What to do if a Family Member Dies in a Car Accident in Florida?


The untimely death of a family member as a result of a car accident can be shocking, devastating, and debilitating, especially if it could have been avoided if not for another’s negligence. Surviving relatives, overwhelmed with grief and the pressure to navigate their loved one’s affairs, might find it difficult to determine a course of action.

The experienced and caring team of attorneys at Franco Law Group seek to provide advice and legal help for families trying to determine how to handle the loss of a loved one due to a wrongful or negligent act. At Franco Law Group, we know the loss of a family member can be overwhelming and wish to be of service by providing you with information and a guide for your next steps. Below please find information about “wrongful death”, who can recover damages, what damages can be recovered, what documents you will need to file a claim, and other affairs surviving family members should take care of upon the untimely passing of a loved one due to a car accident in Florida.

About Wrongful Death

The “Florida Wrongful Death Act” (sections 768.16-768.26) gives dependent family members the right to recover damages “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person …and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued”. In other words, a death is considered “wrongful” when a person has a duty of care to another (like to drive in a safe, responsible, law abiding way), but breaches that duty of care in some way (reckless driving, speeding, distracted driving, driving while impaired, etc.) causing death to another that would not normally occur had the person not breached a duty of care. Florida is “pure comparative negligence” state meaning that even if the decedent is partially at fault, family members can still recover a portion of the damages limited by the amount the decedent was negligent. In Florida, a personal representative of the decedent, either a person named in the decedent’s will or estate plan or appointed by the court, will file a “Wrongful Death” claim on behalf of the surviving family members. A “Wrongful Death” claim must be filed within two years of the decedent death according to Florida’s statute of limitation (time-frame). Contact Franco Law firm at (813) 873-0180, as soon as possible, after the death of a family member for support in filing a successful wrongful death claim and in proving the other party was negligent.

Who Can Recover Damages

  • Spouse
  • Children born in wedlock
  • Children born out of wedlock if their mother is deceased
  • Children born out of wedlock if their father is deceased and has assumed responsibility for the child’s support
  • Parents
  • Any blood relative or adoptive sibling dependent on the decedent’s support or services

What Damages Can Be Recovered

  • Mental pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Expected income

What Documents to Gather for Your Wrongful Death Claim

  • Death Certificate
  • Police Reports – provides evidence regarding duty of care and breach of that duty
  • Autopsy Reports – shows exact cause of death
  • Tax Returns/Family Records – to help calculate value of loss of income, etc.
  • Any evidence for emotional impact – receipts/invoices for grief counselling or mental health care

Other Affairs to Take Care

  • Notify decedent’s doctors
  • Notify decedent’s close family and friends
  • Handle care of any dependents or pets
  • Call decedent’s employer – notify, request information regarding benefits, any pay due, and the decedent’s life insurance policy
  • Search decedent’s documents for will or estate plan and take to county/city office to have accepted for probate
  • Arrange for funeral and burial/cremation
  • Prepare obituary
  • Contact any organizations decedent was involved with – religious, military, etc.
  • Obtain multiple copies of decedent’s death certificate
  • Contact a tax preparer to inquire about estate-tax return or final income-tax return
  • Contact decedent’s bank, investment adviser, and pension agency
  • Contact life insurance agent
  • Contact Social Security and/or Veterans Affairs to stop any payments (if applicable)
  • Contact utility companies and mail carrier to stop or change service
  • Clean out decedent’s belongings

If you are unsure if you can seek compensation due to the death of a family member in a car accident in Florida, the experienced attorneys at Franco Law Group would be happy to help evaluate your case. Contact Franco Law Group at (813) 873-0180.

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Christine Franco

About the Author

Owner of the Tampa firm of Franco Law Group PA, Ms. Franco received her B.A. from The University of South Florida and her J.D. from Stetson College of Law in 1995. Ms. Franco practices primarily in the fields of personal injury, social security disability and has previously acted as the case law monitor for the News & 440 Report, providing updated case law summaries, specifically in the area of workers compensation, for five years. She was also editor of the News & 440 Report, and served for the Florida Bar Workers’ Compensation Section as Secretary of the Executive Council.