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Florida Wrongful Death Laws

When someone takes the life of another, whether it was intentional or the result of negligence, the offender will likely face felony criminal charges and a lengthy prison sentence. But regardless of the underlying criminal charge (or lack thereof), anyone deemed responsible for causing the death of another may also be sued in civil court for wrongful death. The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows family members of the deceased to file a wrongful death suit against the person or entity they believe is responsible for their loved one's death. This article provides the basics of Florida's wrongful death laws, including who may bring such a claim and the types of compensation that may be awarded.

Overview of Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death is a tort claim that arises when an individual is liable for another's death. While it often is related to a murder or manslaughter criminal charge, it is an independent legal action that seeks monetary compensation for the survivors, such as children and spouses, and for the estate itself. Wrongful death claims typically are made for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and the value of lost support.

Under Florida law, such a claim may be filed when the individual's death was caused by "the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters." Also, the state generally allows claims for damages incurred from when the injury occurred to the point of death, plus interest, in addition to projected future earnings.

Florida Wrongful Death Laws at a Glance


Florida Wrongful Death Act: § 768.16 - 768.26

Statute of Limitations

4 years (§ 95.11)

Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim

Personal representative of the deceased individual's estate, on behalf of:

  • Spouse, children, and parents of the deceased; and
  • Blood relatives or adoptive siblings who are "partly or wholly" dependent on the decedent.

(§ 768.20)

Damages Available to Survivors in a Wrongful Death Claim
  • Lost support and services to survivors (relationship to the deceased, probable future income of the deceased, and replacement value of lost support and services are considered)
  • Surviving spouse's lost companionship and protection, plus pain and suffering
  • Minor children's lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance; plus pain and suffering (all children, not just minors, if there is no surviving spouse)
  • Parents of deceased child may claim damages for pain and suffering
  • Medical and/or funeral expenses

(§ 768.21)

Damages Available to the Estate in a Wrongful Death Claim
  • Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest
  • Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present money value
  • Medical or funeral expenses paid by or on behalf of the decedent

(§ 768.21)

Note: Amounts awarded to each survivor named in the wrongful death claim, and to the estate itself, are stated separately in the verdict (§ 768.22).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Florida Wrongful Death Laws: Related Resources

Have a Florida Attorney Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim 

If you've lost someone close to you, the last thing you want to do is file a lawsuit. But if someone else might be responsible for their death, they may be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Although Florida wrongful death laws restrict such claims to the deceased's personal representative, that person may claim for damages on your behalf. To learn more, talk to a Florida injury law attorney.

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