Spousal Forfeiture Of The Right To Sue For Wrongful Death
A wrongful death claim arises when a loved one dies as a result of the wrongful act or negligence of another person. Generally, if the deceased had survived the accident, and would have had a personal injury claim based on the wrongful act or negligence of another person, then his or her estate can sue for wrongful death if death results. In defining wrongful death suits to include deaths resulting from wrongful acts, Florida law covers deaths that may be classified as murder. Therefore, a person may sue for wrongful death when a loved one is intentionally killed by another person. This kind of lawsuit becomes challenging when the murderer is also the immediate beneficiary for purposes of the wrongful death suit, and the person with the right to sue for certain damages.
The Wrongful Death Act allows the survivors of the deceased to sue on behalf of the deceased. For married couples, this is often the surviving spouse and any children, although the law does recognize other survivors in certain cases. Generally, children can sue as survivors in order to receive compensation for loss of support, if the deceased provided them with monetary support, and for any funeral expenses they have paid. Minor children, defined as children less than 25 years of age, can also recover for damages such as loss of parental guidance and pain and suffering as a result of the parent’s death. Children who are over 25 years old can only recover for certain damages, like pain and suffering, if there is no surviving spouse.
Under Florida’s slayer statute, a person who commits murder is not supposed to benefit from his or her crime. If a spouse kills the deceased he or she is not supposed to receive any benefits, including the right to sue as provided under the Wrongful Death Act. This law operates to make a legal assumption that for purposes of determining legal rights only, the person committing the wrongful act died before the deceased.
Therefore, taking the Wrongful Death Act together with the slayer statute gives the adult child of the deceased the right to sue for damages that he would not have otherwise had if the spouse committing the murder was not considered deceased too, legally speaking. So in a case where a man kills his wife, the decedent’s children who are over 25 years old can sue him for wrongful death and seek damages for pain and suffering.
In order for this statute to apply, the person accused of having intentionally killed the deceased does not have to be criminally convicted. The law allows the court to make a determination based on the evidence presented whether or not the person committed the crime. Because this determination would be made in a civil trial and not a criminal trial, the judge considers the likelihood that the person committed the crime based on a preponderance of the evidence, and not the higher reasonable doubt standard applicable in criminal law. Therefore, a person may be found not guilty in a criminal trial, and be found to have more likely than not committed the murder in a civil trial.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If your loved one died as a result of the wrongful act or negligence of another person, the law allows you to receive damages for your loss. Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Boone & Davis for a consultation today.