Wrongful Death Actions
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act provides surprisingly limited damages to the survivors. It also has very narrow definitions as to who a survivor is and is not. Of course the section of the Florida Statutes entitled Wrongful Death contains none of the definitions of who a survivor is and how a survivor is defined. Rather, for some inexplicable reason, the definition of survivor is found under the General Negligence Statute nearly at the bottom in §768, where survivors are defined as follows:
- “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.
- “Minor children” means children under 25 years of age, notwithstanding the age of majority.
- “Support” includes contributions in kind as well as money.
- “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.
- “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.
What Happens When the Survivor Dies?
If a survivor dies before a final judgment can be entered, Florida Statutes §768.24 limits the survivor’s damages as follows:
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.
Proving the extent of the economic damages in a wrongful death case often requires the testimony of an experienced and competent economist to determine the amount of lost wages, household services and other factors such as reducing sums to present value in order to determine what the net accumulations are.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
If you think a loved one or family member is the victim of an accident or medical mistake, please contact our experienced Florida wrongful death lawyers for a confidential evaluation.