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Recovery on Behalf of the Decedent’s Estate in Wrongful Death Actions


Personal Injury

In addition to the individual survivors of the decedent, Florida’s Wrongful Death Act also allows for a separate claim on behalf of the potential beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. There are several types of damages that may be recovered by the decedent’s estate. Recovery for damages on behalf of the decedent’s estate will generally depend on the particular factual circumstances of the case, such as the relationship status between the decedent and surviving beneficiary.

The personal representative for decedent’s estate may recover damages for loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of death, with interest. However, damages awarded to a survivor for loss of support shall be deducted from damages awarded for loss of earning. Contributions in kind are excluded from deductions to the decedent’s estate for support losses awarded to a survivor.

In some cases, the decedent’s estate may also recover damages for loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, reduced to present money value. These damages include the losses associated with what a beneficiary would have reasonably expected to receive from the decedent’s estate had the wrongful death not occurred. Recovery for the loss of prospective net accumulations are limited to the following two circumstances:

(1) If the decedent’s survivors include a surviving spouse or lineal descendants; or
(2) If the decedent is not a minor child as defined in s. 768.18(2), there are no lost support and services recoverable under subsection (1), and there is a surviving parent.

Medical and funeral expenses are also compensable losses in a wrongful death action. Note the distinction between medical and funeral expenses recoverable by and for an individual survivor, as opposed to recovery by and for a decedent’s estate. The decedent’s estate may recover medical and funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death that have become a charge against his or her estate, or that were paid by or on behalf of a decedent. In contrast, an individual survivor may only recover medical and funeral expenses if they were actually paid for. Recovery for medical and funeral expenses awarded to the decedent’s estate shall deduct damages awarded to a survivor who has paid them. In other words, in no event shall an award be made that would essentially result in double recovery for such damages.

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There are also other factors that can affect the allocation and award of damages to the decedent’s estate. For example, if the decedent’s spouse has remarried, evidence of such remarriage may be admitted in the consideration of a damage award. In addition, all awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors, provided such creditors have complied with the requirements of probate law pertaining to creditor claims.

Due to the complex nature of wrongful death actions, it is important to stress the beneficial value of securing a qualified attorney that has practice experience in this specific area of law. In addition to wrongful death actions, the Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A., also possess valuable experience in related legal practice areas, such as family law, estate planning, and probate law. Because statutory time limitations apply to the right to recover for wrongful death damages in Florida it is crucial that sufficient measures are taken to ensure the protection of your legal rights.