Few things in life are as difficult and as trying as losing a loved one. When the wrongful behavior of another causes the death of someone close, it’s not unreasonable to seek just compensation. However, it is difficult to understand the intricacies of wrongful death laws in Florida, especially in the chaos and confusion that follows the loss of a loved one.
Grossman Attorneys at Law has created this article to help you better understand some of the basic points of wrongful death in Florida. In the article, we will discuss what a wrongful death is, the damages arising from wrongful death, and what Florida’s wrongful death damages caps are.
What Does Wrongful Death Mean?
- Breach of warranty, and
- Intentional acts such as assault or murder.
Under Florida law, survivors of a wrongful death victim, including their spouse, children, and parents, can seek damages due to the losses they have suffered as a result of the death. The person’s estate may also be entitled to certain damages. The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Florida is only two years.
Florida Wrongful Death Damages
Under Florida law, there are several ways of calculating damages in a wrongful death suit. The types of damages include loss of support and services, loss of companionship, mental pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses, and lost earnings.
Loss of Support and Services
Loss of support damages is the value, with interest, of the support and services provided by your loved one to their family. Loss-of-support damages depend on the person’s net income and the replacement value of their services.
Loss of Companionship
The deceased person’s surviving spouse and minor children may seek damages for loss of companionship and protection. Adult children may also seek loss of companionship and protection damages if the person has no surviving spouse.
Mental Pain and Suffering
Damages for mental pain and suffering may be collected by a spouse and minor children. Parents of minor children may also collect these damages. As with loss of companionship, adult children may collect mental pain and suffering damages if there is no surviving spouse. The parents of an adult child may collect mental pain and suffering damages if their child had no spouse or descendants.
Medical and Funeral Expenses
A survivor who paid the deceased person’s medical or funeral expenses may seek reimbursement for those costs. The person’s estate may also collect these damages based on how much it spent on such expenses.
The estate may seek the value of earnings lost from the date of the injury until the person’s death. The estate may also seek reasonable compensation for the earnings the person would have saved if not for their death.
What Is a Damages Cap?
A cap on damages means that the total amount that can be awarded to an injured party or their survivors is limited to a specific number or percentage. These caps are often controversial, and some states have found they violate their state’s constitution.
Florida Wrongful Death Damages Cap
Prior to 2014, the State of Florida limited non-economic damages in wrongful death suits related to medical practice to $1,000,000. In 2014, however, the Florida Supreme Court found caps on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases to be unconstitutional. In Estate of McCall v. United States, the Florida Supreme court stated that the cap on non-economic damages violated the Florida Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
Claims Against the Government
Survivors may still hit a damages cap when seeking wrongful death damages from a government entity. Florida law currently caps damages at $200,000 in wrongful death cases against the government. Unlike the cap discussed above, not only has this cap been upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, the court even stated in a recent case (Barnett v. State Department of Financial Services) that such damages are capped at $200,000 for the entire event giving rise to the death or injury and not just per person.
Punitive Damages Cap
In addition to the cap for claims against the government, you may also hit a cap when seeking punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. Under Florida law, a claimant may seek punitive damages in cases involving intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Intentional misconduct involves an act where the party knew their action would have a high probability of causing harm, but continued anyway. For example, a person who intentionally crashed their vehicle into another would likely have engaged in intentional misconduct.
Gross negligence involves cases where the party was so reckless that it showed that they were consciously indifferent to the life, safety, or rights of others. For example, someone who causes a car crash while drag racing may be considered to have been grossly negligent.
The cap on punitive damages in Florida is the greater of either three times the amount received in compensatory damages or $500,000. So if you are awarded $300,000 in damages for the death of a loved one, you can still seek up to $900,000 in punitive damages before you hit the cap.
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one to the wrongful behavior of another, our Boca Raton accident attorneys want to help. Nobody deserves to lose their loved one due to another’s recklessness and disregard. It can be difficult, especially in a time of grief, to understand who can file a wrongful death claim. The legal questions still surrounding Florida’s wrongful death damages cap only add to this difficulty. Fortunately, our skilled and experienced attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of filing a wrongful death claim in the State of Florida.