The wrongful death statute of limitations in Florida is generally TWO YEARS from the date of the loved one’s passing, per Florida Statute § 95.11 (4)(d). The statute of limitations is the time in which the personal representative has to file a lawsuit against all potential defendants. If a lawsuit is not filed within this time frame, with limited exceptions, the lawsuit will be forever barred.
Limited Exceptions to the Rule
There may be extenuating circumstances that extend a statute of limitations. For example, in medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations runs from the time the patient learned of the malpractice or should have learned of the malpractice. This caveat can extend the statute of limitations up to two years from the initial incident.
These are some other notable exceptions that apply to medical malpractice cases:
- Fraud involvement: In some medical malpractice cases, medical providers conceal information to protect themselves from legal action. If you or your lawyer can prove that case evidence was tampered with, you could receive a two-year statute of limitations extension. This type of exception can offer you up to an additional seven years of time.
- Exceptions in medical malpractice cases involving younger children: The deadlines associated with medical malpractice cases do not apply if you’re filing a lawsuit on behalf of a child under the age of eight. Beyond the child’s eighth birthday, standard deadlines apply.
Don’t assume the statute of limitations has run on your loved one’s case, even if it has been two years from the date of death. There are numerous exceptions not listed here, and every case is different Even standard cases that don’t involve medical malpractice may have a statute of limitations exception. A lawyer can review your case and provide you with more information.
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Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Exceptions in Contract Cases
Actions based on contracts, like underinsured motorist claims, are subject to a FIVE-YEAR statute of limitations. This is true even if the underinsured motorist claim is a claim for wrongful death damages. It would be poor practice by any lawyer to not file a lawsuit on a wrongful death action within the two-year wrongful death statute of limitation. Likewise, if you have an underinsured motorist claim for wrongful death, you should take action immediately and not wait.
Your Lawyer Has an Obligation to Abide by the Statute of Limitations
To preserve your rights or the rights of your loved ones in wrongful death cases, contact an attorney as soon as possible. It takes time to conduct a meaningful investigation and to prepare your case.
A common mistake we see is families waiting until the final months of the statute of limitations to contact a lawyer. Many lawyers will not accept cases in the final months of the statute of limitations due to the risk of committing legal malpractice. It is imperative you present your case to a lawyer early, so they have time to determine the liability of all potential defendants and to ensure defendants are properly named in the lawsuit.
If you have a wrongful death lawsuit pending with a lawyer and they have not filed the lawsuit in the months before the Statute of Limitations, demand to speak with your lawyer to learn why. You have a right to be reasonably updated on your case. You also have a right to know if your lawyer will take action. Some lawyers hold cases until the last minute hoping to settle. When a settlement does not come in, they drop the case at the last minute, leaving the client with no time to find other representation.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Case?
The Florida wrongful death statute details who can benefit from a wrongful death legal action. First, though, it’s important to understand how wrongful death lawsuits work in Florida. Only the personal representative of the loved one’s estate can file a lawsuit for beneficiaries.
What Is a Personal Representative?
A personal representative controls the finances, debt obligations, and personal property of the person who passed away. They also oversee the distribution of assets to heirs. If a will is in place, they can use it to guide the distribution of the estate. Filing wrongful death lawsuits is another one of the personal representative’s duties. They can be appointed by the will, the family of the deceased, or a local court.
Parties that Qualify for Compensation
When a personal representative files a wrongful death lawsuit, they detail who is hoping to receive compensation – these individuals are called beneficiaries. The Florida wrongful death statute outlines who can qualify as a beneficiary. These parties include:
- Blood relatives or adoptive siblings that depended on the loved one’s support
This statute is strict, meaning parties not listed here typically can’t receive any compensation. If you have questions about your wrongful death case eligibility, a lawyer can provide answers.
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What May Impact the Financial Value of a Wrongful Death Case?
The value of a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida can vary wildly. These are the factors that can impact the valuation of a case:
- The age of the deceased person prior to their passing
- The income of the deceased person
- The extent to which the deceased person financially supported others
- The costs of funeral and burial expenses
- The outcome of settlement negotiations
These factors vary from case to case. Your attorney can help you determine what you may be eligible to claim in your wrongful death case and how that might impact the value of your financial award.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
The wrongful death statute in Florida details the types of compensation beneficiaries can receive. These damages may include:
- Lost financial support
- Reduced familial earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a close personal relationship
- Loss of parental guidance, companionship, and instruction
Contact a Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
A Florida wrongful death lawyer from our firm can evaluate your case. We can ensure that you meet the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Florida. We also explain which statute of limitations exceptions might apply to your case. Contact our offices to connect with Dismuke Law today. Have any questions? Just ask Dave.