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Wrongful Death in Florida – Who Can Sue and Be Sued?


Wrongful death laws generally allow a loved one’s family members to bring a civil lawsuit and sue and recover damages for arising from the death. Which family members are allowed to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, and who are the potential defendants in a wrongful death action? A Florida statute, as well as decisions of the Florida courts, provide the answers.

Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute

The purpose of Florida’s wrongful death law is to relieve a loved one’s survivors of burdens, costs and losses that have resulted from the death, and to shift them to the legally responsible party.  Under this law, a lawsuit seeking damages for wrongful death can be brought when the death was caused by:

  • a wrongful act
  • Negligence
  • Default
  • breach of contract or warranty

The law also requires that the person who died would have been able to bring a lawsuit against the wrongful death defendant on his or her own behalf if the death had not occurred. 

Who Are the “Survivors”?

The deceased person’s personal representative brings the lawsuit on behalf of the survivors, under Florida law. “Survivors” include the deceased person’s:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • blood relatives or adoptive brothers and sisters if they were partly or wholly dependent on the deceased person for support or services

In one notable recent wrongful death case, a Florida jury awarded more than $157 million in damages to a man whose husband died from lung cancer after years of cigarette smoking. The lawsuit was the first wrongful death action in Florida (or the country) to have been brought by a same sex married couple against the tobacco industry, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys as quoted in news reports.

What Damages Can the Survivors Claim?

Among the types of damages or compensation that survivors can recover in wrongful death lawsuits are damages for:

  • lost support and services
  • lost companionship and protection
  • mental pain and suffering
  • lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance
  • medical or funeral expenses (if paid by a survivor)

Additionally, the personal representative can recover other types of damages for the benefit of the deceased person’s estate, including the deceased’s lost earnings, for example.

Exceptions for Certain Damage Recovery in Medical Malpractice Cases

For claims based on medical negligence, Florida law excepts some individuals from recovering compensation for pain and suffering. Damages for mental pain and suffering are not recoverable on these claims for adult children of a deceased person. Conversely, damages for mental pain and suffering are not recoverable on these claims for parents of an adult child.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

If you have lost a loved one and would like to know more about a potential wrongful death claim, or would like more information on any other type of personal injury claim, contact a Fort Pierce personal injury attorney serving St. Lucie & Martin County at Sholtes Law, PLLC. Our personal injury team will work with you, with sensitivity and tact, to help you to understand and evaluate a potential wrongful death claim.



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