Tort law is an ancient area of the law that provides remedies for injuries to a person or property resulting from the negligent or intentional act of another. Personal injury tort remedies include compensatory and punitive damages arising from such wrongful acts.
Generally, the injured person or owner of the damaged property is the party who has the right (standing) to sue the wrongdoer. A problem exists when the wrongful act results in death as the wronged party is not around to file a claim.
How Wrongful Death Claim Differs From Torts
All states have enacted wrongful death statutes. The policy is that a deceased injured party should not be penalized by dying. A negligent act that ends a person’s life should not also kill his right to fair and reasonable compensation. His rights should survive.
The Florida wrongful death law differs from some other states in two important aspects. An experienced wrongful death attorney is needed to sort out the nuances of Florida law.
First, a wrongful death subject to the act includes death that is caused by negligence and intentional tort action. But in Florida, it also includes death that results from a breach of contract, a separate area of the law.
Second, Florida requires that a wrongful death action be brought only by the personal representative (e.g. executor) of the deceased. In some other states, the surviving heirs of the deceased can sue individually and collectively.
Who Can Bring a Claim For Wrongful Death In Florida?
A Florida wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by the executor of the deceased or any other personal representative of the victim. You will need the services of a wrongful death attorney. This is more of a formality since the executor is acting as a trustee for eligible surviving heirs. The executor’s complaint must identify itself as the personal representative of the deceased as well as list all of the eligible heirs.
The eligible surviving heirs are defined in Fla Statues §758.18 as “the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters.”
Damages awarded in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit depend on the identity of the eligible survivors. The decedent’s estate can be awarded the following damages:
- Loss of earnings from the date of the injury to the date of death.
- Medical and funeral expenses.
Each eligible survivor can recover:
- Value of lost support from the date of injury to the date of death.
- The present value of future loss of support from the date of death. That includes for each eligible survivor the decedent’s probable future net income that would be available for distribution to such survivor
In addition, the surviving spouse can recover:
- Compensation for loss of the decedent’s companionship, and
- Compensation for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
Minor children of the deceased may recover:
- Compensation for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, and
- Compensation for mental pain and suffering.
Punitive Damages And Jury Determinations
The jury will determine, measure, and award compensatory damages within the parameters set by the statute. Some settlements are subject to court approval. Your wrongful death lawyer will advise you about settlement options.
Punitive damages can be awarded in a wrongful death action. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded as punishment to the defendant for egregious conduct but also as a deterrent against future behavior. Florida limits punitive damages to three times compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is larger.
In the unfortunate death of a loved one due to another person’s negligence, you need the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. The Law Offices of John E. Mufson have more than 35 years of litigation experience, including wrongful death lawsuits. Contact us or call (561) 272-1003 today.