As I have discussed previously, Florida’s wrongful death statute has significant limits, exclusions and detailed exceptions regarding who can sue for wrongful death. This blog post is focused specifically on the rights of surviving spouses to sue on behalf of their deceased spouse in a wrongful death lawsuit.
General Rule Regarding The Rights Of Surviving Spouses In Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Whenever someone’s spouse is killed and the action otherwise meets the criteria for a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving spouse is defined as a survivor under Florida’s wrongful death statute, which entitles them to enhanced damages over those recoverable by the decedent’s estate (that is, beneficiaries under a will or Florida’s intestacy statute, which applies when there is no will or the will is partially or wholly invalid for some reason). For the surviving spouse to qualify as a “spouse” under the act, the marriage must be legally valid, and legal validity is determined by the law of the state where the parties were married. However, importantly, the damages may be reduced if their were problems in the marriage, as indicated by admissible evidence. A diligent Orlando wrongful death attorney may also take numerous measures to prevent certain prejudicial evidence from being admitted, although there are never any guarantees when a court is ruling on the admissibility of prejudicial evidence, because the court has a lot of discretion in that regard. The client and attorney may also work together to uncover facts (other evidence) to rebut any prejudicial evidence, which is one of many similar reasons why having a close, highly personalized relationship with your wrongful death attorney is critically important.
What About Common Law Marriages? Is There Any Such Thing?
Florida stopped recognizing common law marriages on January 1, 1968. So common law marriages entered before that date are still recognized and would qualify the spouse as a survivor entitled to recovery under Florida’s wrongful death act. But any marriages entered in Florida after that date would need to comply with Florida’s existing law regarding how marriages are entered. Most of the time, for regular marriages, this is simply a non-issue (most spouses are spouses), other than those who wonder about potential common law marriages (which cannot have been created in Florida after January 1, 1968). In terms of common law marriages entered in other states, their binding validity would depend on the law of that other state at the time that the marriage was entered.
Evidence of Divorce, Intention to Divorce, Remarriage, and Intention to Remarry All Either Admissible Or Potentially Admissible Evidence
I will save more extensive discussion for another blog post, but you should be aware generally that a dissolution of marriage (divorce) ends the rights of the surviving spouse to recover under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. To recover under the act, the surviving spouse must have been legally married to the deceased spouse at the time of his or her death. Additionally, evidence of intention to obtain a divorce may be admissible. Evidence of remarriage is admissible for certain purposes and evidence of intention to remarry may be admissible. This type of evidence may be limited or excluded with proper motions in certain limited situations, and, if you potentially may be subject to these types of arguments by the defense, then you need an Orlando wrongful death attorney who will utilize every legal argument possible to minimize or limit the impact of this type of potentially damaging evidence (the rules on this and most issues are complex and could lead to any number of extensive and unique written and oral arguments presented to the court, depending on the facts).
If You Would Like To Speak With A Wrongful Death Attorney About Your Rights As A Surviving Spouse, Please Do Not Hesitate To Call Me Anytime At (407) 803-2139. There is No Cost or Obligation For The Phone Call. Also, You Never Pay Any Fees Unless And Until We Recover.