Valuing the Loss of Life: What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth in Florida?
When someone loses a loved one, it is one of the most devastating and painful events they can ever experience. But when a loved one experiences an untimely death that is caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another party, the emotional pain and suffering can seem almost impossible to bear.
Clearly, no amount of money can bring a deceased loved one back to life. Death is final and irreversible, and all the money in the world cannot change this fact. As such, it is impossible to place a true value on the loss of life – the best that surviving loved ones can do is to take time to grieve and try to move forward with their lives.
Although you cannot put a price on human life, the state of Florida allows family members who survive an individual’s death to bring a wrongful death claim if the circumstances warrant this type of action. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that seeks monetary damages to compensate survivors of the decedent.
It is important to note that a wrongful death claim can be brought regardless of whether or not the defendant is charged criminally for the actions that led to the decedent’s death. A criminal charge is brought by the government, and it is based on a much higher standard of proof – beyond reasonable doubt.
In a civil action, the claimant or plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means it is “more likely than not” that the defendant is at fault for the decedent’s death. So, even if the defendant is not charged criminally or they are found not guilty of a criminal charge related to the decedent’s death, survivors may still be able to recover damages through a wrongful death claim.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
Under Florida law, a wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by the personal representative/executor of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent had a will, a person representative will have been named in this document. If there is no will or estate plan, a personal representative must be appointed by the court.
Although a wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative, it is brought on behalf of the decedent’s estate as well as surviving family members, and all survivors who have an interest in the case must be listed in the claim.
Surviving family members who may receive proceeds from a Florida wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The decedent’s spouse;
- The decedent’s children;
- The decedent’s parents;
- Any dependent blood relatives or adoptive siblings of the decedent; and
- Children born out of wedlock if the mother dies or if the father dies after having assumed responsibility for the support of the child.
Damages Available from Florida Wrongful Death Claims
Surviving family members are eligible to receive various types of compensatory damages if they can show that a defendant’s negligence caused a loved one’s death. These may include:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, including the loss of income the decedent could have reasonably been expected to earn if he or she has lived;
- The value of support and services that the decedent provided to surviving family members;
- Medical expenses the decedent incurred prior to his or her death;
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Mental anguish and emotional distress due to the loss of a loved one;
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection the decedent provided to surviving family members.
In more limited cases in which the actions of the party responsible for the decedent’s death were willful, reckless, or malicious, punitive damages may also be awarded. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are not meant to compensate survivors for their losses, but rather to punish the responsible party and help deter them (and others) from committing similarly egregious actions in the future. In Florida, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Contact a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Pensacola, FL Wrongful Death Lawyer
While there is no value that can be placed on the loss of a human life, when this happens because of another party’s negligence or recklessness, surviving family members deserve to be compensated. Bringing a wrongful death action can be complicated, however, and there are specific guidelines that must be followed. For this reason, it is very important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
At Whibbs Stone & Barnett, we understand the enormous emotional pain and suffering surviving family members must endure when they lose a loved one, and we are here to provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation. You may also stop by our Pensacola office in person at your convenience.