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The Statute of Limitations in Florida Wrongful Death Cases

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Posted on September 12, 2023

If you suffer the tragedy of losing a loved one in an avoidable accident in Florida, it is important to know your statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. This is a time limit that applies to all civil claims, or actions brought for financial damages. For the most part, Florida’s statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time an individual has to initiate legal proceedings. Statutes of limitations exist for both criminal and civil cases in Florida. The purpose of a statute of limitations is to encourage the timely filing of a legal case.

The courts want to encourage prompt filing for many reasons, including maintaining an efficient legal system, preventing evidence from getting lost or destroyed, and stopping an individual from being able to hold the threat of a lawsuit over someone else’s head indefinitely.

The legal system enforces statutes of limitations to ensure that a claim is fundamentally fair to both the filing party (plaintiff) and the accused party (defendant). It is critical to adhere to the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case if you wish to have a valid claim to damages.

What Is Florida’s Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under Florida Statute 95.11(4)(e), an action for wrongful death must be commenced within two years, with rare exceptions for special circumstances. The statute of limitations begins running on the date that the cause of action accrues. In a wrongful death claim, this is the date of the deceased individual’s death. This date may differ from the date of the accident if the victim initially survived before ultimately succumbing to his or her injuries.

Wrongful Death Claims Following Intentional Torts

Florida’s statute of limitations on wrongful death actions is lifted for certain intentional torts resulting in death, according to Section 95.11(10) of state law. This exception states that if an intentional act of wrongdoing as described in Section 782.04 (murder) or Section 782.07 (manslaughter) of the law results in the death of an individual, an action seeking financial compensation for wrongful death may be commenced at any time.

Under this exception, there is no civil filing deadline if an intentional tort took your loved one’s life. Note that this rule does not mean the filing of a civil action for wrongful death is contingent upon an arrest being made, formal criminal charges being filed or a conviction being brought against the defendant for murder or manslaughter. A wrongful death claim does not require proof of intent to harm to result in financial compensation for survivors.

How Does This Differ From the Statute of Limitations on a Personal Injury Case?

Prior to March 2023, Florida’s wrongful death statute of limitations was half the amount of time granted for a personal injury claim (two years compared to four years, respectively). However, the passing of a new tort reform law decreased Florida’s personal injury statute of limitations from four to two years – now matching the wrongful death statute of limitations. The clock will start ticking on the date of the accident or injury discovery in a personal injury claim, however, rather than the date of death.

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Florida

State law in Florida requires the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file a wrongful death claim rather than surviving loved ones. The representative – also known as an executor or administrator – may have been named in the decedent’s will. If not, he or she can be appointed by the courts.

If you believe you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim in Florida, start by contacting a Tampa wrongful death attorney at Vanguard Attorneys. We can help you meet your statute of limitations to protect your right to recover financial compensation for a devastating death in your family.