Under Florida law, a wrongful death lawsuit is a way for you and your family to hold an individual accountable for their misconduct. This is especially pertinent because a criminal charge may not result in compensation being paid to the estate of the surviving family members.
Unlike a criminal case, you need not prove an intent to kill, only that the actions (negligent, reckless, or intentional) of the defendant (be that a person, company, or government institution) directly contributed to the wrongful death of your loved one.
Note that the burden of proof on these cases is NOT ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ but instead an easier burdeon of proof of the ‘preponderance of the evidence” which simply means is it more likely than not…
Another difference is that a civil lawsuit is brought to court by the deceased person’s estate and not by the government. In the State of Florida, only the Personal Representative of the estate (sometimes referred to as “Executor” or “Executrix”) can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for the bereaved family on their behalf. If there is no will or estate plan, a Personal Representative will be appointed by the court.
Only the spouse, children, parents, or blood relative / adoptive sibling who was dependent on the deceased for support (up to a certain age) can benefit from the lawsuit. They can be compensated for:
- Medical bills and funeral expenses
- Lost wages and loss of the deceased’s future earnings and benefits
- Loss of guidance and companionship
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
- Other terms of compensation may apply depending on your circumstances.