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What You Need to Know About the Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Florida Wrongful Death AttorneyYou lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party. Now what? You may know that you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim, but not know how long you have to file.

Do you know how the statute of limitations can impact your claim? A look at the Florida statute of limitations with regards to wrongful death claims can help give you a better understanding of your rights.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations defines how long you have to file a claim for injuries, death, or damages caused by another party. In the case of a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations will start counting down after the death of your loved one. You must file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out or the court may refuse to hear your claim.

The statute of limitations helps protect people and businesses from a claim that might come out of nowhere, sometime after the accident that initially caused those injuries. It also serves as a clear reminder of how long you have to move forward with your claim. If you fail to move forward with your wrongful death claim after the loss of a loved one, you may run out of time to seek the compensation your family deserves.

Florida’s Statute of Limitations

In Florida, you have until two years after the death of a loved one to file a wrongful death claim. However, several factors can influence the statute of limitations. If you believe you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, contact an attorney as soon after the death of your loved one as possible to get an idea of how long you may have to file a wrongful death claim, and what you should do to protect your rights following the loss of a loved one.

Filing a Claim Against a Government Entity

In some cases, you may have a shorter amount of time to file a claim against a government entity than you would have to file a wrongful death claim against an individual or business not owned by the government, but which caused the death of your loved one. A government entity may bear liability for your loved one’s death if, for example, you lost a child in a school bus accident, or your loved one died in a car accident as a direct result of failure to properly maintain the road.

If you need to file a wrongful death claim against the Florida government, or a Florida city government, you should contact an attorney as soon after the loss of your loved one as possible to get a better idea of how long you have to file.

The Party Liable for Your Loved One’s Death Dies

If a private individual bears liability for your loved one’s death, and that individual dies before you have a chance to file a wrongful death claim, you may need to act fast to protect your right to file a claim.

You may have just 90 days after that individual’s death to file a claim with the state and move forward in seeking the compensation you deserve for the loss of a loved one. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to get a better idea of what you need to do next after the liable party dies.

New Evidence Comes to Light

Sometimes, you may know exactly what—and who—caused your loved one’s death immediately after the accident. If your loved one died in a car accident caused by the other driver, for example, you may know immediately that you will need to file a wrongful death claim through that driver’s insurance company.

On the other hand, in some cases, you may not know exactly what caused your loved one’s death. Immediately afterward, you may think that your loved one’s own negligence caused his death. Upon further investigation, however, you may uncover the fact that another party contributed to your loved one’s death, leaving you with grounds for a wrongful death claim. This new knowledge may extend your ability to file a wrongful death claim, especially if that information comes to light after the statute of limitations has passed.

Always contact an attorney after the death of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. Even if you believe the Florida statute of limitations has passed, an attorney may identify an exception to the law that will extend the time you have to file a claim and make it easier for you to seek compensation for the loss of a loved one.

Does the Statute of Limitations Mean You Should Wait to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Some people wrongfully believe that the statute of limitations means that you should wait until close to the two-year mark to file a wrongful death claim. Not only that, time can get away from you faster than you think it can. Sometimes, time may pass more abruptly than you initially anticipated. Suddenly, you find yourself months or even years past the loss of your loved one, and you have not yet begun your wrongful death claim.

You can still contact an attorney and learn more about when to move forward with your claim, even if considerable time has passed since the accident. However, when possible, you should not put off filing a wrongful death claim. In fact, you should move forward with your claim as soon after your loved one’s death as possible.

Your attorney may find it easier to find evidence soon after the accident.

An investigation can prove critical after your loved one’s death. The type of investigation needed may depend on exactly what caused your loved one’s death and who it involved. For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, the attorney may need to investigate the scene of the accident and all drivers involved. If your loved one died in a construction site accident, your attorney may want to investigate the scene of the accident and talk to witnesses while the incident remains fresh in everyone’s mind.

Not only can it prove easier to find evidence directly at the scene of the accident, including potential video footage of the accident scene, immediately after the accident, witness memories often fade quickly. While witnesses may have general, vague memories of the event, they may lose track of the details that could prove essential in establishing liability for your loved one’s accident and help you pursue your claim.

You do not want to give the liable party time to cover up evidence related to the accident.

The longer you wait to file a wrongful death claim, the greater the likelihood that evidence will simply disappear. Sometimes, this occurs naturally due to the passage of time. Other times, especially if a corporate entity causes your loved one’s death, that entity may deliberately obscure evidence related to the loss of your loved one to help decrease the company’s financial liability after the accident. If you wait to file your wrongful death claim, the company has more time to decide to cover up that evidence and more time to ensure that it disappears.

The company may try to preemptively pressure you into a settlement.

Some people start thinking about a wrongful death claim immediately after the loss of a loved one. You may know that you want to hold the liable party responsible for those actions. Your claim may help force change that can help keep others safe, or it might at least hold the company financially responsible for your loss.

Other people, however, may not think about a wrongful death claim at first. Caught up in the loss of a loved one, you may find yourself more focused on planning a funeral, rebuilding your life, and grieving than you are on any sort of financial compensation for the loss of a loved one.

Some insurance companies will try to take advantage of your grief and your lack of knowledge concerning your legal rights to pressure you into an early settlement. Frequently, this settlement will not reflect the full compensation you deserve for the loss of a loved one. Instead, it will reflect a relatively minor percentage of the compensation you should expect.

An attorney, however, can help you better understand your rights, including the compensation you should expect for the loss of a loved one and how to protect your rights. Thanks to that knowledge, you can then turn down unfair offers and submit a claim that includes the compensation your family really deserves.

What Happens After the Statute of Limitations Runs Out in Florida?

If you believe that the statute of limitations has run out after the loss of your loved one, get in touch with an experienced wrongful death attorney anyway. Your attorney may establish an exception to the statute of limitations in your claim, which will give you more time to file your wrongful death claim and receive compensation for the loss of a loved one.

Once the statute of limitations runs out, however, the court may refuse to hear your claim. If you receive any compensation at all for the loss of your loved one after the statute of limitations has ended, it may reflect the benevolence of the liable party, rather than the compensation your family initially should have received for the loss of a loved one.

What If Not Every Member of the Family Wants to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

If you have several people in your family who have the same right to file a wrongful death claim, including several children of an unmarried parent, each one may have the same right to make decisions regarding a wrongful death claim.

Each member of the family has the same right to accept a settlement offer or to move forward with a claim. You do not have to include a family member who does not want to pursue compensation for the loss of a loved one as part of a wrongful death claim. However, you should not allow that family member to stall so long that the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Florida runs out.

Talk to an attorney to learn more about your legal options, particularly if the individual who does not want to file a claim has the primary right to file a wrongful death claim: a spouse who does not want to move forward with a claim while the deceased’s children do, for example.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin Counting Down?

Wrongful Death Lawyer Orlando, FL - Michael T. Gibson
Wrongful Death Attorney, Michael T. Gibson

Generally, the statute of limitations begins counting down with your loved one’s death. Sometimes, the accident that caused the death of your loved one may not result in immediate death. Patients with traumatic brain injury may linger in a coma for several days or several weeks before dying of their injuries.

Patients with multiple internal injuries may even go through several procedures before dying of their injuries. In most cases, the countdown to the statute of limitations will begin when your loved one dies, not with the initial accident. However, if your loved one lingered for several years after the accident and chose not to pursue a personal claim, you should consult a wrongful death lawyer to learn more about your family’s rights.

Do you have the right to file a wrongful death claim following the loss of a loved one in a Florida accident? Do you need to know more about your right to compensation, including how long you have to file a claim for your loved one’s loss? An attorney can help you understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your case as well as the compensation you may deserve.

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