Can You Sue For Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?

June 23, 2022

If you're wondering if you can sue for punitive damages in a wrongful death case, read on. We'll discuss the difference between wrongful death and survival action, how to justify them, and when they apply.

The loss of a loved one in an accident can have devastating financial and emotional consequences. Florida recognizes the right of survivors to sue for economic and other losses against those responsible. Unless a narrow exception applies, punitive damages cannot be awarded in wrongful death cases. There are however, situations in which the victim's estate may be entitled to punitive damages. This is called a survival action.

What is punitive damage?

Personal injury and wrongful deaths cases often award damages known as "economic" or "non-economic".  These damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for their losses. However, punitive damages are not a reimbursement. They are intended to punish the most egregious conduct and deter others from doing similar.

Every state has its own laws, and each court case limits when and how punitive damage may be awarded. Florida law does allow punitive damages to be awarded in cases of wrongful death, but only if it is shown that the negligent party's actions were intentional, grossly negligent or reckless.

Punitive damages in a survival action cannot be awarded unless there were economic losses suffered by the deceased.  The economic loss can be based on medical bills, but it is possible to include damage to clothing that was suffered just before the death.  Talk to an experienced wrongful-death lawyer in Miami if you are allowed to file a claim to punitive damages under the state laws.

Beharry Law will assist those who have suffered the loss of a loved-one. They can hold those responsible accountable and seek wrongful damages, if the circumstances permit.

Wrongful death v. survival action

Wrongful Death and Survival Actions are two types of legal actions that can be brought against someone who causes the death or injury of another person. What claims are being asserted is the difference between them.

A wrongful death claim seeks to compensate the family members who have been left behind.These expenses can include funeral expenses, financial and emotional support loss, companionship loss, and any other services the deceased person provided.

The survival action seeks to compensate the estate for any losses the decedent suffered between the time of the accident and their death. This is the type of claim that the deceased would be allowed to file, if they had not died. It covers the costs of property damage and medical treatment.  The claim "survives" the death.

A survival action may include punitive damages, but not damages for pain and suffering or disfigurement (unless it is related to elder abuse).  The caveat here, is that evidence must be provided that the victim survived for some time after the accident.

File a wrongful death/survival action

Only a few people can file a wrongful-death lawsuit or a survival motion. These are the surviving spouse, children and certain financially dependent family members. The personal representative of the estate must file a survival action.

It is common for parties and issues to overlap so it may make sense to file both the wrongful death and survival actions in one lawsuit. Each type of claim is different and has its own requirements. You should speak to an experienced lawyer who will guide you through this process.

If you recently lost a loved one in a wrongful death, contact our wrongful death lawyer for a FREE consultation . . . .

Michael D. Beharry, Esq.

An experienced personal injury attorney in the Miami area, who is committed to helping injured accident victims with cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, rideshare accidents, wrongful death, slip and falls, as well as brain and spinal cord injuries.

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