In a personal injury lawsuit, medical expenses are generally recoverable, assuming the other party is at fault. However, medical expenses may not have been a significant expense if your loved one passed away at the scene of an accident.
Instead of a personal injury suit, if you lost a loved one, you may be able to assert a wrongful death claim on behalf of your family member’s estate and the surviving family members. But, what kinds of damages are available in a wrongful death case?
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a legal option if a loved one was killed due to the negligence of another person. Only certain family members can assert this type of claim. However, the family representative is required to list every family member who may have a claim on the petition. The suit must be filed within four years of the date of death in most situations.
Wrongful death claims developed in a time when one person was often the only breadwinner in a family. If that person passed away, then a family would no longer be able to support themselves.
The wife and children would then assert a wrongful death claim to compensate them for the funds that the breadwinner would have earned. Today, this type of claim applies to virtually everyone and the damages that a family could receive have been expanded.
Wrongful Death Damages in Florida
Florida has a specific wrongful death statute that explains what damages are available in a wrongful death claim.
- Family can recover lost support and services from injury to death
- Family can also recover loss of future support and services
- Spouse may recover for loss of companionship and protection (sometimes referred to as “loss of consortium”)
- Spouses and children may recover for mental pain and suffering
- Minor children can recover for loss of parental companionship if there is no surviving spouse
- Parents of a deceased minor child can recover for mental pain and suffering and parents of an adult child can also recover if there are no other survivors
- Medical and funeral expenses related to the injury (reimbursed to whoever paid them, even if it was the estate)
- The estate can recover loss of earnings (less support of survivors and subject to the victim’s creditors)
The victim’s family or estate may also be able to recover for any pain and suffering that the victim would have felt between the time of injury and the time of death.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
If you attempt to “go it alone” in a wrongful death case, you may not get all of the damages that you and your loved ones are entitled to simply because you did not know they were available.