Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by the spouse or any blood relative (children, parents, siblings) or adoptive sibling who is dependent on the decedent for particular types of support or services. The surviving relatives who can recover damages for wrongful death are known as beneficiaries or survivors.
Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by surviving relatives or beneficiaries of a deceased in case the death occurred as a result of negligence, reckless behavior or unlawful act. Generally speaking, surviving family members can initiate a wrongful death legal action, but state law establishes the exact list of potential plaintiffs. In the State of Florida, the list of individuals entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit is established in the Florida Wrongful Death Act. The right is awarded to:
Although they will benefit from the monetary compensation, the actual legal process must be initiated by the personal representative of the deceased.
A personal representative is a person, a relative or friend, named in the deceased person's will. In case there is no will available, the court will usually offer this right to the surviving spouse. If the deceased was not married, the personal representative is chosen from his heirs.
Once the personal representative has been selected, he or she can initiate the legal action on behalf of the other beneficiaries. A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years after the fatal accident. However, if the responsible party is a government entity, the statute of limitation is much shorter, usually only six months.
Wrongful death lawsuits are filed in civil courts. If the statute of limitation is not exceeded, the personal representative can choose to file the lawsuit after the defendant has been found not guilty by a criminal court for murder charges. As the standards of proof are different in criminal and civil courts, proving a wrongful death allegation is often easier than winning a criminal lawsuit for murder charges.
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