Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is one of the last things on the minds of family members in the aftermath of their loved one’s death. However, weeks after losing a loved one, people begin thinking about justice. How can I make the person that killed my loved one pay, and how can I make sure that person or company doesn’t negligently kill someone else? Why should my family be stuck with medical bills and funeral costs when their reckelessness caused all our problems?
Money will not fix the pain associated with losing a loved one, but money can help to change the behavior of a negligent person or company. It’s a way to get justice for a lost life, and it’s a way to help ensure that less people will go through what you’re going through. Additionally, if your loved one was taken from you by a negligent person or company, you and your family should be compensated for what the negligent person or company took from you and for the costs you incurred as a result of losing your loved one.
We aren't the government, so we can't throw anyone in jail for you, but we can do everything we can to make them pay with money. Sometimes hitting a negligent company or person in the wallet is the best way to get their attention and change their behavior.
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state. This article is about how wrongful death settlements are paid out in Florida.
Distribution of Damages in Florida Wrongful Death Cases
In Florida wrongful death cases, proceeds will be paid out according to the survivors the deceased person leaves behind. Thus, the way that a wrongful death settlement is paid out in Florida will depend upon the survivors. Under Florida Statute 768.21, damages in a Florida wrongful death suit may be awarded to (1) a surviving spouse; (2) children; (3) parents; and (4) dependent relatives. We will discuss each category of survivor in greater detail below.
What Damages is the Decedent’s Surviving Spouse Entitled to Under the Florida Wrongful Death Statute?
In a wrongful death suit in Florida, the surviving spouse may recover for loss of support and services, which is calculated from the date of the decedent’s injury. The surviving spouse may also recover for the following types of damages:
- Loss of companionship with the deceased spouse;
- Loss of protection from the deceased spouse; and
- Mental pain and suffering from the date of injury to the deceased spouse.
Loss of companionship and protection, as well as mental pain and suffering, are difficult to quantify, and there is no magic algorithm that will provide a value. The value of the loss will be highly dependent upon the relationship between the decedent and the surviving spouse and how the surviving spouse tells his or her story to a jury. Thus, a stronger relationship with fewer marital problems would likely justify a larger award than a poor relationship with serious marital issues.
What Can a Child Recover for the Loss of a Parent in a Florida Wrongful Death Suit?
Under Florida law, children may recover for the loss of a parent in a wrongful death suit. The type and amount of damages a child can recover for the loss of a parent in Florida may vary depending upon whether the child is a minor or an adult. Under Florida law, an adult child is a child that is 25 years old or older.
Minor Children of a Deceased Parent
The decedent’s minor children may recover for lost support and services, as well as mental pain and suffering. Additionally, minor children may recover for lost companionship with the deceased parent; lost instruction from the deceased parent; and lost guidance from the deceased parent.
There is no equation where we can plug in values and get a dollar amount for the minor child’s loss of companionship, instruction, and guidance. Thus, we are left to look at a number of factors to attempt to assign a value to the loss. Below are some of the factors to consider when determining how much money should be awarded to the minor child:
- Time the parent and child spent together;
- Frequency of guidance given from the parent to the child;
- Degree to which the parent was involved in the child’s life;
- Nature of the day-to-day interactions between the parent and the child; and
- Amount of instruction provided by the parent to the child.
This is not a complete list, and no factor is determinative. However, by looking to a number of factors, you and your Florida wrongful death attorney can work together to assemble evidence that justifies a proper award of damages.
Adult Children of a Deceased Parent
Under Florida law, an adult child may only recover if there was no surviving spouse of the decedent. If there is no surviving spouse, an adult child may recover for lost support and services, as well as for medical or funeral expenses incurred by the adult child as a result of losing his or her parent. Additionally, adult children of a deceased parent with no surviving spouse may recover for lost parental companionship, guidance, and instruction, as well as for mental pain and suffering from the date of the deceased parent’s injury.
What Can the Parent of a Deceased Child Recover in a Wrongful Death Case in Florida?
Parents may recover damages for the loss of a minor child. Each parent of a deceased adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering, but only if the adult child left behind no other survivors. In other words, parents of a deceased adult child would only be able to recover for mental pain and suffering if the deceased child left behind no spouse or children. Let’s dig into this in a bit more detail.
Parents of a Deceased Minor Child
Under Florida law, each parent of a deceased minor child may recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Additionally, parents of a deceased minor child may also recover for lost support and services, as well as for medical and funeral expenses associated with the death of the minor child.
There is no exact formula for determining lost support and services with regard to a deceased minor child. Calculating lost support and services from a minor child is not as quantifiable as it might be for an adult child, who may have an established career and pattern of providing services. Thus, determining these types of damages with regard to a minor child is more difficult because there is less data to work with.
In calculating the damages associated with the loss of a minor child, a jury may consider the things like the child’s age, health, life expectancy, and the child's overall expected earning capacity. This is clearly based on speculation, but the jury must attempt to determine what the child would have contributed to the parents over the course of the child’s life. Thus, sometimes a jury will use a work-life expectancy table or some other objective data in an attempt to assign a value.
Calculating the damages associated with losing a minor child will be easier for an older child than a young child. For example, a case involving the loss of a child with a strong high school record and great prospects for university would make it much easier to justify a particular award than a very young child with no academic record to speak of. Overall, the more information that is available, the easier it is to justify a given award of damages.
The mental pain and suffering of the parents can also be somewhat speculative. To assign a value, juries will look at the relationship between the child and the parents. The jury will look at how close they were as a family and how much time they spent together. Again, there is no equation for assigning a value to mental pain and suffering. Therefore, determining the award will be based upon a number of factors.
Parents of a Deceased Adult Child
Just as above, parents of a deceased adult child may recover for loss of support and services, as well as for medical and funeral expenses incurred as a result of losing their child. In addition, parents of an adult child may recover for mental pain and suffering but only if there are no other survivors.
As we mentioned above, there is no equation for determining mental pain and suffering. Thus, a jury will consider a number of factors to determine the value of the parents’ loss. For example, parents who maintained a strong relationship with their adult child and spent significant amounts of time with that adult child would be expected to receive more value for mental pain and suffering than parents who had a poor relationship with their deceased adult child.
Under Florida law, blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters of the deceased may also be able to collect damages in a wrongful death suit if they were dependent on the deceased for financial support or services. The amount of the award would be dependent upon their level of dependency upon the decedent.
Factors That Determine the Value of a Survivor’s Loss in a Florida Wrongful Death Case
As we’ve talked about above, there is no algorithm or formula that we can use to get a value for a wrongful death benefit. Whether the survivor is a spouse, child, parent, or other dependent relative, we will ultimately have to depend upon a number of factors to justify a certain monetary award for damages. In other words, every survivor who is entitled to benefits for lost support, lost services, and pain and suffering will receive a certain amount of money that is based upon a weighing or various factors.
In determining the value of the loss of support and services, mental pain and suffering, and any other intangible loss a person might experience as a result of losing a loved one, the jury will analyze a number of factors, including:
- The survivor’s relationship to the decedent;
- The amount of the decedent’s probable income available for distribution;
- The replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor;
- The life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent; and
- In the case of healthy minor children, the period of minority.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Law Firm for Your FREE Legal Consultation
If you have lost a loved one, there’s nothing we can do to ease your pain. You’re going through the worst thing a person can experience. However, we may be able to help you get justice for your loved one’s death through a wrongful death lawsuit. Although that won’t ease your suffering, it could help ease the financial burden of losing someone for you and your family. Additionally, a wrongful death lawsuit could potentially stop the negligent person or company who killed your loved one from hurting anyone else in the future.
At our firm, we offer free legal consultations with an attorney. In other words, when you schedule your consultation with us, your consultation will be with a Florida wrongful death attorney, not a customer service rep or an intake person in a call center. Moreover, we give our wrongful death clients our cell phone number. When you have questions, you can talk to a lawyer, not a legal assistant or someone else who might give you the runaround.
Again, if you’re reading this because you lost your loved one, I’m sorry. You should not have to go through this. However, we’re here to fight for you if you need us. Call us at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your consultaiton, or you can contact us on our website.