Personal Injury Lawyers
Tampa, Florida

How Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work In Florida?

Everything you need to know about wrongful death claims

Navigating the legal aftermath of a loved one's death due to negligence can be daunting, especially when considering the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida to seek damages. The legal process can be overwhelming and confusing to navigate alone, especially for grieving families who are still mourning the loss of their loved one.

That's why having an experienced wrongful death lawyer by your side is essential. At Armando Personal Injury Law in Tampa, FL, we are here to provide the support your family needs to navigate this complex journey with confidence.

What is a wrongful death?

Wrongful death in Florida refers to a situation where someone dies due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another party. In legal terms, a wrongful death occurs when the conduct of the responsible party would have entitled the injured person to pursue a personal injury claim had they survived.

Common examples of incidents that may lead to wrongful death claims include car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, defective products, and violent crimes. If you believe your loved one's death was the result of someone else's wrongful actions, it's crucial to seek legal guidance to understand your rights and options for pursuing justice and compensation.

The difference between wrongful death and murder

While the terms "wrongful death" and "murder" may seem alike, they carry distinct legal meanings. Murder entails the deliberate killing of another individual, resulting in criminal charges. In contrast, wrongful death cases do not involve intentional harm.

Wrongful death claims arise from instances where negligence, recklessness, or misconduct leads to someone's death.  Notably, wrongful death lawsuits are civil matters, separate from criminal proceedings, even if criminal charges are pursued in connection with the death.

What are the elements of a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit typically involves several key elements that must be established to pursue a successful claim. These elements often include:

  • Duty of Care: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased individual. This duty typically arises from the relationship between the parties, such as the duty of motorists to operate vehicles safely or the duty of medical professionals to provide adequate care.
  • Breach of Duty: It must be shown that the defendant breached this duty of care through negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. This breach could involve actions such as driving under the influence, medical malpractice, or failure to maintain a safe environment.
  • Causation: The plaintiff must establish that the defendant's breach of duty directly caused the death of the individual. This requires demonstrating that the defendant's actions were a substantial factor in bringing about the fatal injuries.
  • Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered compensable damages as a result of the wrongful death. These damages may include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, and emotional distress.

Again, successfully navigating these elements often requires the help of a skilled wrongful death attorney who can gather evidence, build a strong case, and advocate on behalf of the deceased individual's loved ones.

Which courts handle wrongful death lawsuits in Florida?

In Florida, civil lawsuits that go to trial are often handled by two types of courts – Florida Circuit Civil Courts and Florida County Civil Courts.

Florida County Civil Courts generally handle civil lawsuits in which the plaintiff is seeking less than $50,000 from the defendant. There are 67 county courts in Florida organized by geographic location. Each Florida County Court has jurisdiction over a specific geographic location.

Florida Circuit Civil Courts generally handle civil lawsuits involving the plaintiff seeking more than $50,000 from the defendant. There are 20 circuit courts in the state, including Florida’s Thirteenth Circuit Court, which is located in Tampa and has jurisdiction over Hillsborough County.

Because most wrongful death lawsuits involve a significant amount of money, many choose to file wrongful death lawsuits in a Florida Circuit Civil Court.

How much time do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

From the date of your loved one’s death, eligible family members have two (2) years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. If you do not file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of your loved one’s death, you will likely forfeit your right to take legal action seeking compensation for your family’s loss.

Who can recover in a wrongful death case in Florida?

Florida has strict rules and regulations regarding who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. According to Florida Statute 786.18 and Florida Statute 786.19, the deceased person’s spouse, parents and minor children under 25 years old can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Florida statutes state that children can include “any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters.”

In addition, only one wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by eligible family members in Florida. So, if more than one family member wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit, family members must appoint a single representative to file the lawsuit and serve as the plaintiff on behalf of all family members.

How are wrongful death settlements calculated?

While there is no fixed formula, various elements are typically considered to determine the value of a wrongful death settlement. These may include:

  • Economic Damages: This encompasses quantifiable financial losses such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and loss of future earnings or financial support.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These are less tangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress, and the impact on the surviving family members' quality of life.
  • Circumstantial Factors: The specific circumstances of the case, including the nature and severity of the wrongful act, the age and health of the deceased, and the impact on surviving family members, all play a role in determining the final settlement amount.

Ultimately, the value of a wrongful death settlement depends on the unique details of each case and may vary significantly based on these factors. An attorney experienced in handling wrongful death claims can provide valuable insight into the potential value of your case.

Building a successful wrongful death claim

In a Florida wrongful death lawsuit, evidence plays a crucial role in establishing negligence and supporting the legal claim. Here are some types of evidence commonly used to substantiate such cases:

  • Security Camera Footage: Video evidence, particularly from security cameras, can be pivotal, especially if it captures the circumstances leading to the fatal incident. For instance, footage of a slip and fall accident in a poorly maintained area can provide compelling evidence of negligence.
  • Medical Records: Detailed medical records of the deceased can offer insight into the cause and extent of the injuries leading to death, strengthening the case for negligence.
  • Inspection Records: Records indicating a lack of proper inspections or maintenance, especially in cases involving hazardous conditions, can be vital evidence supporting claims of negligence.
  • Police Records: Documentation from police reports or investigations can be instrumental, particularly in cases such as fatal car accidents, where police reports often provide crucial details about the circumstances and parties involved.
  • Eyewitness Testimonies: Statements from individuals who witnessed the incident firsthand can provide valuable accounts of what transpired, corroborating the events leading to the wrongful death.

By presenting a comprehensive range of evidence, plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits can effectively demonstrate negligence and seek the justice and compensation they deserve.

Common insurance company tactics

In wrongful death claims, insurance companies often employ various tactics to minimize payouts or deny liability altogether. Some common strategies include:

  • Delaying Settlements: Insurance companies may deliberately prolong the claims process, hoping to pressure grieving families into accepting lower settlements due to financial strain or emotional distress.
  • Disputing Liability: Insurers may dispute liability or shift blame onto the deceased or other parties involved, casting doubt on the validity of the claim and reducing their financial responsibility.
  • Undervaluing Damages: Insurance adjusters may downplay the extent of damages, including medical expenses, lost income, and emotional suffering, in an effort to offer inadequate settlements that fail to cover the full scope of losses.
  • Offering Quick Settlements: In some cases, insurers may offer swift, lowball settlements soon after the incident, exploiting the vulnerability of bereaved families and hoping to avoid higher payouts that may result from further investigation or legal action.
  • Surveillance and Investigation: Insurance companies may conduct surveillance or investigations into the claimant's activities, seeking evidence to undermine the severity of the loss or challenge the legitimacy of the claim.

How a wrongful death lawyer can help

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida can be extremely complicated because the stakes are often high. In most cases, family members only have one opportunity to obtain all the money they need for a lifetime’s worth of financial losses due to their loved one’s death.

Because the stakes are so high in wrongful death claims, the at-fault party and their insurance company often hire an entire legal team to defend their actions. Our law firm can level the playing field and fight for the financial compensation your family deserves.

Tampa wrongful death attorney Armando Edmiston and our dedicated legal team have years of experience handling complicated and sensitive legal cases. As a result, we can be there for you when your family truly needs our support.

Get the law firm that gets results. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with a Tampa wrongful death lawyer you can count on in a crisis. We can answer your questions, explain your options, and get right to work on your legal case.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, "How Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work In Florida?"

Free Consultation Contact Us
Contact Us