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Classifications of Individuals in Wrongful Death Actions


Personal Injury

The Gainesville – Ocala Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. represent client seeking financial compensation in wrongful death actions. Death-related proceedings are highly unique in comparison to other types of personal injury actions. In order to fully understand the processes and procedures associated with Wrongful Death claims in Florida, it is helpful to understand the distinctions amongst, as well as interacting roles between, four key classifications of individuals:  (1) Decedent; (2) Survivors; (3) Personal Representative; and (4) Legal Representative.

To provide clarification, a description of each has been provided below:

(1) Decedent(s): The individual, or in the case of multiple victims, the individuals that suffered fatality. The terms decedent and deceased are often used interchangeably. If, prior to death, a personal injury action has been initiated, such action pending at the time of death, shall abate, and subsequent action shall be brought by the decedent’s personal representative.

(2) Survivor(s): Pursuant to Florida Statute § 768.18, the term ‘survivors,’ for purposes of Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, “means the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. It includes the child born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support.” Survivors to wrongful death actions brought forth on behalf of decedent’s estate may also referred to as ‘claimants’ or ‘beneficiaries.’

(3) Personal Representative: Person, bank or trust company, appointed by the probate judge that serves as representative in the administration of decedent’s estate. The personal representative must be either a Florida resident or close relative of the decedent, or both. In most cases, the personal representative will work in conjunction with an attorney, other than the attorney representing the beneficiaries, who will assist during the administration process.

(4) Legal Representative: A legal representative, in contrast to a personal representative is the attorney who represents the claimants in a wrongful death action. The purpose of securing representation from an attorney is to ensure that the legal interests of survivors are adequately protected. In matters where a commonality of interests exists between survivors, a single attorney may represent all survivors. However, in matters where there are competing interests between the beneficiaries, or where one of the survivors elects to engage separate counsel, there may be multiple attorneys involved. In addition, the use of an attorney is required in most probate matters, under Florida law.

Provided with the distinctions in classifications of individuals, it is easy to see just how complex wrongful death actions can be. In addition to general legal principles, the intersection between specialized areas of law, including personal injury, wrongful death, and probate law, demands the selection of a legal representative that has proficiency and knowledge in each of these practice areas, and can effectively address each and every legal issue associated with your particular case. It is this unique combination in legal expertise that can  have a profound impact on the outcome of a wrongful death action.

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The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. are both qualified and experienced in each of the aforementioned practice areas. It is important for victims to consider the specific needs relevant to your matter when assessing the qualifications of an attorney, while also keeping in mind that not all wrongful death attorneys are the same. Our aggressive and results-driven approach has resulted in numerous victories in fatality-related personal injury cases.