Understanding Florida’s Wrongful Death Claims
Experiencing the death of a loved one is an understandably negative experience. Even if the death was expected, loss is always very distressing. This pain becomes harder to bear when the death was caused by the actions of another person. In these cases, the law provides an avenue for the family to recover for the loss. These case are complex, though, and if legal action is necessary, retaining the services of an attorney experienced in wrongful death matters can be crucial to obtaining compensation. Recently, however, the boyfriend of a deceased individual learned, unfortunately the hard way, about a unique aspect of Florida’s medical malpractice law that eliminated his ability to obtain reimbursement for her death at the hands of the medical professional. A discussion of wrongful death claims in Florida, including those brought as medical malpractice actions, will follow below.
Whether wrongful death or medical malpractice, negligence is the legal claim used to file an action asserting that another individual is responsible for someone’s death. To be successful in a negligence action, an injured individual (or, in the case in which the injured individual passed away as a result of the negligence, a representative) must prove the following:
- That an individual had a duty to protect the decedent from danger or harm;
- That the individual neglected this duty;
- That the neglect of the duty was the direct cause of the injury; and
- In the case of a decedent, that the injury led to the decedent’s death.
Wrongful Death Actions in Florida
In the vast majority of cases in which the negligent action (or inaction) by an individual results in the death of another person, a legal claim can be made for damages relating to the death of the decedent. If the claim is filed by a representative of the decedent’s estate, it is referred to as a wrongful death action. If the claim is filed by the decedent’s surviving spouse or children, although treated similarly, it is more accurately called a survival action. Although these actions are similar, it is important to know the distinctions, as only one action may be filed with a court. A knowledgeable attorney will know these distinctions and can help make the best and most appropriate choice.
Medical Malpractice in Florida in which the Injured Individual Dies
Another distinction that a knowledgeable attorney can help a claimant understand is whether a wrongful death action may be brought as a claim for medical malpractice. The issue that the individual cited above came to understand was that Florida law strictly limits who qualifies as a survivor of the decedent. Unfortunately, the law prohibits many individuals from seeking compensation for the death of a family member. Specifically, there must be a specific relation between the decedent and the claimant, such as spousal and children. Consequently, siblings, common-law partners and many other categories of close friends or other family members have no recovery rights under Florida’s current medical malpractice law. Again, it is advised to speak to an attorney regarding which cause of action may make the best sense in a particular situation.
Seek Legal Advice
If someone you love recently passed away as a result of the actions of another individual, and you are curious as to whether that individual can be held liable for his/her actions to you and any other surviving family members, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have the experience in wrongful death claims you need to obtain appropriate compensation, and are available to discuss your legal options to recover for the death of a loved one. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.