Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death Attorneys in Jacksonville, Florida

Wrongful death is a claim brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for a death of another in a civil action usually by close relatives. The cause of action seeks to recover financial damages on behalf of the family, including spouses, children, or parents. A wrongful death could be caused by negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of another person or entity.

It is important that you not attempt to negotiate or settle with an insurance company in the event of the death of a loved one without consulting an attorney experienced with wrongful death claims. The wrongful death attorneys at McGRATH GIBSON will protect your rights to pursue claims and to seek the maximum compensation available for your loss.

In pursuing a wrongful death action on behalf of our clients, we perform a thorough investigation to collect all of the facts of the case, collect all associated documentation, consult with forensic and medical experts and carefully plan your action.

If you are considering a wrongful death action in the state of Florida, the information below will help you gain a better understanding of the laws about wrongful death actions in Florida. Below is Section 768 of the Florida Statutes that address wrongful death actions:

768.16 Wrongful Death Act.–Sections 768.16-768.26 may be cited as the “Florida Wrongful Death Act.” History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 105, ch. 2003-1.

768.17 Legislative intent.–It is the public policy of the state to shift the losses resulting when wrongful death occurs from the survivors of the decedent to the wrongdoer. Sections 768.16-768.26 are remedial and shall be liberally construed. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 106, ch. 2003-1.

768.18 Definitions.–As used in ss. 768.16-768.26:

(1) “Survivors” means the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. It includes the child born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.
(2) “Minor children” means children under 25 years of age, notwithstanding the age of majority.
(3) “Support” includes contributions in kind as well as money.
(4) “Services” means tasks, usually of a household nature, regularly performed by the decedent that will be a necessary expense to the survivors of the decedent. These services may vary according to the identity of the decedent and survivor and shall be determined under the particular facts of each case.
(5) “Net accumulations” means the part of the decedent’s expected net business or salary income, including pension benefits, that the decedent probably would have retained as savings and left as part of her or his estate if the decedent had lived her or his normal life expectancy. “Net business or salary income” is the part of the decedent’s probable gross income after taxes, excluding income from investments continuing beyond death, that remains after deducting the decedent’s personal expenses and support of survivors, excluding contributions in kind. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 66, ch. 77-121; s. 40, ch. 77-468; s. 1, ch. 81-183; s. 3, ch. 89-61; s. 1, ch. 90-14; s. 1167, ch. 97-102; s. 107, ch. 2003-1.

768.19 Right of action.–When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters, and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person or watercraft that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35.

768.20 Parties.–The action shall be brought by the decedent’s personal representative, who shall recover for the benefit of the decedent’s survivors and estate all damages, as specified in this act, caused by the injury resulting in death. When a personal injury to the decedent results in death, no action for the personal injury shall survive, and any such action pending at the time of death shall abate. The wrongdoer’s personal representative shall be the defendant if the wrongdoer dies before or pending the action. A defense that would bar or reduce a survivor’s recovery if she or he were the plaintiff may be asserted against the survivor, but shall not affect the recovery of any other survivor. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 1168, ch. 97-102.

768.21 Damages.–All potential beneficiaries of a recovery for wrongful death, including the decedent’s estate, shall be identified in the complaint, and their relationships to the decedent shall be alleged. Damages may be awarded as follows:

(1) Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value. In evaluating loss of support and services, the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available for distribution to the particular survivor, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor may be considered. In computing the duration of future losses, the joint life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent and the period of minority, in the case of healthy minor children, may be considered.
(2) The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
(3) Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. For the purposes of this subsection, if both spouses die within 30 days of one another as a result of the same wrongful act or series of acts arising out of the same incident, each spouse is considered to have been predeceased by the other.
(4) Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.
(5) Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by a survivor who has paid them.
(6) The decedent’s personal representative may recover for the decedent’s estate the following:
(a) Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest. Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present money value, may also be recovered:
1. If the decedent’s survivors include a surviving spouse or lineal descendants.
2. Or if the decedent is not a minor child as defined in s. 768.18(2), there are no lost support and services recoverable under subsection (1), and there is a surviving parent.
(b) Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death that have become a charge against her or his estate or that were paid by or on behalf of decedent, excluding amounts recoverable under subsection (5).
(c) Evidence of remarriage of the decedent’s spouse is admissible.
(7) All awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors who have complied with the requirements of probate law concerning claims.
(8) The damages specified in subsection (3) shall not be recoverable by adult children and the damages specified in subsection (4) shall not be recoverable by parents of an adult child with respect to claims for medical negligence as defined by s. 766.106(1). History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 2, ch. 81-183; s. 1, ch. 85-260; s. 2, ch. 90-14; s. 1169, ch. 97-102; s. 1, ch. 2002-44; s. 66, ch. 2003-416.

768.22 Form of verdict.–The amounts awarded to each survivor and to the estate shall be stated separately in the verdict. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35.

768.23 Protection of minors and incompetents.–The court shall provide protection for any amount awarded for the benefit of a minor child or an incompetent pursuant to the Florida Guardianship Law. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35.

768.24 Death of a survivor before judgment.–A survivor’s death before final judgment shall limit the survivor’s recovery to lost support and services to the date of his or her death. The personal representative shall pay the amount recovered to the personal representative of the deceased survivor. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35; s. 1170, ch. 97-102.

768.25 Court approval of settlements.–While an action under this act is pending, no settlement as to amount or apportionment among the beneficiaries which is objected to by any survivor or which affects a survivor who is a minor or an incompetent shall be effective unless approved by the court. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35.

768.26 Litigation expenses.–Attorneys’ fees and other expenses of litigation shall be paid by the personal representative and deducted from the awards to the survivors and the estate in proportion to the amounts awarded to them, but expenses incurred for the benefit of a particular survivor or the estate shall be paid from their awards. History.–s. 1, ch. 72-35.

In order to be successful in a wrongful death claim in Florida, the Plaintiff must prove liability of the party being sued and the damage caused by the party being sued by a preponderance of the evidence. For this reason it is often easier for a family to seek retribution against someone who kills a family member through the civil court, rather than a criminal prosecution (where there is a higher burden of proof). However, the two actions are not mutually exclusive; a person may be prosecuted criminally for causing a person’s death, and that person can also be sued civilly in a wrongful death action.

Each state has different laws regarding wrongful death claims. However, in Florida there is a two year statute of limitations on a wrongful death action, which may be extended by 90 days by filing the appropriate and timely extension with the court. The most important thing to remember is to preserve you and your family’s rights, and to speak with the wrongful death attorneys at McGRATH GIBSON in Jacksonville as soon as the possibility of filing a wrongful death action exists.

If you believe the death of a loved one should not have happened or could have been avoided, call McGRATH GIBSON in Jacksonville, Florida at (904) 358-3300 for a free case evaluation.

Jacksonville Florida Personal Injury Lawyer and Jacksonville Family Law Attorney Disclaimer:

The lawyers of McGRATH GIBSON are licensed to practice in the states of Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Additionally, we represent the injured throughout the United States pro hoc vice, and with the help of local counsel. While we strive to personally handle all types of personal injury and wrongful death claims there are occasions where cases may be referred to another lawyer. We proudly offer representation to Military Veterans and the Men and Women who currently served our armed forces at the Mayport Naval Station, Naval Air Station of Jacksonville, Camp Blanding, United States Army, Army Reserve, United States Marines, Florida National Guard, Air National Guard, United States Coast Guard, Air Force, and Air Force Reserve. McGRATH GIBSON family law attorneys offer representation in the areas of Family Law, Divorce, Alimony, Child Custody and Child Support throughout Florida. Representation for Military Divorce handled throughout the United States and U.S. Territories independently or with local counsel where required.

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