Recovering for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One in Florida

A wrongful death occurs when one person kills another person through misconduct. Every state applies its own wrongful death law, including Florida. Six-figure recoveries and beyond are not at all uncommon remedies for wrongful death.

The Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

To win a wrongful death claim, you must prove the following facts:

  1. The defendant owed a legal duty of care toward the victim–to dive safely on public roads, for example.
  2. The defendant breached their legal duty of care. The defendant might have behaved negligently, for example.
  3. The victim died from their injuries. If they are still alive, they might have a personal injury aim but not a wrongful death claim.
  4. The defendant’s misconduct was the foreseeable cause of the victim’s death.
  5. The victim’s family suffered quantifiable losses as a consequence of the victim’s death.

You must prove all six of these elements to win. Some of them, such as #2 and #5, are very easy to prove under most circumstances.

Who Can File a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Unlike many states, where various relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit, in Florida, the plaintiff must be the personal representative (executor) of the deceased victim’s probate estate. 

The personal representative is typically named in the victim’s will and confirmed by the probate court. If there is no will or no executor designation, the court can appoint an appropriate party, typically a close relative.

Wrongful Death vs. Homicide 

If the death of the victim was a crime, why file a lawsuit instead of a criminal complaint? Actually, you can and should file both. You can pursue a wrongful death claim in or out of court at the same time as a homicide prosecution – assuming that the defendant’s conduct amounted to a crime.

Ordinary Negligence Versus Criminal Negligence

Ordinary negligence might mean running a stop sign. Criminal negligence might mean driving 40 mph through a school zone. Either form of negligence can support a wrongful death claim, but only criminal negligence can support criminal charges. 

In other words, a wrongful death defendant’s conduct doesn’t have to amount to a crime, but it might. 

Burden of Proof

To win a criminal conviction, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” – a very high standard of proof. To win a wrongful death lawsuit, all you need to prove liability is “a preponderance of the evidence” – a 51% likelihood, or “more likely than not.” 

Importantly, this means you can win a lawsuit against a defendant who was acquitted for the same conduct in criminal court.


If the court convicts a defendant of homicide, you can expect a long prison sentence or perhaps even capital punishment. There may also be fines. If you win a wrongful death lawsuit, however, financial compensation is usually the exclusive remedy.

Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases

Compensation in wrongful death cases differs from compensation in personal injury cases. Please refer to the list below:

  • Medical expenses. These go to whichever party paid them (often the victim’s estate).
  • Funeral and burial expenses: These go to whichever party paid them.
  • Loss of financial support and/or services.
  • Loss of companionship and protection.
  • Psychological pain and suffering (of surviving family members).
  • Loss of consortium: Loss of companionship, intimacy, and affection (only the victim’s spouse can claim loss of consortium).
  • Punitive damages, in case of outrageous misconduct by the defendant.

These are just common examples of typical compensation; there is no formal list.

The Statute of Limitations Deadline

The Florida statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is usually two years. This means not necessarily two years after the victim’s injury, but instead two years after the victim’s date of death. This might be the same date, or it might not be.

Florida applies one particularly important exception – there is no statute of limitations for deaths caused by murder or manslaughter.

A Lawyer Is a Practical Necessity

It’s a serious matter when one person’s misconduct causes the death of another person. Because of the value of human life, there is almost always a lot of money at stake. That alone is a good enough reason to hire a lawyer. 

The more money that’s involved, the greater the differential between the least amount you’re likely to win and the greatest amount. That is where you could come out far ahead with a good lawyer, even after you pay your legal fees.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in South Florida

If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.

We proudly serve Palm Beach County, Broward County, and its surrounding areas:

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
(561) 347-7770

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 287-0566

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 556-7873