If you were injured recently in an accident, or if you lost a loved one in an accident, you may be familiar with the terms “personal injury” and “wrongful death.” Yet understanding how these terms potentially relate to your own situation can be confusing. For example, it likely makes sense that if you are the injury victim, you will not file a wrongful death lawsuit since your injuries were not fatal, but what type of lawsuit should you file if your case involves the death of a spouse or parent? Can you choose between a personal injury claim and a wrongful death lawsuit?
Personal injury law and wrongful death law are closely related to one another. Generally speaking, personal injury lawsuits are for nonfatal injuries, while wrongful death claims are for fatal injuries. However, the distinctions are a bit more complicated than that. We want to provide you with more information about the differences between personal injury law and wrongful death law in Florida.
Understanding Personal Injury Law and Wrongful Death Law in Florida
Personal injury law is a broad area of law in Florida that allows an injury victim to file a civil lawsuit against a negligent party in order to seek compensation for losses. For example, if a distracted driver causes a car accident, the injured person can file a claim against that negligent driver to seek compensation for hospital bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Similarly, if a patient is injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence, that patient can file a medical malpractice claim—one type of personal injury lawsuit—to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But the situation changes when a potential plaintiff dies from her injuries.
Under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury lawsuit in that it allows a party to file a claim for an injury to another person. However, since the injured person is no longer alive to file a claim, it allows the decedent’s estate to file a lawsuit, on behalf of the decedent’s survivors, against the responsible party. In a wrongful death case, one primary area of damages is the mental pain and suffering of the survivors. Florida law does not place a value on the loss of life, but allows those left behind to be compensated for their suffering.
Distinctions in the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
One particularly important distinction between a personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful death lawsuit is the statute of limitations. Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is four years. The clock starts “ticking” when the injured person suffers an injury. If the injured party fails to file a lawsuit within that four-year window, the claim can become time-barred.
On the other hand, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit is two years, and the clock starts “ticking” on the date of death. To be clear, if the injured person survives for many years with serious injuries and later succumbs to those injuries—even if more than four years have passed from the date of the injury—the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death.
Contact a West Palm Beach Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you need assistance filing a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death claim, an experienced West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyer can assist you. Contact Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith PLLC for more information.