Losing a loved one is painful, especially when the death is unexpected or traumatic. It’s even worse when it could have been avoided altogether. If someone’s negligence caused the death, it’s normal for the family to want to hold them accountable.

Wrongful death claims allow a grieving family to do that. These lawsuits force negligent parties to answer for their actions in court. These cases can also provide invaluable financial support to the family. This is particularly important for those struggling financially without the support of their loved ones.

Florida Wrongful Death Act

The Florida Wrongful Death Act is a collection of statutes that govern wrongful death lawsuits. The purpose of the law is to help ease the financial burden on family members after the loss of a loved one. The statutes define who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, the circumstances, and the recoverable damages.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

You only have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit if the decedent could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had the person not died. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the decedent, breached that duty, and the breach was the direct cause of death. 

You can also prove a wrongful death case based on breach of contract or a products liability theory.

The Doctrine of Comparative Negligence  

Sometimes the decedent contributes to the accident that results in death. For example, the decedent wasn’t wearing a seatbelt or ignored signs about a slippery floor in a grocery store. 

Even if the decedent is partially responsible, you can still qualify for damages under Florida law. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, the court will decrease your award by the percentage of responsibility that the decedent has for the accident. 

For example, if the court found that the negligent party was 75% responsible for the accident and the decedent was 25% responsible, the family can recover 75% of the total damages.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?

Technically speaking, the family doesn’t file a wrongful death lawsuit. The decedent’s personal representative files the action on behalf of the decedent. If successful, the money then goes to certain family members based on the evidence heard by the court. 

The family that is eligible to receive damages from a wrongful death lawsuit include the decedent’s:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents 
  • Blood relatives who relied on the decedent for support or services
  • Adoptive brothers and sisters who relied on the decedent for support or services

Unfortunately, Florida does not allow non-immediate family members to recover money. 

There are also limitations on which children can receive damages. Children born out of wedlock can recover money on behalf of their deceased mother, but not their deceased father. That is unless their father previously recognized a responsibility to support the child before his death.

What Circumstances Lead to Wrongful Deaths?

No two wrongful death cases are the same. Families can file a lawsuit even if the wrongful death happened unusually. 

It is particularly common for wrongful death lawsuits to stem from:

This list is not exhaustive. The only requirement is that there was an avoidable accident caused by another’s negligence, which led to the death of another. 

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases

Even if you qualify to sue for wrongful death now, you won’t always have that right. There’s a limited period (called a statute of limitations) when you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

A wrongful death lawsuit must generally be filed within two years in Florida. 

If you miss the deadline, your case will be dismissed, and you lose the right to recover money. While it is stressful and overwhelming in the months after the death of a loved one, it is important to prepare for your lawsuit so that you don’t miss the deadline.

Contact the Clearwater Wrongful Death Law Firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact the legal team of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Clearwater. We have four convenient locations in Florida: Clearwater, New Port Richey, and Tampa.

We serve throughout Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Pasco County, and its surrounding areas:

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
1811 N. Belcher Road, Suite I-1
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 787-2500

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Congress Ave Office
2360 Congress Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33763
(727) 591-5610

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
6601 Memorial Hwy Suite 202
Tampa, FL 33615
(813) 686-7588

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
2515 Seven Springs Blvd.
New Port Richey, FL, 34655
(727) 815-8442