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‘Other Heirs’ Right To File Suit

The Florida Wrongful Death Act is clear about who has the right to recover damages from a wrongful death. Specifically, the law allows a living spouse to recover for his or her own intangible damages, including pain and suffering, loss of companionship, value of lost services and – if the decedent was employed – lost economic support. Further, the statute specifically allows living children of the deceased person, if under the age of 25, to recover damages for pain and suffering and loss of parental guidance and companionship.

Where the statute is silent is when it comes to other heirs (i.e., not surviving parents or children) that have the right to sue. The Florida statute says nothing about adopted children or siblings. However, the courts have interpreted the statute’s statement that an heir who is wholly or partly dependent on the deceased person for support or services as meaning that any blood relative meeting this requirement has the right to recover the value of those lost services and support. In other words, so long as a dependency can be shown, adopted children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts have the right to file a Florida Wrongful Death action.

That being said, the statute is rather limiting. For example, if a 60 year old retired widow is the victim of a wrongful death and her surviving heirs are in their 30s, according to the Florida statute there are no dependent heirs and, besides recovering the expenses of the funeral and medical bills, no damages will be paid. Another example is when someone over the age of 24, disabled and unmarried is killed. Because of their disability, such blood relatives as siblings or parents will find it difficult to satisfy the required dependency standard.

Clearly, the key for an heir who is not a child or spouse is to be able to demonstrate dependency. This is a legal argument that depends heavily on the facts of the case. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you discuss your case with an experienced Florida Wrongful Death Attorney. For more information on actions under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, contact the Law Offices of James O. Cunningham, P.A., at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) for a free initial consultation.

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