It is always difficult to lose a loved one. When the death of your loved one is a result of another person’s negligence or wrongful actions then you may be entitled to compensation. Florida is one of several states with statutes in place that allow the deceased person’s beneficiaries or heirs to file a lawsuit with the help of a wrongful death attorney and recover financial compensation for wrongful death.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim can simply be defined as a civil suit that occurs when the actions or negligence of one party is the cause of death for another person. The Florida statute that indicates the action that may be taken in such cases is Florida Statutes section 768.19. The statute says that when the death is caused by negligence, a wrongful act, or breach of contract or warranty then the representative of the person that has died may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute requires that the wrongful conduct would have entitled the person to file for damages should it have resulted in an injury instead of death in order for the beneficiary to file a wrongful death claim.

Who can file the claim?

It’s important to note that not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim. Even if you loved the person that has passed and you are impacted by their death, the court will not allow certain people to file the claim. To prevent multiple people from filing a wrongful death case for the decedent, Florida’s Wrongful Death Act indicates that only the personal representative of the deceased can file the claim. In some circumstances, the deceased may have already named their personal representative in a will. If the person passes and doesn’t have a will, then a judge will appoint a person to act as the personal representative and allow them to file the claim.

The court will appoint a surviving spouse by default. If there is no spouse, then the judge will appoint the next majority heir. This could be the deceased person’s children, parents, or a relative or sibling that was partially or entirely dependent on the decedent. The appointed personal representative must be over the age of 18, mentally and physically capable of performing the tasks of a personal representative, and with no prior felony convictions.

In the case of minor children as the beneficiaries, the court has the ability to appoint a guardian ad litem to the case. A special court hearing will be conducted to approve the settlement on behalf of the minor children. In this situation, the parties representing both sides and the guardian ad item will attend the hearing.

When should the claim be filed?

The person that is appointed as the personal representative of the deceased must file the wrongful death claim within a certain time period. This is Florida’s statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations has passed the personal representative may no longer file a suit for wrongful death. This time period is four years in Florida. The time may be postponed by the court only with a specific set of circumstances determined in the individual case.

For more information, speak to a wrongful death attorney today.