There is no greater pain than suffering the loss of a loved one. Somehow, the agony is even more intense when the death was caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another party. 

Each of us reacts differently to the pain of loss, and some of us will take longer than others will to seek redress for what has occurred. Regardless, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your rights as quickly as possible. 

Our wrongful death lawyers help you navigate the complexities of your legal case. Call us today at 305-375-0111.

In this post, we’ll discuss the “statute of limitations” in a wrongful death claim. This legal concept could keep you from receiving what you deserve in the wake of a loss unless you take action within a certain time frame. Let’s cover the basics.

What is Wrongful Death?

In the law, the phrase “wrongful death,” is a term of art. In other words, it has a particular meaning with legal weight. According to Cornell University’s 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.” 

What Types of Damages are Available in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

There are two main types of damages associated with wrongful death lawsuits: economic and non-economic damages. “Damages” are a type of remedy in the form of a monetary award paid to an individual who brings a successful lawsuit. 

Economic Damages: in a wrongful death claim, economic damages refer to money awarded for quantifiable losses. Examples of potential reasons for economic damage awards include but are not necessarily limited to medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, and the financial contributions that the deceased would have provided to their family. 

Non-Economic Damages: in a wrongful death claim, non-economic damages can seek to encompass the intangible loss that a loved one suffers from the death. Examples of potential reasons for non-economic damage awards can include mental and emotional anguish and loss of companionship. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit refers to the period of time in which an individual may bring a case against a party they believe is responsible, whether through intent or negligence, for their loved one’s death. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, even for the same civil action. 

When do I have to file the wrongful death lawsuit?

Florida Statute 95.11 (4)(d) sets the statute of limitations for wrongful death causes of action at two years from the date of the death. This means that, unless the law provides for an exception, individuals have only two calendar years from the date their loved one passed in which to file a claim with the court. 

Exceptions to Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Suit

There are many exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations prescribed by Florida Statute 95.11(4)(d). For example, you may have more time in which to file a claim for wrongful death if any of the following apply: 

  • 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 that may be 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 in case you meet an exception. 

What is the classification of a wrongful death case?

A wrongful death case is a civil cause of action. This means that wrongful death cases will be handled in civil, rather than criminal court. Even though the party against which a wrongful death case is brought may be facing criminal charges related to the same events, the wrongful death cause of action is a separate case. 

Even if a party is not found guilty of the criminal charges against them related to a death, they may still be found liable under a wrongful death cause of action related to the same circumstances. This distinction is due to the varying standards of proof associated with civil and criminal cases.

What are the basics of the wrongful death lawsuit?

The specifics of a wrongful death lawsuit will vary greatly depending on the unique circumstances of each unfortunate event. But overall, there are some basics you should be aware of. Here are a few: 

  • You can bring a wrongful death claim against a company. The party responsible for your loved one’s death may not be an individual. It may also be an entity, such as a business or other organization.
  • Wrongful death and personal injury claims are not the same. Wrongful death claims are different from personal injury claims. In a wrongful death suit, the loved one of a victim may recover damages. 
  • Wrongful death suits involve a lower burden of proof than criminal charges. It is not uncommon for a party to be acquitted of criminal charges related to a death and yet be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is due to the varying burdens of proof required to charge parties in a case; the burden is harder for a prosecutor to meet in a criminal case than for a plaintiff’s attorney to meet in a civil case. 
  • Negligent versus intentional wrongful death claims: There are many different instances that can lead to a wrongful death claim. These include situations involving ill intent, such as murder or manslaughter. They may also include situations involving negligence, such as car accidents, defective products, slips and falls, animal attacks, and construction accidents. 

Who may file the wrongful death lawsuit?

The answer to the question “who may file the wrongful death lawsuit” varies from state to state. In Florida, there is only one person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, but there are many more people who can collect damages (remedies in the form of monetary awards) in a wrongful death claim. 

In Florida, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only individual who may legally file a wrongful death claim. If this entity was not chosen during the deceased individual’s lifetime, they will be appointed after death. 

The individuals who can collect damages in a wrongful death claim are known as beneficiaries. Under Florida Statute 768.21, beneficiaries include the deceased individual’s

  • Spouse 
  • Children
  • Parents 
  • Dependent family members

What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim?

Wrongful death claims and estate claims are slightly different, and an experienced attorney can help you determine which you should pursue. In a wrongful death claim, compensation is sought for the economic and non-economic damages suffered due to the death of a loved one, including those damages we discussed above. 

In an estate claim, however, the estate of the deceased individual seeks damages that would have been owed to the individual had they not passed. This may include medical expenses and funeral costs. 

Where to Turn to for Help with your Wrongful Death Claim:

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, we offer our sincere condolences. At The Ferraro Law Firm, we’re focused on helping you work through the legalities of your circumstances. We’ll fight to ensure you receive the damages you’re entitled to, even in the worst of situations. 

To schedule your free consultation, call 888-554-2030 or fill out our free case consultation form and a member of our team will soon be in touch.