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What counts as a “wrongful death” in Florida?

by | Jun 15, 2021

The definition of wrongful death in Florida’s “Wrongful Death Act” reads as follows:

When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, including those occurring on navigable waters, and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person or watercraft that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony.

The critical parts are underlined for clarity, but this definition is written to satisfy certain legal standards, not to be understood by the average person. To simplify, think of it like this: A wrongful death lawsuit is a personal injury lawsuit that is brought on behalf of the injured party because the injured party died.

If we now re-read the definition with some of the extra verbiage taken out, hopefully it will make more sense. A wrongful death is a death:

(1) caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person…(2) [provided that] the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.

Importantly, a “wrongful act” can encompass negligence, careless driving, assault and battery, manslaughter, and even murder. Wrongful death lawsuits are handled in civil court and are separate from any criminal charges which might be brought against the negligent party in criminal court. The purpose of a wrongful death tort is to compensate the surviving family for the financial losses they suffered because of the responsible party’s negligence.

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