Personal representatives play an important role in Florida wrongful death cases. To understand the role of a Personal Representative, it is first important to know who is eligible to file a Florida wrongful death claim. The Florida Wrongful Death Act sets forth who can be compensated for loss when a person dies from an accident in Florida. The Florida Wrongful Death act refers to those who are eligible for compensation as “survivors.” Often, the survivors list is inequitable. In some unfortunate situations, parents and children may be barred from recovering for the tragic loss of a loved one caused by someone else’s negligence.
Florida wrongful death cases are not brought by those defined in the statute as “survivors.” Instead, wrongful death claims are brought by Personal Representatives on behalf of survivors. Wrongful death actions in Florida are filed in the Personal Representative’s name. The course of action of a wrongful death action is decided by the Personal Representative’s attorney. However, individual survivors may retain separate counsel to protect their individual interests.
Nevertheless, the Personal Representative in a Florida wrongful death case can be a survivor. Florida laws and the courts work to police cases to avoid problems that may arise from this seeming conflict. Under Florida statute and established case law, Personal Representatives have a serious fiduciary duty to distribute proceeds of any recovery in a reasonable and equitable manner to each survivor. There are serious consequences for Personal Representatives who do not abide by this mandate.
However, dealing with money can invariably lead to dispute. It is important to remember that the value of each survivors claim is based upon their relationship with the decedent. Damages for the loss of earnings typically go to the surviving spouse and/or children. Damages for the loss of a relationship with the decedent, go to each survivor based upon his/her degree of connection and involvement in the decedents life. These damages compensate the survivor for the loss of the relationship with the decedent. Disputes over the value or each survivors claim and division of any settlement proceeds can occur. The Personal Representative together with the survivors should attempt to resolve any dispute. Personal Representatives are charged with acting honestly and admirably in their dealings. Putting greed and favoritism aside, decisions should be made which result in a reasonable and equitable distribution of proceeds of any recovery. If unable to do so, the court would get involved to assist in formulating a reasonable division of all losses.
Wittmer|Linehan understands that the death of a loved one is heartbreaking and confusing. When an injury results in death, survivors are entitled to recover damages for the death of a loved one. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys know the laws concerning Personal Representatives in Florida wrongful death cases.
Our firm treats each case as though it were to proceed to trial. Early involvement allows our attorneys and staff to properly evaluate and investigate your case from the beginning and maximize your ultimate recovery. Additionally, we maintain a network of experts in areas such as accident reconstruction, medical evaluation and medical care planning and damage calculation. To speak with our attorneys and staff, please contact us at (941) 365-2296. Wittmer|Linehan is here to help.