Wrongful Death

A wrongful death claim is a suit that arises when a person dies as a result of the negligent or reckless conduct of another. A wrongful death suit is different from other types of personal injury claims because the actual victim (the "decedent") is not bringing suit, rather it is the family members or the decedent's estate. As such, a wrongful death claim is brought to recover damages for the injuries that the surviving family and/or estate have suffered due to the death of the victim. The damages recovered do not include damages that are personal to the decedent, since the decedent is not allowed to recover for pain and suffering, mental distress, or any other form of compensatory damages unique to him or her. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to provide relief to family members who have been injured emotionally and financially as a result of the family member's death. The plaintiff in a wrongful death action is the personal representative of the decedent. Fla. Stat. § 768.20. The personal representative does not need to have a connection with the events that caused the decedent's death. The decedent's negligence, however, will be imputed to the plaintiff, reducing or barring the plaintiff's recovery on behalf of the estate to the extent that the decedent's negligence was a proximate cause of his or her own death. Perdue v. Copeland, 220 So. 2d 617 (Fla. 1969). If a suvivor is found to be negligent, the non-negligent survivor's recovery cannot be reduced due to another survivor's negligence. Frazier v. Metropolitan Dade County, 701 So.2d 418, 420 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997).

In Florida wrongful death cases, special consideration is given to the statute of limiations. Generally, you have two years from the time of the decedent's death to file a law suit. Fla. Stat. § 95.11. Wrongful death actions based on medical malpractice, however, are governed by the medical malpractice statute of limitations which may extend your right to sue to four years. Fla. Stat. § 95.11.

 


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