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The Basics of Wrongful Death Claims

There is no easy way to deal with the death of a loved one. That situation is made exponentially more difficult if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s actions. These kinds of accidental deaths include everything from car crashes to motorcycle accidents, truck wrecks to accidents on the job, medical malpractice to hazardous chemical exposure, adverse drug reactions to defective products. Those who suffer the unnecessary loss of a loved one may be able to hold the responsible parties accountable.

Florida’s wrongful death statute limits eligibility to file suit to the deceased person’s immediate family members (spouses, children, parents) and certain financial dependents. However, legal complexities, exceptions, and changes necessitate consulting an attorney who can evaluate your position in relation to a potential wrongful death claim.

If you think a loved one has died due to another’s carelessness, negligence or misconduct, it is a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to preserve evidence for your claim. The statute of limitations requires that a claim be filed within a certain period of time or you will forever lose the right to do so. According to Florida law, you have two years to file a claim from the date of the victim’s death. For example, if your loved one died from injuries sustained in an accident or incurred due to long-term chemical exposure, the clock begins to run not from the date of the accident or exposure, but from the time of death.

The exact amount of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death case is determined by several factors, including the victim’s life expectancy and the circumstances surrounding the death. Monetary damages may include compensation for:

  • Medical, funeral, and burial expenses
  • The victim’s pain or suffering
  • The loss of the victim’s financial support
  • Future services normally provided by the victim
  • The loss of the victim’s companionship
  • The loss of the victim’s parental training and guidance.

If someone’s negligent or reckless actions have caused the death of a loved one, it is your right to seek legal advice and discuss your options. However, Florida law limits those who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to the victim’s survivors, defined as the decedent’s:

  • Spouse
  • Children (those under age 25 are entitled to higher damages)
  • Parents
  • Dependent blood relatives
  • Dependent adopted siblings
  • Children born out of wedlock of a mother
  • Children born out of wedlock of a father IF he has taken responsibility for the child’s support.

Dependency is measured by whether the person relied on the victim for support or services. “Support” consists of contributions in kind as well as money, while “services” means tasks regularly performed by the deceased victim that will be a necessary expense to the survivor. There are many limits on recovery by the different categories of survivors and special rules that can greatly complicate the matter, meaning that each situation should be carefully analyzed.

Lawsuits involving a fatality can be very complex, so if you have lost a loved one or if you have any questions about this topic, talk to the wrongful death attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, we have helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies for over 45 years. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us today by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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