A wrongful death lawsuit can be an incredibly challenging process. Learn more about Florida laws surrounding wrongful death cases, and how our team can support you during this tragic time.

Wrongful Death in Florida

Wrongful death occurs when the negligence of an individual or entity results in an individual’s death. These cases may include:

  • Car accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Slip and fall
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective products

Wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits that can be brought against individuals or entities who unintentionally or intentionally cause harm, resulting in death. Compensation to the loved ones of the decedent covers an array of hardships, from loss of companionship and future earnings to medical bills and funeral expenses.

Requirements For Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit 

Florida law states that a wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This applies even if the decedent died without any assets. In the eyes of the law, the personal representative of the estate is the appropriate legal representative for such a case, since the authority of a power of attorney or healthcare surrogate ends upon the decedent’s passing.

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.

– Florida Statutes, 768.20

If a personal representative has not been declared through the decedent’s will or trust, the court will appoint one. This responsibility is usually granted to the decedent’s surviving spouse or an adult child, but it may be granted to another family member or a third party representative, like an attorney or accountant. And even if a personal representative is listed in a will or trust, they must still be officially appointed by the court – which requires opening an estate.

If you suspect that your loved one’s death was caused by the negligent or malicious actions of another, it’s critical that you take action immediately. Per Florida law, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the decedent’s death.

Wrongful Death: Role of Estate Attorney

In all Florida wrongful death cases, an estate attorney is required for probate and trust administration. However, it’s important to note that an estate attorney does not lead the settlement negotiations in a wrongful death case. This is managed by a separate attorney who specializes in wrongful death or negligence. Therefore, you will need to work with an estate attorney in addition to an attorney who handles wrongful death lawsuits. 

As we outline in our Guide to Florida Probate, the tasks required to close a decedent’s estate are many – and this is where our team will support you. Probate responsibilities include filing final tax returns, managing creditor claims, creating an inventory of the estate assets, and ensuring assets are distributed properly to heirs. 

This process can take several months, or it can take years – for example, if the estate is extensive or complications arise amongst beneficiaries. Wrongful death cases may also take anywhere from months to years to settle, and the estate will remain open at least until the wrongful death lawsuit is resolved.

The death of a loved one is shattering, and the processes of probate and a wrongful death lawsuit can be overwhelming. We, along with your wrongful death attorney, will manage the legal complexities surrounding your loved one’s death, so you can focus on grieving. If you are seeking a wrongful death or negligence attorney, we can provide references to firms we partner with.