If you have lost a sibling in an accident, you may wonder if you can sue for wrongful death in Florida. At Maderal Byrne & Furst PLLC, our wrongful death attorneys can explain to you whether you are eligible to file a lawsuit on behalf of your sibling.
Are Siblings Able to Sue for Wrongful Death in Florida?
A sibling can sue for wrongful death in Florida if they were dependent on their brother or sister for financial support or services at the time of death. The sibling may be named as a beneficiary of the wrongful death claim brought by the personal representative of the estate.
Are Siblings Survivors for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Florida Statutes § 768.18 defines who qualifies as a survivor for the purposes of a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. A survivor includes any blood relative, including siblings, adopted brothers, and sisters. They must be partially or completely dependent on the decedent for support or services.
What counts as support or services for a wrongful death lawsuit by a sibling?
A person may be a dependent on a deceased sibling for support or services through:
- Contributions in kind
- Tasks, usually household
A sibling doesn’t have to be wholly dependent on their brother or sister. Partial dependency is enough to make the sibling a survivor.
How can a sibling join a wrongful death claim in Florida?
The personal representative files the wrongful death claim in Florida. They name all potential beneficiaries, including siblings.
What Compensation Can a Sibling Recover in a Florida Wrongful Death Action?
In a Florida wrongful death action, a sibling may recover:
- Value of lost support and services, from the date of injury to death
- Interest on value of lost support and services
- Future loss of support and services from the date of death, reduced to present value
To determine the award, it’s appropriate to evaluate the relationship and what was provided. The life expectancies of the victim and sibling may be relevant.
What about pain and suffering and mental anguish for a sibling in a wrongful death lawsuit?
The Florida wrongful death statute discusses compensation for pain and suffering, companionship, instruction, and guidance – but not for siblings. These types of compensation are reserved for children and parents.
While this may seem unfair, the reasoning is to provide a full recovery for those who have demonstrable losses without giving a windfall to a more distant relative. See White v. Clayton, 323 So.2d 573 (1975) (where the court upheld a statutory bar of loss of net accumulations recovery by siblings).
Does the sibling get their own verdict, or do they get a share of the award to all survivors?
Even though all beneficiaries are named together in a wrongful death action, Florida Statutes § 768.22 requires that the amounts awarded to each survivor be stated separately in the verdict.
What if I disagree with a proposed settlement for a wrongful death action?
While a wrongful death action is pending, a survivor may object to a proposed settlement. Florida Statutes § 768.25 requires court approval when any survivor objects or a survivor is a minor or incompetent.
How are attorneys fees paid when a wrongful death claim involves a sibling?
Florida Statutes § 768.26 requires the personal representative to pay wrongful death attorney fees and deduct them from the awards to survivors and the estate. The deductions are made in proportion to the amounts awarded to each person. If there are expenses incurred for the benefit of a particular party, those expenses come directly from that person’s award.
What if the spouse and children file? Can the sibling still file a wrongful death claim in Florida?
Florida law allows a sibling to benefit from a wrongful death claim in Florida, even if there are others who may also benefit, like a spouse, children, or parents. A brother or sister is not prohibited from filing because there are others who have losses, too. All the beneficiaries are named together in a claim.
Note: In cases outside Florida, the answer may be different.
Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
If you are wondering if you can sue for wrongful death in Florida or if you have questions about your situation, contact us. We invite you to talk with the Maderal Byrne & Furst team about the specifics of your case.