Unexpectedly Losing a Loved One Is Devastating, But a Personal Injury Lawyer in Florida Can Help You Recover Compensation.
Generally, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by someone else’s actions or negligence. A wrongful death case may arise from any number of scenarios, such as a car wreck caused by reckless driving, death occurring because of a criminal act, an intentional attack or medical malpractice.
In Florida, thousands of people die every year because of someone else’s actions. For instance, more than 3,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2017. Regardless of the cause of wrongful death, Florida has specific statutes in place to protect family members who have lost their loved ones.
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act (Statute 768.19) establishes guidelines for dependents of those killed by someone else’s actions. A wrongful death lawsuit can only be brought if a person’s death “is caused by the wrongful death, negligence, default or breach of contract” of another party. While other states allow family members to file a lawsuit, the State of Florida only allows the decedent’s (that is, deceased’s) estate to file this type of lawsuit.
This means a representative of the estate must file the lawsuit. That representative may be named in the decedent’s will or other forms of the estate plan. If there isn’t a representative named by the decedent, the state will appoint one. They may appoint a family member or another party, such as the estate’s attorney.
Regardless of who the representative is, he/she must list every living family member who may be entitled to compensation. This may include the decedent’s:
- Children (including a child born to unwed parents in most cases)
- Other blood relatives or adoptive siblings who were partially or completely dependent on the decedent
It’s important to note that, if the decedent was a male and had a child from a non-marital relationship, and the man did not recognize the child as his own and/or was not obligated to support the child, the child may not be entitled to compensation.
Seeking compensation after the death of a loved one can be a difficult process for a variety of reasons. The personal injury and wrongful death attorney Steve Hoskins understands this process intimately. With over 30 years of experience, our attorneys have helped hundreds of families recover compensation after the death of their loved one because of someone else’s actions.
What Kinds of Damages Can Be Recovered in Wrongful Death Cases?
Wrongful death cases are civil claims. This means that, even if the death occurred because of a criminal act, and the offending party is found not guilty, you may still be able to recover compensation. It also means the lawsuit is brought by the decedent’s estate, not a government entity.
In a wrongful death case, the decedent’s family and estate may be entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include any to which an objectively verifiable monetary amount can be established, such as lost wages. Noneconomic damages are more subjective, such as for pain and suffering.
In Florida, certain types of damages are reserved for families, while others are reserved for the estate. Damages reserved for the decedent’s family include:
- Medical or funeral expenses specifically paid for by a surviving family member
- Loss of companionship, protection, guidance, and consortium provided by the decedent
- The value of services and support provided to a surviving family member by the decedent (for example, the loss of the services of a spouse who mainly took care of the children)
- Emotional and mental pain and suffering because of the loss of a child
For the most part, families are entitled to non-economic damages. On the other hand, the estate is entitled to economic damages resulting from wrongful death, including:
- Lost wages, benefits and other earnings
- The value of future earnings, including increased income levels, the decedent could have reasonably been expected to earn
- Lost prospective net accumulations of the estate, meaning the increased value of the estate that could be reasonably expected if the decedent had lived
- Any funeral and/or medical expenses directly paid by the estate, not by surviving family members
A personal injury wrongful death attorney can assist a decedent’s estate representative to calculate a reasonably accurate estimation of the amount of compensation owed to the family and estate.
What Happens to Compensation Paid to the Estate?
When a wrongful death lawsuit is complete and compensation is distributed, compensation specifically owed to family members will be dispersed on a schedule dictated by the court. Compensation paid toward the estate, however, is handled differently.
The representative of the estate is responsible for making sure compensation paid to the estate is distributed into the correct accounts. Once dispersed, this compensation will be treated in the same way that the rest of the estate is treated, according to the decedent’s will or other estate planning documents. A wrongful death attorney can provide more information on the matter.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Florida
Like every state, Florida has a time limit, or statute of limitations, for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, the decedent’s estate must bring a wrongful death suit within two years of the decedent’s death. However, there are exceptions.
In very specific circumstances, the statute of limitations may be postponed, or “tolled.” One of the most common reasons is related to the discovery rule. If it wasn’t immediately apparent that the decedent’s death was caused by someone else’s actions or negligence, the two-year clock may begin when that cause is discovered.
There are other reasons the statute of limitations may be tolled, such as:
- The defendant is out of state
- The defendant can’t be served because they are in hiding, are using a false name or otherwise can’t be found
Because tolling the statute of limitations is extremely rare, it’s important to speak with an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney about your unique case.
Find Justice for Your Loved One’s Death with the Help of a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney
Attorney Steve Hoskins knows that no amount of money can bring back the comfort and affection your loved one provided. But with proper compensation, you and your family can begin to recover financially and begin building your life again.
Our personal injury wrongful death attorneys have the experience, skills, and knowledge to help you recover the compensation you deserve. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, during which we will review the details of your case and provide insight into what we believe is the best legal path forward.
Contact us online or call us at 866-460-1990 to speak with an experienced attorney today.
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