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What Happens When the Survivor Passes before Damages Are Recovered?

Piggy Bank in hands of a familyWrongful death cases can take months to process.  The opportunity for cases to take a turn is almost endless in certain circumstances.  Cases in which spouses are involved in accidents together can leave one spouse deceased and another injured.  The surviving spouse can file a claim to recover damages.  But what happens if that spouse later dies, either from related or unrelated causes before a judgment can be issued and the damages can be recovered?

Personal Representatives

The personal representative for a wrongful death claim is the person who files the claim with the court on behalf of the decedent’s estate.  This may very well be the surviving spouse or a parent or even a child.  But when the surviving personal representative also passes away, a new personal representative must be assigned.  When this happens, the claim is not thrown out, but the next course of action is determined by cause of death.  Was the death related to the claim?  The date of death and causes of death of the survivor are then taken into consideration before proceeding. 

Related to the Wrongful Act

If the death was also a result of the accident or willful act that took the original victim’s life, then a wrongful death claim can also be filed for the spouse’s death by a new representative.  This new personal representative can be a surviving child, parent or assigned executor of the will.  The recovered damages from the death of the first spouse would then be awarded within limitations set forth by Florida law to the now deceased spouse.  In certain applications of the law, this would mean that both deceased spouses are entitled to recover damages.  There are strict proceedings when the death of a personal representative has occurred and it is important to have an attorney familiar with this set of intricacies of the law.  The complexity of scenarios involved when a survivor passes is almost endless.

Unrelated Death

If the personal representative passes away during the process of the wrongful death claim due to an unrelated matter such as health complications or a separate accident, the claim is still processed.  However, the damages awarded are limited to the date of death for the surviving spouse, but not necessarily to the other surviving beneficiaries.  A new personal representative must still be assigned to the case and may be one of the other surviving beneficiaries or a separate executor of a last will and testament.

If you think you may have a wrongful death claim, let an attorney who specializes in the Florida Wrongful Death Act take a look at your case.  Laws change regularly and each case is individually unique.