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It is a sad event when anyone is injured due to the negligence of another, but when that negligence results in the loss of a loved one, that event becomes a tragedy; children are deprived of the guidance that a parent provides, Spouses are left without companionship, parents lose the comfort of their children and an entire family loses the love and support that the person provided. Nothing can make up for these losses, though the law does provide for some monetary recovery to be made.

While all personal injury lawsuits are ruled by the standard rules of procedure, these cases differ in one critical respect, the injured party is no longer with us. Because of this there is a special set of statutes, the Florida Wrongful Death Act that governs how they are handled.

The purpose of this Act is twofold. One, it helps assure that if someone you love is taken from you through the senseless act of another person that the person will be held accountable for the damages that they have caused to you. Two, all the cases associated with a wrongful death are brought to the court in one packet rather than having the court inundated with individual lawsuits that are, in reality, a single case.

In this series, we will look at these special statutes and how they impact a wrongful death case.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The first area to be discussed mainly addresses the second purpose of the Wrongful Death Act as well as establishing a unique entity. In a normal personal injury lawsuit it is the injured party that must file a claim. Obviously this cannot be, as the case is a wrongful death case: the deceased is in no position to speak for themselves. Therefore the law recognizes the decedent’s estate as being a legal entity and it is this lawful person, through a PR (Personal Representative) that must file the case.

What is a Personal Representative?

In simple terms, a PR is a person, appointed by the court, who steps into the shoes of the decedent in all business matters. This person will be responsible for conducting all business matters, which involve the deceased estate, including the bringing of legal actions, such as a wrongful death lawsuit.

In the majority of cases, where a person has a will, the executor of that will, will be recognized by the court as being the defacto Personal Representative of choice for the deceased. However, in cases where the departed left no Last Will and Testament or for whatever reasons the executors position is in question, it will fall to the Probate Court to appoint a suitable person.

This person may be a parent if the deceased is unwed, a spouse, or a close relative to the deceased. However, there are certain requirements that must be met to fill this position.

  • The person must be 18 years old
  • Be mentally sound and physically able to perform needed duties
  • Cannot have had a felony conviction

Considering the importance of the role this person plays, these are not very stringent requirements.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be some of the most complicated cases that an attorney can handle. There are many factors that can come into play that will not be seen in other types of personal injury cases. If someone you love has lost their life due to the negligent behavior of others, remember that it is the negligent party’s responsibility to bear the financial brunt of your loss. Ensure that you contact an experienced civil trial lawyer to assist you as soon as possible.