What is Wrongful Death?

Posted on June 20, 2022

What is wrongful death? This article will discuss the details of what is considered wrongful death.

Wrongful Death lawsuits (non-criminal civil legal actions) allow the surviving family members to claim damages (damages) for the death of a loved ones due to wrongdoing. The victim's family can sue the wrongdoer civilly if the victim dies from the wrongdoing or negligence. The victim's family may be awarded monetary damages if the case is successful.

In early American history, when a person dies, all rights to sue are lost. A surviving relative could not sue the wrongdoer if their loved one died.

Modern law allows the estate and immediate family of the victim to sue all liable parties for the deceased loved one. Torts are civil, not-criminal actions in which one person has wrongfully caused injury to another.

Many people mistakenly believe that wrongful death and murder are the same thing. Murder is a crime, and the government must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a person committed it.

In wrongful death actions, the standard for proof is usually a "preponderance" of the evidence. The plaintiff must only prove that the wrongdoer was more likely to have caused the wrongful deaths. This standard is lower that the criminal case standard.

Florida’s wrongful death statute

Florida, like several states, will allow any survivors as well as the estate of the victim to sue a responsible party The Florida Wrongful Death Act. (Section 768.19) says:

“When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters, and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person or watercraft that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony.”

Who can sue for wrongful death

Florida's Wrongful Death Act gives the right to the victim's personal representative to sue for damages on behalf of their survivors. The act allows for the following eligible survivors to sue.

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters

What are the available damages?

For the following reasons, eligible individuals may seek damages from the wrongdoer:

  • Loss of support
  • Suffering and mental pain
  • Funeral and medical costs
  • Earnings lost

A spouse who is not the victim can also claim damages for their loss of companionship. Each survivor can file a claim if the wrongdoer has been found responsible for the death.

If the victim was the parent of a child they supported, and their spouse is not the parent of that child, the spouse and child could be jointly liable.

Wrongful death case example

Here's an example of a wrongful death case in the State of Florida:

Marcus rents a car. The car rental company failed to repair a problem with the car's brake system and was negligent in its upkeep. Marcus takes the car home, but she doesn't realize that they have charged Marcus twice the agreed-upon amount. Marcus is thrown out of her car by the defective brakes. For their negligence, Marcus' spouse can sue the rental company.

The Florida Wrongful Death Act only allows for claims where an injury has resulted in the victim's death. Marc's death is not the reason Marc's family can seek wrongful death compensation for double billing.

Marc's estate could still file a separate lawsuit to recover double billing. However, any damages awarded would go to Marc's estate and be distributed according Marc's will or intestate succession. If Marc's spouse requested recovery for the loss of companionship, they would be entitled to a certain amount of the verdict.

Marc's spouse may also be entitled to damages for burial costs and medical expenses. If damages are awarded, they will be paid to Marc's spouse, and not Marc’s estate.

Lost a Loved One in a Wrongful death? Contact A Miami Wrongful Death Lawyer Today!


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