Unfortunately, pedestrian accidents occur more frequently in Florida than one would care to admit. According to a recent news story published by the Miami Herald, Florida is reported to be among one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians. Indeed, according to the 2019 “Dangerous by Design” report conducted by Safe Growth America and National Complete Streets Coalition, nine of the 20 most deadly U.S. cities for pedestrians are located in Florida, with the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach metro area ranking fourteenth. These statistics are harrowing given that when pedestrian accidents occur they often result in death to the pedestrian. When a pedestrian dies in a pedestrian accident in Florida, a wrongful death action may be filed against the party responsible for the death. The question becomes, however, who can bring the wrongful death lawsuit and who may benefit from a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
Who May Sue?
Florida Statutes § 768.19 sets forth who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit if a person dies in a pedestrian accident. This statute states that the estate of the deceased pedestrian may bring a wrongful death claim in the event that the deceased pedestrian dies because of “the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another person. Accordingly, Florida law only permits the estate of the deceased pedestrian to file a wrongful death claim; it does not permit individual family members of the deceased pedestrian to file a wrongful death lawsuit by themselves.
Who Files the Wrongful Death Action if Only the Estate of the Decedent is Permitted to Bring this Action?
Because Florida law only the estate of the deceased pedestrian may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party, there needs to be a person designated to act on behalf of the estate. This person is called the personal representative of the estate. Personal representatives, on behalf of the estate, may file a wrongful death action against the at-fault party provided that they are properly appointed by state law. In Florida, one may name a personal representative of his or her estate before death in either a last will and testament or in an estate plan. However, if the deceased pedestrian dies intestate – without a last will and testament or estate plan – Florida courts may appoint a personal representative for the estate. In order to get a personal representative for the estate of an intestate deceased pedestrian, usually, a beneficiary of the decedent’s estate must petition a Florida court requesting to be appointed a personal representative.
Who Benefits from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florida?
While the estate of the decedent is the one who can file a wrongful death claim for the decedent, the decedent’s beneficiaries are the ones that benefit in the event that the wrongful death lawsuit is successful. Pursuant to Florida Statutes § 768.21, monetary damages may be awarded to certain individuals. For example, § 768.21 provides that the deceased pedestrians’ spouse, children, and parent may be awarded the following types of damages:
- The value of the services the decedent provided to the surviving family member
- Pain and suffering (if the deceased pedestrian is a child)
- Loss of companionship
- Medical or funeral expenses already paid by a beneficiary on behalf of the deceased pedestrian
The estate itself may receive the following types of damages:
- Lost wages and benefits the deceased pedestrian could have reasonably been expected to incur and accrue respectively but for his or her death
- Prospective net accumulations of the estate – how much money it would have reasonably generated had the decedent died at a later point
- Medical and funeral expenses already paid by the estate itself
When the estate obtains monetary damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, these monies are distributed to the deceased pedestrian’s beneficiaries after the estate is properly administered pursuant to Florida estates and trust laws.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Pedestrian Accident Case in Florida
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries when hit by a motor vehicle in Florida? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Lawlor, White & Murphey represent clients injured because of negligent drivers in Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Pompano Beach, and throughout Florida. Call 954-525-2345 (South Florida) or 855-347-5475 (Toll-Free) or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 2211 Davie Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, as well as offices in Pembroke Pines, Weston, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach, and Plantation.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.