Who will get the money in a wrongful death lawsuit depends on several factors, including whether the court determines the deceased suffered wrongful death and who the surviving dependents are.
In general, the family members closest to the deceased will be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit and be eligible to receive a settlement — which is then divided among the parties of interest.
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Parties who can Receive a Wrongful Death Settlement
Not any family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages after losing a loved one. Eligible parties in some states might include direct family members, such as a spouse and children, and household dependents. Florida law says the person to bring a lawsuit on another’s behalf must be the executor of the state.
You might be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you lost your loved one under Florida Statutes §768.19. However, these matters can become complicated. Some people have common-law marriages, children born out of wedlock, or other factors that may affect eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Here are some parties who can benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit:
A spouse or romantic partner can file a wrongful death injury action after losing their loved one.
If the life partner who is benefiting from a wrongful death action was not legally married to the deceased at the time of their death, this can affect whether they receive a settlement.
Generally, the child of the deceased can recover compensation. Factors that may affect whether children receive money following their parent’s death could include:
- If the child is a product of the deceased person’s marriage or past marriage
- If the child was adopted
- If the child was a stepchild
- If the child was not yet born at the time of the deceased person’s death
- If the child was financially dependent on the deceased
Parents of either minor or adult children can file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue damages after losing their child.
Adoptive parents, stepparents, and other people with parent-like relationships to the deceased may have an interest in filing an action as well, but these relationships can make the lawsuit more complex.
Some people may provide full or most of the financial support for children or adult dependents. A dependent, in legal terms, is someone who lives in your home and whom you financially support through providing shelter, food, and other necessary means of living.
These dependents may also be named in wrongful death lawsuits and may be eligible to receive compensation.
Can Siblings Sue for Wrongful Death?
In Florida, wrongful death cases provide compensation for surviving loved ones who lost “support and services” upon the death of their loved one, according to Florida Statutes §768.21. A sibling may be able to benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, depending on their relationship to their sibling at the time of the sibling’s death and if they were receiving financial support from the sibling.
However, this is true only after primary beneficiaries—a spouse or any children—have received compensation. Siblings cannot file a lawsuit unless they are the deceased’s estate executor.
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Factors that Affect the Money You Receive
Wrongful death lawsuits can become incredibly complex, from determining that the deceased person’s death was a wrongful death to naming parties who should receive money following that person’s death.
Some factors that could affect the outcome of your case and how much money you may receive could include:
- If you had a common-law marriage to your spouse or partner
- If you lost financial support and companionship when you lost your spouse
- If the deceased person’s children will lose most of their financial support after losing their parent
- The amount of the funeral and burial expenses
- If the deceased person’s estate was providing support to other dependents (such as parents, siblings, household dependents) that was expected to continue
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How Wrongful Death Settlements are Determined
Unlike with some other personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits are not meant to punish the responsible party for someone’s death. Instead, wrongful death lawsuits provide money for the surviving loved ones to help atone for the unexpected loss and account for the loss of financial support.
All compensation awarded will consider factors that reflect the surviving family members’ loss and their current and future struggles due to the loss.
Find Help with Filing a Wrongful Death Action
If you recently lost a family member and are experiencing financial struggles on top of overwhelming grief, you are not alone. Allow the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine to offer our skills and knowledge in this area of law to help you begin your case.
Connect with a wrongful death lawyer from our firm to start building your lawsuit. Call for a free consultation to get started.