Wrongful death is a kind of personal injury lawsuit. One person, the plaintiff, is harmed by another person, the defendant, and sues them for financial compensation. Wrongful death is legally unique because the injured party did not survive their injuries.
You can file a wrongful death suit for the same reasons as any personal injury suit. Car accidents, slip and fall cases, defective products, and so forth are all grounds for wrongful death. In Florida, only the personal representative of the estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In legal terms, your estate is any property left over after your death, and Florida appoints someone to manage that property. This is the personal representative of the estate, or PR. The PR’s job is extensive and takes quite a bit of time. First, they must handle any bills or debt left by the deceased. Then, they must appraise the remaining property. Once that is done, they are responsible for distributing that property to the deceased’s loved ones.
If the deceased left a will, they likely named the PR in that document. When there is no will, a PR is appointed by the court. This appointee could be a family member of the deceased, or the court could choose a legal professional from outside the family.
When someone you love was killed by another’s negligence, you must work with the PR to file a wrongful death suit. If you are not the PR, you have no authority to file the suit yourself. It can take work to convince the PR to follow through with the lawsuit. Because of this, it will be advantageous to hire a lawyer of your own. They may be able to work with the PR to ensure that the lawsuit is filed.
When a plaintiff wins a wrongful death lawsuit, the compensation is distributed in two different ways. Florida allows for damages to be paid to the family directly, but money can also go into the estate.
There are several ways a family may be compensated by a wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes, they can recoup expenses that were directly paid from the injury or death. For example, the injured party may not have passed immediately; they might have died after weeks of treatment. Those medical bills can be compensated in the lawsuit. Any funeral expenses can be included in the suit as well.
Mental distress can also be compensated. No amount of money will remove the grief of loss, but these damages can help make readjustment easier.
Relationships provide forms of support that go far beyond the monetary. When you lose an important member of your life, you lose the value they brought with them. As part of a wrongful death lawsuit, you can sue for the lack of support you’re now faced with. For example, there may now be one less parent in the home. That is one less person to help with the cleaning, laundry, homework, and general raising of the children. Financial compensation can make the transition easier as the family learns how to function with just one parent.
Damages granted to the estate are strictly financial. If any part of the estate’s money was used for funeral expenses, it can be recouped in a lawsuit. Lost wages can be awarded as well. In theory, the deceased was continually contributing to the estate through their income, simply by making and saving money. Now that they are gone, the estate has no money coming in. Furthermore, the deceased had the potential to make even more money. Perhaps they had just earned a degree or were about to receive a promotion. This loss of income and loss of “potential” income can be included in the lawsuit.
Once the estate is compensated, the money will be distributed to the recipients of the estate, either through the will or intestate succession.
If someone you love had their life cut short by another person’s negligence, please reach out to us. We can work closely with the PR and help a wrongful death suit move forward. Our number is (850) 764-0383, and you can use this link to contact us online.