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Death of a Survivor Prior to Judgement

Florida law is clear that whenever an individual is killed by the wrongful conduct of another, the decedent’s surviving heirs and/or other beneficiaries may file a wrongful death action against the person(s) responsible for the decedent’s death. As part of the action, the survivors can seek damages, including economic, non-economic and, in some cases, punitive damages. In other words, according to the Florida wrongful death act, one has the right to receive compensation for such things as:

  • Medical and funeral expenses
  • Loss of expected earnings, benefits and inheritance
  • Value of goods and services victim could have provided had they lived
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Loss of consortium and care, advice and nurturing from the deceased

These available damages include the monetary value of services provided by a stay at home parent and thus include compensation for child care, cooking, cleaning, maintenance, shopping, transportation and education.

However, what happens when the survivor dies prior to a judgment on damages being issued? For example, if Husband and Wife are in an automobile accident that is caused by the wrongful doing of Defendant. Husband dies instantly and Wife is injured. Wife then sues Defendant under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. However, before a judgment on the matter is issued, Wife dies from a heart attack or some other injury not related to the car accident. In such a scenario, according to Florida statute 768.24, Wife’s recovery to lost support and services is limited to the date of her death, with the personal representative paying the amount recovered to the personal representative of the deceased survivor.

But what if, in the same situation, Wife doesn’t later die of an unrelated cause but as a result of injuries sustained in the car accident. Thus, Husband immediately dies, giving Wife the right to sue for wrongful death. But, because Wife also sustains critical injuries, in the following weeks, she too dies. In such a situation, there could also be a wrongful death claim attached to her death. In that case, an argument could be made that both deceased Husband and deceased Wife have the right to recovery per the limitations of 768.24 for each other’s death. Furthermore, any other survivors (children, parents, etc.) can also file an action for wrongful death.

For more information on what rights you have under the Florida Wrongful Death statute, 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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