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How Are Damages Determined in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Experienced Central Florida lawyers work to maximize plaintiff compensation

When a person dies due to someone’s careless, reckless, or deliberate act or omission, the result is often a wrongful death lawsuit. However, this type of lawsuit is best understood as two separate legal actions with two different types of damage claims. At Largey Law, our knowledgeable attorneys draw on more than 25 years of combined legal experience to assist plaintiffs in Central Florida with wrongful death lawsuits. We help you understand your rights as well as the rights of the deceased and work diligently to recover the full measure of compensation.

Asserting the rights of the decedent in a Florida wrongful death case

A personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death action to recover losses to the estate due to the fatal injury event. These include:

  • Medical expenses from the time of the injury event up to the decedent’s death
  • Loss of earnings over the decedent’s projected lifespan
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Although some states allow the decedent’s estate to recover for conscious pain and suffering the decedent endured from the time of the injury event up to death, Florida does not allow the estate to recover these types of noneconomic damages.

Helping grieving families in Central Florida recover for their losses

The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one is devastating to a family, but not every member of the family is affected identically. That’s why Florida Statute 768.21 provides basic damages for beneficiaries along with different rights to compensation for different family members:

  • Surviving dependents — Each survivor who depended on the decedent for financial support and services 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.”
  • Surviving spouse — Compensation is allowed for the “loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for [the surviving spouse’s] mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.”
  • Minor children — Damages are permitted for “lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.” This right applies to all the decedent’s children if there is no surviving spouse.
  • Parent of a minor child decedent — When the victim is a minor child, the parents may recover for “mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.” This right applies to parents of an adult child if the decedent left no other survivors.

Florida law does not allow grandparents or siblings to recover damages unless they were financially dependent on the decedent. Survivors who have paid the decedent’s medical bills or funeral expenses can recover those expenses, rather than having the costs paid to the estate.

Compensatory versus punitive damages in Florida wrongful death cases

All of the damages discussed above are compensatory, because they are designed to “make up for” the loss of the decedent’s life. Of course, no amount of money can ever replace a loved one. On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer and to discourage similar actions by anyone else. It may seem logical to apply punitive damages any time a person dies due to negligence, but that is not how the law works. The law recognizes that great harm can come from momentary carelessness, as when a distracted driver fails to spot a pedestrian. Punitive damages are reserved for particularly egregious conduct. Therefore, to win punitive damages, a plaintiff does not have to show the harm was great but that the defendant’s conduct that led to the harm was outrageous.

Call for a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Central Florida

Largey Law Firm provides capable and compassionate wrongful death representation. If you are looking for a proven professional who will treat your case with the utmost sensitivity, call 352.508.1485 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Tavares, Inverness and Clermont. Se habla español.

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