How the Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases Hurt the Families of Unmarried Adults
Losing a loved one is a very distressing experience, no matter the situation. Whether the circumstances involve a long illness or a sudden departure, the finality of the situation will cause a mourning period which may last for an extended time. Making matters worse are situations in which the loved one’s death was caused by the negligent actions of another person. In this situation, the services of an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in wrongful death matters is needed recover for the emotional and financial loss of a loved one. One legal technicality that can completely derail a case relates to the negligent deaths of unmarried adults with no minor children. In Florida, according to the law, parents of adult children are prevented from instituting a medical malpractice action against a dentist whom they assert is responsible for the sedation death of their adult, special needs son. A discussion of the current state of the law, and how it discriminates against certain groups of individuals, will follow below.
Wrongful death is a special example of the legal theory of negligence. This is because, in a negligence matter, the injured individual is usually the person bringing the legal action. This is impossible when the injured individual loses his/her life. Accordingly, the Legislature provided for a means by which a person who has lost a loved one to the negligence of another can seek compensation for their loss. Most wrongful death claims are based upon the death of a loved one, for example, following a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, a dangerous roadway or defective vehicle, or medical malpractice, although wrongful death matters may be brought against anyone who committed an act which caused the death of a loved one.
In passing the wrongful death statute, Florida limited the number of individuals who are eligible to bring a wrongful death action. Accordingly, only the following individuals can bring such an action:
The decedent’s surviving spouse;
Any blood relative wholly or partially dependent upon the decedent for support or services;
The decedent’s living children, if under the age of 25 at the time of death; and
The estate of the deceased.
Further, Florida limits the type of damages that various of the above-listed individuals can recover to the following:
The surviving spouse may recover intangible damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship, as well as lost services and lost economic support;
The other blood relatives may recover for lost services or lost economic support;
Surviving children may recover intangible damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of parental guidance and companionship; and
The estate may recover lost assets, which are based on the work-life expectancy the decedent would have had if he/she were alive, as well as any medical bills and funeral expenses.
However, as this limited list notes, for example, adult children of a deceased individual cannot bring a wrongful death action, nor can, as illustrated in the cited article above, the parents of an adult child. Of course, the estate may be able to recover (based on the last bullet point above), but pain and suffering, as well as other intangible damages, are not recoverable. Accordingly, it is imperative to speak to an attorney to ensure that any wrongful death lawsuits are optimized for the fullest recovery possible.
Seek Legal Advice
If a loved one passed away as the result of the negligent actions of another individual, and you are curious as to the options you have to obtain compensation, contact the experienced Miami wrongful death attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have years of experience in wrongful death matters, including the issue of how the law affects unmarried persons. After analyzing your possible claims, if we believe that you may be able to obtain closure from another party, we will develop a strategy to help your family recover for your loss. Contact our office today for an initial consultation.