wrongful death act

When someone dies as a result of the negligent or reckless conduct of another, whether it is from a car accident, a slip, and fall, or a construction accident, the victim’s family experiences a terrible loss. That loss should be compensated, and the party responsible for the victim’s death should provide that necessary compensation.  

The way that compensation flows to the loved ones of the victim to a fatal accident is through a wrongful death claim under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. Accordingly, in this article, we are going to discuss the Florida Wrongful Death Act in some detail.

If, after reading this article, you have more questions about your own circumstances, then the Jacksonville personal injury law firm, RITE Law, is here to help.  

At RITE Law, a Jacksonville personal injury law firm, we have your best interests at heart and have the training and resources to make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online.  We provide a free case evaluation, so call today.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

The concept of a wrongful death claim arises from the notion that a victim’s family suffers a loss that deserves compensation when an accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another result in the victim’s death. Thus, if you have a loved one who was killed in a car accident, you have a “wrongful death claim” on behalf of your loved one.  

In Florida, wrongful death claims are regulated by statute, specifically the Florida Wrongful Death Act. With regard to the statutory definition of “wrongful death,” the Florida Wrongful Death Act provides that a claim may be filed when the individual’s death was caused by “the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters.”

Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims?

While you may think that the spouse and/or family members of the deceased victim should be able to file a wrongful death claim because of the death of their loved one. In Florida, that is not so.  

The only individual who can file a wrongful death claim is the personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate. In other words, the person officially filing a wrongful death claim is the person who represents the interests of the victim now that he or she is deceased.

It is important to note, however, that the personal representative files the wrongful death claim on behalf of:  

  • The deceased person’s spouse,
  • The deceased person’s children, 
  • The deceased person’s parents, and
  • The blood relatives or adoptive siblings who are “partly or wholly” dependent on the decedent.

What Happens if the Deceased Does Not Have a Personal Representative?

Typically, a person selects a personal representative when he or she creates a last will and testament. Thus, if the deceased does have a will, then there is likely already a personal representative of the estate who can make a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased person’s survivors. 

If, however, the deceased did not have a will at the time of death (or if the personal representative is no longer alive) then a court will appoint a personal representative for the deceased’s estate.   

What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate survivors for their losses, not the losses suffered by the deceased person. Thus, typical damages claimed in a wrongful death suit include:

  • Loss of support and services to survivors. This type of compensation depends upon the survivors’ relationship to the deceased, the likely future income the deceased would have received, and the replacement value of the support that the deceased can no longer provide.
  • Loss of companionship for the surviving spouse. A deceased person’s spouse will normally be eligible to quantify and receive damages for lost companionship. While the spouse may not be able to receive any damages for the victim’s pain and suffering, a surviving spouse can certainly claim pain and suffering for their own emotional harm.
  • Loss of companionship for the surviving children. Damages can be claimed for a minor child’s loss of parental companionship and guidance. In addition, children, including adult children can claim damages for their own pain and suffering.
  • Pain and suffering for the surviving parents. A victim’s parents may also claim pain and suffering damages for the emotional harm they suffer.
  • Medical and funeral expenses. Compensation for the medical and funeral expenses for the deceased is also part of a wrongful death claim.

In addition to the above, the victim’s estate may also be able to claim its own damages. Those damages can include:

  • Loss of earnings (minus loss of support paid to survivors)
  • Loss of potential net accumulation of the deceased’s estate, and 
  • Medical and funeral expenses paid from the deceased’s estate.  

The personal representative has only two years from the time of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death claim. Therefore, there is not much time to bring a wrongful death claim.

Get the Help of the Jacksonville Personal Injury Law Firm – RITE Law.

At RITE Law, we started the firm for one reason – to help those in Florida and elsewhere have the resources of a firm that was “big enough to fight but small enough to care.” At Rudolph, Israel, Tucker & Ellis (RITE law), we have the resources and experience to go to trial when it is necessary, and we have the wisdom to advise you appropriately.  

Expect lots of attention, passionate representation, and a healthy disdain for big insurance companies. We believe that leads to the best result possible. Unlike larger firms, your case isn’t handed to a paralegal or assistant to do the heavy lifting. The attorney you meet initially is the one who will be by your side every step of the way. 

We also take pride in creating an atmosphere where every client is treated like family. Family members stick up for one another no matter what. You should expect nothing less from the RITE Law personal injury attorneys in Jacksonville.

Without help from the RITE team, making your own personal injury claims can be very difficult. When you turn to our firm, we spring into action, making sure that every detail of your claim is addressed. Call us for help. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so feel free to call us today.