A lawyer must abide by the statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit. A statute of limitations is a deadline by which you must file your lawsuit. In Florida, you must file your case within two years of the date of death, according to Florida Statute § 95.11, unless certain extenuating circumstances occur.
A wrongful death lawsuit is not a criminal case; rather, you file it in civil court with the goal of winning compensation for surviving family members’ financial losses and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
If you do not file within the statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit, you can lose your right to bring your lawsuit to court.
You can consult with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after death occurs to make sure you file your case correctly and in a timely manner.
Exceptions to Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Suit
While the courts are generally strict about the two-year statute of limitations, some exceptions may extend this limit.
Exceptions may include:
- Medical malpractice: It may take some time after a death has occurred for a family to realize that the wrongful death resulted from medical malpractice. In this case, the two-year statute of limitations may start when family members discovered the cause of death rather than at the time of death. The courts may even extend the statute of limitations for the duration of a reasonable investigation before filing, per Florida Statute § 766.
- Homicides and murder: Due to the time it may take for homicide investigations to discover and prove a party responsible for the death, the statute of limitations may not begin until the law enforcement identifies or apprehends the murderer.
- Government entity: If a government entity bears fault for wrongful death, the statute of limitations extends to four years. This extended process allows for specific notice requirements you must complete before you can file a lawsuit.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-593-3443
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Within the Statute of Limitations
Not every tragic death warrants a wrongful death lawsuit. According to Florida Statute § 768.19, when a wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract or warranty causes the death of a person, the estate of the deceased person may bring such a lawsuit.
The lawsuit must contain the following elements:
- Conduct that amounts to a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty.
- Proof that this conduct caused the death of the decedent.
- Proof that the deceased person would have recovered awards in a lawsuit if the death had not occurred.
For your lawsuit to succeed, your attorney must prove that the death resulted from the negligent act of another individual or entity. Some examples of such conduct include:
- A drunk driver speeds and hits a pedestrian.
- A surgeon leaves an instrument in a body cavity that leads to infection or punctures a vital organ.
- A criminal intentionally shot someone during a robbery.
- A manufacturer mislabeled, failed to warn about, and sold a defective product that killed someone.
People Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Under Florida Statutes § 768, a personal representative, often named in the will or estate plan of the deceased person, must file the wrongful death suit on behalf of the estate and the person’s surviving family members. If the will does not name a personal representative, then the court will appoint one. A lawyer must perform their due diligence in determining the statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit prior to pursuing a case.
The personal representative must list every survivor with a possible interest in the case. According to the Florida Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, family members who can recover damages include the person’s spouse, children, parents, or any other blood relative or adoptive sibling who may be dependent on the deceased for support or services.
Minor children typically cannot file a lawsuit, so the two-year statute of limitations for filing would not start until the child turns 18 years old.
Awards for Wrongful Death
Florida Statutes § 768.21 sets guidelines for awarding damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Awards for the survivors and the estate can extend to both economic and noneconomic losses.
Recoverable damages may include:
- Lost support and services, companionship, protection, guidance, and instruction.
- Hospital, pharmaceutical, and medical expenses before death.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Estate administration expenses.
- Pain and suffering.
- Lost wages and benefits.
More awards may apply based on your case.
Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Want to Help
Florida’s wrongful death laws are too complicated for the average person to navigate without help; hence, it is imperative that a lawyer representing you e knows the statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit. The wrongful death lawyers with Ben Crump Law, PLLC want to help you through the legal process so you can grieve in peace while still seeking justice for the loss of your loved one.
The earlier you call us at 800-593-3443, the earlier we can start building your case.