group of survivors discussing filing a wrongful death lawsuit

Did your loved one pass away because of a person’s (or entity’s) negligence? If this is your situation, you’re not alone—it’s one of the most devastating circumstances a person can experience.

While nothing can bring back a loved one, the family of the deceased individual deserves justice. Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can help begin to achieve that well-deserved justice, both through a strong message sent to the party at fault, and through compensation to the deceased individual’s loved ones.

Grieving individuals may find it difficult to expend the mental energy to make it through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, not all wrongful death claims drag on. In this post, we’ll discuss how long it takes to see a wrongful death lawsuit through to the end in Florida, and what you can do to explore a resolution today.  

How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take in Florida?

Each wrongful death lawsuit is unique, and the circumstances of your individual case will determine the total time the case will take from beginning to end. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to estimate that the typical wrongful death lawsuit will span anywhere from 18 months to three years.

What is a wrongful death?

The death of a loved one is never fair. When someone passes away too soon, the death always feels wrongful to the deceased individual’s family and friends. In the law, however, the phrase “wrongful death,” is a term of art—in other words, it has a particular meaning with legal weight. “Wrongful death” is an action that can be taken at law or a reason to file a claim within the court systems. Under the law, certain circumstances may form the basis of a wrongful death case.

According to the Cornell Law Legal Information Institute, “wrongful death” is defined as: “a civil cause of action brought by family members and dependents against individuals who knowingly or negligently cause the death of another person.” The concept of “wrongful death” involves, at a basic level, some level of fault either of a person or an entity.

How long does someone have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

Individuals who are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida should not delay in speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney and exploring their legal options.

Like many other states, Florida imposes what’s known as a “statute of limitations” on wrongful death claims. A statute of limitations is the time within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed.

Florida’s statute of limitations:

Florida law sets the statute of limitations for wrongful death causes of action at two years from the date that the deceased individual passed away.

Unless Florida statute or case law provides for a separate and distinct exception to this two-year rule, individuals will only have two calendar years from the day their loved one passed in which to file a claim with the court. Waiting until after this two-year mark could mean forfeiting your right to explore a claim and any related compensation.

Exceptions to the statute of limitations:

As with many laws, there are exceptions to Florida’s two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. These exceptions are delineated both in black-letter law and through cases that have been litigated in the past within the state.

In certain circumstances, the following exceptions may apply to allow you more time (above the typical two-year limit) in which to file your wrongful death claim:

  • Your loved one passed due to the intentional act of another party,
  • Your loved one passed due to murder or manslaughter,
  • Your loved one passed as a result of medical malpractice,
  • The party responsible for your loved one’s death was (or was affiliated with) the state government.
  • Even if you think the statute of limitations may have passed on your claim, you should review your case with experienced wrongful death attorneys to explore other possible exceptions or additional potential claims unique to your circumstances.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

In the state of Florida, only one party can file a wrongful death lawsuit: the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate. The personal representative may be chosen during the deceased person’s lifetime or may be appointed after the individual passes away.

Although only one party can file a wrongful death lawsuit, there is a far broader group who may collect damages in a wrongful death claim. Members of this group are defined by law as “beneficiaries.” this indicates that potential beneficiaries in a wrongful death lawsuit include a deceased individual’s spouse, children, parents, or other dependent family members.

What is the timeline for a wrongful death lawsuit?

Timeline-wise, wrongful death lawsuits play out according to three very basic steps: (1) exploring a case, (2) filing a case, and (3) resolving the case.

During the first step, a loved one will reach out to an attorney and discuss the facts of their loved one’s death.

During the second step, the representative of the deceased individual’s estate will file a lawsuit on behalf of any beneficiaries.

During the third step, the claim will be resolved. This process may involve a dismissal, a trial, a mediation, a settlement, or an appeal—but all roads lead to eventual resolution.

What factors may affect a wrongful death claim’s timeline?

Many factors go into the total time a wrongful death case can take, including:

  • How interested the parties are in settling the case and avoiding prolonged litigation
  • Whether the case goes to trial, is mediated, or is settled
  • How many people and entities, or “parties,” are involved in the case
  • How busy the Florida courts are at the time
  • How smoothly negotiations between the parties go
  • How complicated the facts of the case are
  • How complicated the legal issues involved in the case are
  • How much evidence is involved in the case for the parties and their counsel to review
  • Whether unsatisfied parties wish to appeal the results of the case after a verdict is reached at trial

How do I prove wrongful death in Florida?

Each wrongful death suit is different. In general, Florida applies a “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof to wrongful death cases.

When a case carries a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, the party who brought the case must be able to show that the party they believe is at fault was more likely than not to have caused the wrongful death.

Again, the circumstances of each case are unique and should be discussed with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

What damages can you get for wrongful death in Florida?

Damages are monetary awards granted as a result of a successful lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits involve two main types of damages: economic and non-economic damages.

“Economic damages” are monetary awards granted based on losses an individual suffered that can be calculated with certainty. For example, medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost wages may all become reasons for the award of economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

“Non-economic damages,” on the other hand, are monetary awards granted based on losses that are more difficult to put an exact number on. For example, mental and emotional anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship may all be considered for the award of non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

How are wrongful death proceeds divided in Florida?

In Florida, wrongful death proceeds may divided by the order of the court or by an agreement between the parties involved in the case. Many factors lead to a final determination of how wrongful death proceeds will be divided, including;

  • Whether the deceased individual had minor children
  • Whether the beneficiaries can agree on a desired distribution set-up
  • The default laws of the state


  • If my loved one didn’t have a will, can I still file a wrongful death lawsuit?
  • If my loved one passed away because of malpractice, could there be a claim for wrongful death?
  • If my loved one passed away because of a crime, could there be a claim for wrongful death?
  • If my loved one was partially at fault for their own death, could there still be a claim for wrongful death?