Understanding the Florida Wrongful Death Statute

The sudden loss of a loved one from another’s carelessness can leave family members wondering how to find justice. A Florida wrongful death claim might be the answer.

If you have lost a loved one, and you’d like to discuss your case with an experienced wrongful death attorney, we are ready to listen.

Call us to talk to an experienced Florida wrongful death attorney near you at one of our local offices listed below, or complete the short form to speak with an attorney from Abrahamson & Uiterwyk.


What is a Florida Wrongful Death Claim?

florida wrongful death statute

A wrongful death claim is a legal action brought by the survivors of a person killed by the negligent, intentional, or reckless behavior of another person.

Money cannot bring a loved one back. However, the Florida wrongful death act can hold the defendant accountable and offer some comfort to grieving family members.

Deciding to file a wrongful death claim after the death of a loved one is a deeply personal choice. When you are ready to talk with a wrongful death attorney, our legal team at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk is here to help you pursue justice.

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If the worst has occurred, and you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident involving someone else’s negligence, there are laws in the State of Florida designed to assist the families in recovering some compensation and support.

The specific statute, section 768.19, entitled “Right of Action”, provides that “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person,” the estate of the deceased person can choose to file a lawsuit in civil court.

The lawsuit is an independent proceeding from any criminal charges the state might bring, and it is intended to enable the estate to seek financial compensation for the loss resulting from the wrongful death. 

Section 768.19 is also sometimes referred to as the “Wrongful Death Act.”

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Florida?

The Florida wrongful death statute allows the victim’s estate to sue on behalf of the surviving family members. The personal representative can bring a case against a person whose “wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty” caused the victim’s death.

If the victim lived and could have recovered damages against the defendant, then the personal representative may be able to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate instead.

If the victim appointed a representative in a will, that person can act as the plaintiff. If the victim did not leave a will, the personal representative is the surviving spouse or one of the victim’s other family members.

The personal representative is the plaintiff in a wrongful death action. However, the representative recovers any damages for the benefit of the victim’s surviving family members and/or the estate.

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What Are Common Causes Of Wrongful Death In Florida?

Wrongful death claims arise out of many types of conduct. However, several common causes of wrongful death include:

  • Car accidents
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Unsafe commercial and residential premises
  • Medical malpractice
  • Dangerous products
  • Preventable child deaths including accidental drowning, and accidental poisoning.
  • Professional negligence or malpractice

If your loved one died because of another person’s misconduct, contact our wrongful death lawyers. You might be able to file a wrongful death claim.

How Much Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida Worth?

We understand that in many cases, wrongful death claims are filed for two reasons: to achieve justice for the wrongdoing, and to provide financial stability when your world has been turned upside down through the loss of a loved one.

Unfortunately, because each case has a unique set of facts, there is no meaningful way to determine the average value of a wrongful death claim.

If you would like an educated determination of how much your wrongful death lawsuit is worth in Florida, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney.

They will be able to evaluate the facts of the case, conduct investigations if necessary, determine the kinds of damages you should seek, and present the best course of action to receive maximum compensation for your loss.

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What Damages May Be Claimed in a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Florida Wrongful Death Damages That Can Be Claimed by Relatives

In Florida, wrongful death damages available to surviving relatives are set out in Florida Wrongful Death Statute section 768.21.

Mental pain and suffering

Certain surviving family members might recover damages for their personal pain and suffering caused by the death of their loved one.

Not all relatives can recover for pain and suffering. A surviving spouse and a child under the age of 25 are generally eligible for these damages.

However, an adult child can recover pain and suffering damages if there is no surviving spouse, except in medical malpractice claims.

The surviving parents of the victim can recover these damages if there is no surviving spouse or minor children, unless medical malpractice is the basis for the wrongful death claim.

Loss of companionship and protection

Certain surviving relatives can also recover damages for loss of guidance, instruction, cooperation, and support. A surviving spouse and a minor child are eligible for loss of companionship and protection damages.

An adult child might recover these damages, but only if there is no surviving spouse.

Loss of support and services

Each surviving family member might recover lost past and future contributions of the deceased. Contributions include money, property, and physical labor.

For example, a surviving spouse might recover the value of housekeeping services that the deceased spouse contributed and would have continued to contribute if not for their unexpected death.

Medical bills and funeral expenses 

Any family member who pays for the victim’s medical and funeral expenses might recover those expenses as damages. If the decedent’s estate paid the costs, the estate can recover the loss in damages.

Damages That Can Be Claimed by the Estate

The deceased’s estate might also recover the following damages:

Lost earnings

The estate might recover future lost earnings of the victim. Future lost earnings include, for example, pension benefits that the deceased likely would have earned.

Lost accumulation of value of the estate

The estate also may be able to recover the value of investments or income that the estate would have accumulated if the victim had not died.

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How Is a Florida Wrongful Death Settlement Paid Out?

Under the wrongful death statute in Florida, the compensation from a settlement or jury award must be distributed equally among all beneficiaries. If the adult beneficiaries can come to an agreement on a specific plan for allocation, the court will generally honor that agreement.

There are some special situations where the court will intervene including:

  • Liens against the estate of the deceased are taken from the portion of the wrongful death settlement awarded to the estate and not from survivors.
  • Under the Florida Guardianship Law, a guardian must be appointed to allocate disbursement of funds for a minor child until that child becomes an adult.
  • Dependent adults have the same priority as minor children if they were fully dependent on the deceased for financial support. This is often the case with a mental or physical disability.
  • Attorney fees are typically deducted from the survivor awards and estate. These are paid by the personal representative.

If the decedent’s personal representative is a spouse, an administrator ad litem (during litigation) may be appointed by the court. This ensures fair distribution of funds.

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What Must Be Proven to Win a Wrongful Death Case in Florida?

In a claim for wrongful death, Florida law requires the plaintiff to prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant’s tortious conduct: The defendant’s intentional, negligent, or reckless actions amount to a claim for damages under personal injury or contract law.
  2. The victim’s right to sue the defendant: The victim would have been able to bring a personal injury claim against the defendant for damages if the victim had survived.
  3. Identification of the representative and family members: A personal representative of the victim’s estate and the surviving family members have been identified.
  4. Causation and damages: The defendant’s conduct caused personal or financial injuries to the surviving family members or the victim’s estate.

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How Can a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Help?

Coping with the loss of a loved one while trying to navigate the complex legal system is undoubtedly stressful and overwhelming. It is easy to become frustrated and feel helpless.

An experienced Florida wrongful death attorney near you can help alleviate some of the pressure of what you are going through by providing confident legal representation. Here are some of the ways a Florida wrongful death attorney can help you with your case:

  • Provide an initial evaluation of your case to determine the best course of action;
  • Timely file all necessary documents and paperwork required by the legal system;
  • Independently investigate your wrongful death claim to gather evidence for your case;
  • Determine how much compensation is appropriate for your wrongful death claim;
  • Negotiate with insurance companies for adequate compensation; and
  • Prepare for and participate in trial proceedings if a settlement cannot be agreed upon.

Legal representation from a Florida wrongful death attorney can not only save you time and money, it can also give you valuable peace of mind.

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Speak With an Experienced Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Near You at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk

If your family member has died because of someone’s carelessness, you may feel confused and overwhelmed, and understandably so.

At Abrahamson & Uiterwyk, our compassionate attorneys are ready to discuss your options for moving forward with a wrongful death suit.

Losing your loved one is immeasurable in dollar amounts. However, we can seek justice for you, your family, and your loved one by holding the responsible party accountable for their actions.

When you are ready to speak with us, schedule your free case consultation online or call our office at 800-538-4878.

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