The recent Florida bridge collapse killed a father, Brandon Brownfield, who was survived by his 3 young girls (and his wife). Thus, people are wondering how much a minor child is entitled to if his or her parent is killed in an accident.
Alternatively, I wrote a separate article if a “minor child” was killed in an accident.
I wrote an article about the FIU bridge collapse where I gave an estimated value of the likely payout for each family.
However, this article focuses on a minor child’s right to compensation if his or her parent was killed in an accident.
In Florida, a “minor child” has a claim if someone’s negligence caused his or her parent’s death in Florida.
Table of contents
- Who is a “minor child” under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act?
- What should you send a claims adjuster in a case where a minor child’s parent is killed in an accident or incident?
- Jury Awards Child $15 Million for Pain and Suffering from His Father’s Death (Truck Accident)
- Jury Awards Minor Child $15 Million After Truck Crushes Her Dad’s Neck (Fort Lauderdale)
- Verdict Cut to $10.5 Million Because Decedent Was 70% at Fault
- Jury Awards $7.7 Million to 2 Children Whose Mom Was Killed in a Car Crash
- There was $10.5 Million in Available Insurance (This Is Rare)
- The Younger Child Got More Money Than His Brother for Pain and Suffering from his Mom’s Death
- Court OKs Settlement for Minor Child Whose Dad Died (Motorcycle vs Lyft)
- Court OKs Award of $7.5 Million to 11 Year Old, and $4 Million to 3 Year Old
- $175,000 Verdict for Young Child Whose 20 Year Old Dad Was Killed in a Car Crash
- $6.6 Million Awarded to Each of 3 Minor Children (Pharmacy Gave Wrong Medication)
- Court OKs $4 million verdict in non-economic damages to 7-year-old
- $7.5 Million Awarded per Minor Child Reduced to $2 Million Per Each Child
- $1 Million Verdict for 2 Minor Children Whose Father Was Killed
- Daughter Gets $632K and Son Gets $878K Verdict for Death of Father (Truck Accident)
- Can a Minor Child Get a Payout for the Death of a Stepparent?
- Can Adopted Minor Children Get Compensation for an Adopted Parent’s Death?
- NBC6 Interviewed Me About the Miami Bridge Collapse Lawsuits
- Call Me Now!
Who is a “minor child” under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act?
Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act (the act), “minor child” means a child under the age of 25.
On the other hand, a child who is 25 years of age or older is considered an “adult child” under the act. Florida Statute 768.18(2).
If you are looking to see an “adult child’s” rights under the act, you can learn about an adult child’s right to pain and suffering if his or her parent was killed in an accident in Florida.
In some situations, an “adult child” may be able to get pain and suffering damages in Florida, but “minor children” are always entitled to pain and suffering damages if someone’s negligence caused the death of his or her parent in Florida.
What should you send a claims adjuster in a case where a minor child’s parent is killed in an accident or incident?
It is very sad when a minor child loses their parent. However, a personal representative should build the minor’s case so that it is as strong as possible.
To support a minor children’s non-economic (pain and suffering) claim, you should consider sending the following to a claims adjuster, if possible:
- Photograph of the decedent in an emaciated state, with the minor children.
You should also consider sending, if applicable, the adjuster a video of:
- Grief and pain caused by loss of their parent’s companionship
- The children explaining how the parent’s death affected their day-to-day lives
- Of a family holiday where the adjuster could view the intimate interaction between the decedent and the children directly.
- The children’s parent and surviving spouse talking about the closeness of the bond between the children and the decedent.
You should also consider sending, if applicable, the adjuster a video of the surviving parent talking about:
- That the children were afraid to sleep alone
- Play outside alone since the loss of their parent, out of an apparent fear of losing their remaining parent.
- Any other evidence that shows a tender and loving relationship between the decedent and the children
Jury Awards Child $15 Million for Pain and Suffering from His Father’s Death (Truck Accident)
This isn’t my case. Werner Letterman was driving a truck. He crashed. The accident killed him.
Susan Letterman was appointed personal representative of his estate. She sued for the estate, and the only survivor, Tyler Letterman. Tyler was Werner’s 14 year old son.
Susan sued National Truck Center in Palm Beach County, Florida. National had rebuilt and modified the truck. Susan claimed that the truck was defective.
Scottsdale’s insurance policy was for $1 million. Susan offered to settle the entire wrongful death claim for $1 million. However, Scottsdale refused.
Later, Susan offered to settle the wrongful death claim for $3 million. Again, Scottsdale refused.
The case went to trial.
On May 25, 2018, a jury awarded Tyler Letterman $15 million in pain and suffering for his father’s death. They also awarded him $500,000 for his lost support and services from his dad’s death.
For loss of net accumulations, medical and funeral expenses, the jury gave $2,880.
The case hasn’t yet been appealed. At the end of October, the court will determine that amount of attorney’s fees that Scottsdale has to pay the decedent’s estate. These attorney’s fees are in addition to Scottsdale’s $1 million insurance policy.
I will be following this case. Specifically, to see if Scottsdale appeals this huge pain and suffering verdict. It will also be interesting to see if the parties sue Scottsdale, claiming bad faith.
Jury Awards Minor Child $15 Million After Truck Crushes Her Dad’s Neck (Fort Lauderdale)
This isn’t my case. Diego Matos was killed when the bed of a dump truck owned by Natural Art Landscape & Design came down on his neck. Hartford Insurance insured Natural Art.
Matos was survived by his 6-year-old daughter, Sofia Stoelze.
Rechtien International Trucks owned the property where the accident happened. Below is a photo of Rechtien’s property.
The accident happened in Dania Beach, Broward County, Florida.
Zurich Insurance Company insured Rechtien. Zurich used the Law Office of Hugh Behan to defend the lawsuit. That law firm’s employees are employees of Zurich.
(Side note: I’ve settled truck accident cases with Zurich Insurance Company. One of those cases was a $100,000 settlement where an 18 wheeler hit a driver of a car.)
According to Zurich’s lawyer, it was undisputed that Matos knew about the safety bar on the truck and chose not engage it while he looked underneath the bed and had he engaged the safety, the bed would not have been able to lower until he disengaged the mechanism.
Natalia Stoelze, as personal representative of the estate of Diego Matos, and on behalf of Sophia Matos, survivor, sued. Stoelze’s lawyer sued for wrongful death compensation in Broward County, Florida.
Natural Arts (the truck owner) settled before trial. Court records don’t mention that settlement amount.
At trial, Stoelze’s attorney asked that the jury award $10 million for her pain and suffering of her wrongful death claim.
The jury found Rechtien 70% at fault and Matos 30% at fault for the accident. The jury awarded Sophia $15 million for her pain and suffering.
Verdict Cut to $10.5 Million Because Decedent Was 70% at Fault
Since Rechtien was 70% at fault, Sophia was entitled to $10.5 million (70% of $15 million).
After the trial, Zurich’s attorney asked the court to lower Sofia’s pain and suffering verdict to $3 million. Zurich’s lawyer argued that $3 million for pain and suffering is reasonable based on similar verdicts in the tri-county area within the last 2 years. The tri-county area that he was referring to covers Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
On the other hand, Sofia’s lawyer said that this $15 million verdict for pain and suffering was reasonable. He argued that the $15 million award is far less than the 1998 wrongful death judgment of $15 million, which an appeals court approved. McGee v. GM, 837 So.2d 1010 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002). In the McGee case, a parent’s 13 year old child was killed.
I looked at this court file for Sophia’s case. I didn’t see the court say whether this $10.5 million pain and suffering award must be reduced.
After the trial, Sophia’s attorney settled with Zurich. I don’t know the settlement amount. My guess is that the settlement was somewhere between $3 million and $10.5 million. I think that it was probably closer to $5 million than to $10 million.
On February 23, 2018, a document was filed in the court that said that Zurich had satisfied the judgment.
Since this was a large settlement for a minor child, the court approved it. Sofia received a structured settlement. The court papers don’t say the amount of the structured settlement.
Jury Awards $7.7 Million to 2 Children Whose Mom Was Killed in a Car Crash
This is not my case. This was a wrongful death lawsuit for compensation for the death of Roitiki Tyler. The lawsuit was filed in Orange County, Florida. She died from a car accident that occurred on US 17 (SR 35).
The crash occurred on November 9, 2014, at approximately 10:40 pm. It happened just outside the city of Arcadia, in DeSoto County, Florida.
Roitiki Tyler died when the vehicle she was driving was struck “head on” by a vehicle being driven by Bell. Both parties were traveling the speed limit at approximately 60 miles per hour. Bell received a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one way street.
Tyler died from blunt force trauma caused by the accident. Roitiki’s minor son, Mickel Williams, Jr. was 11 years old at the time. He was seated next to her in the right front passenger seat of her car at the time of the accident. Mickel survived the impact.
The estate’s two survivors were Mickel, and another child, Devontrea. Devontrea was not in the car when the accident happened.
Court records don’t reveal Devontrea’s age. However, he was playing college football at the time. Therefore, I believe he was between 18 and 22 years old.
Joshua Bell, and his employer (Gibb & Register), admitted that Bell was negligent in causing the accident.
The judge determined that Bell was in the “course and scope” of his employment at the time of the accident. This means that his employer, Gibb, is financially liable and responsible for his actions.
There was $10.5 Million in Available Insurance (This Is Rare)
Mercury Indemnity Company of America insured Bell with a $500,000 combined single limits liability coverage.
Westfield Insurance Company insured Gibbs & Register (G & R) with a combined single limit of liability coverage in the amount of $1 million. Westfield also insured G & R with a commercial liability umbrella insurance with a combined single limit and general aggregate limit of liability coverage in the amount of $9 million.
This means that the total available insurance in this case was $10.5 million.
While the death of a mother is irreplaceable, the children were fortunate that there was so much insurance available. In most wrongful death auto accident cases, unfortunately, there is limited insurance. The $10.5 million available limits here were many multiples above the average auto insurance policy.
On March 3, 2017, the attorney (for the estate) offered to settle all claims against G & R for $6.75 Million. He asked that $6 million be paid to the estate, and $750,000 be paid for Mickel’s claim for emotional distress from being in the accident.
Westfield Insurance Company did not accept the $6.75 million offer. They took a gamble by taking this case to trial. In a moment, you’ll see why this was a $5 million dollar mistake!
On May 4, 2017, the jury awarded Devontrea Tyler $3.5 Million for his emotional pain, suffering, loss of guidance and instruction from his mother’s death.
The Younger Child Got More Money Than His Brother for Pain and Suffering from his Mom’s Death
The jury awarded Mickel Williams Jr. $4.2 million for the loss of his mother’s companionship, instruction and guidance, and his pain and suffering as a result of her death.
As I mentioned earlier, Mickel Williams was in the car when the crash happened.
Since Mickel was a minor, his father sued for the negligent infliction of emotional distress upon him as a result of the accident. The only reason that he could sue for emotional distress was that he “witnessed” the accident.
This is a separate claim from his wrongful death claim.
The jury awarded him $2.44 million for emotional distress in the past. They awarded him $2.1 million for his future emotional distress.
Basically, Westfield Insurance Company made a $5 million or so mistake by not settling for $6.75 million before trial.
In order to sue for emotional distress, you typically also need to have a physical impact. In this case, Mickel had a knee injury.
On the other hand, Devontrea wasn’t physically injured in the accident. Thus, Devontrea couldn’t make a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The entire verdict for both the estate (the survivors’ pain and suffering) and Mickel’s emotional distress from being in the accident was for $12.24 million.
The parties then entered into a settlement agreement. Unfortunately, court records don’t show the amount of the settlement agreement. Since Mickel was a minor child, and the settlement was over $15,000, the court needed to approve his settlement.
On October 11, 2017 the judge approved $4.216 million in fees for the attorney who represented the estate and Mickel. This leads me to believe that the entire verdict was paid as part of the settlement.
On November 2, 2017, the court approved the settlement.
The case was not appealed. The family’s attorney was based out of Aventura, Miami-Dade County, Florida. He did a great job in this case.
The Florida law firm of Cole, Scott and Kissane represented the at fault driver’s employer in this case.
(Side Note: I had a personal injury claim where GEICO hired Cole Scott to help GEICO’s insured driver complete a financial affidavit. In that claim the driver insured with GEICO only had $10,000 in bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance. Unfortunately, $10,000 BIL policies are very common in Florida)
Court OKs Settlement for Minor Child Whose Dad Died (Motorcycle vs Lyft)
This isn’t my case. The lawsuit claimed that on October 31, 2015 at 5:43 p.m., a Lyft driver struck the motorcyclist while making an improper left hand turn from NE 1st Avenue onto NE 36th Street.
I created a diagram of the crash, which you can see above. However, it is not exact.
The motorcyclist was survived by his wife, Poliana, who was 8 months pregnant with their first child at the time of the crash. On November 16, 2015, the personal representative filed the lawsuit.
On March 22, 2017, the court approved a wrongful death settlement. The court said that the minor’s settlement money must be used to buy the Florida Pre-Paid College Plan (4 year Florida University Plan). Below is a portion of the order that says this.
If you look online, the 4 year Florida prepaid college funds costs about $19,000 for a lump sum payment for a 1 year child. Thus, I assume that the minor’s portion of the wrongful death settlement was at least $19,000.
The remaining portion of the minor’s settlement money must be used to buy a structured settlement, which must be paid for by the Lyft driver and Lyft and/or their insurance companies.
A structured settlement is an arrangement through which a claimant agrees to resolve a personal injury claim by receiving part or all of a settlement in the form of periodic payments on an agreed schedule, rather than as a lump sum.
The amount of the settlement was confidential.
However, my educated guess was that the minor child’s portion of this motorcycle accident settlement was for at least $1 million dollars. As you can see from other cases in this article, Florida appeals courts has approved that amount for the mental pain and suffering and loss of guidance claim.
Since the motorcycle rider was married at the time of the crash, his wife was a survivor under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. She was entitled to be compensated for her mental pain and suffering. She received two-thirds of the settlement. The minor child received one-third of the total settlement.
If this case involved Uber (instead of Lyft), the result would’ve been similar.
Court OKs Award of $7.5 Million to 11 Year Old, and $4 Million to 3 Year Old
This isn’t my case. In R.J. Tobacco Company v Jan Grossman, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Laura Grossman (Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2017), the appeals court approved a verdict of $7.5 Million dollars to a 11-year-old girl, and $4 Million dollars to a 3-year old boy.
Their mother died of lung cancer from smoking. The court said that it is fair for there to be a large verdict to dependent, young children.
The proper measure of damages should be based on evidence of the decedent’s illness, subsequent death, and the noneconomic consequences of the death itself.
This amount will obviously be larger if the surviving family member was wholly dependent on the decedent’s companionship, instruction and guidance at the time the decedent died.
Here, the Decedent’s daughter was only nine years old when her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and the Decedent’s son was an infant.
The evidence showed that the Decedent’s illness and death had a devastating effect on the children.
Decedent’s Daughter Had Graphic Memories of Her Mom’s Illness and Decline
The daughter had vivid memories of her mother’s illness and decline.
She testified that she remembered wanting to do nothing more than hug and cuddle with her mother, but that her mother was in so much pain that the daughter could not even lay next to her.
The daughter testified that she felt robbed by her mother’s death, and often thinks about the relationship they would have had and what her mother’s role would have been in her life.
Decedent’s Son’s Only Memory of His Mom Was Watching Paramedics Take Her Dead Body Out of the Home in a Body Bag
The Decedent’s son testified that his only true memory of his mother was watching the paramedics take her dead body out of their home in a body bag. The son lamented not having more time with his mother and testified that it negatively affected him for the rest of his life.
The son suffered from abandonment anxiety as a small child, and as he got older, exhibited behavioral problems. Her husband testified that the son could not comprehend that his mother died and would often cry out for “mommy.”
The children’s eventual stepmother also provided accounts of the effect the Decedent’s death had on the children.
For example, she testified that after seeing a lost-pet flyer hanging on a tree, the Decedent’s son drew a crayon depiction of his mom and taped it on a tree hoping that someone would “find” his mother.
Another time, he asked the Santa at the mall for his mother back.
Two Young Children Were Wholly Dependent on Their Parents
The evidence at trial showed that two young children who were wholly dependent on their parents for support, guidance, and care not only lost their mother during their formative years, but watched her suffer and waste away as her body was ravaged by cancer.
Under these circumstances, the appeals court said that the jury’s $7.5 and $4 million awards to the Decedent’s son and daughter are not shocking. The husband sued as the personal representative of the estate of his deceased wife.
The appeals court also approved the jury’s award to the husband of $3.5 million in pain and suffering as well as the Decedent’s medical and funeral expenses. The court also approved the jury’s $22.5 million award in punitive damages to the personal representative of the estate.
$175,000 Verdict for Young Child Whose 20 Year Old Dad Was Killed in a Car Crash
This is not my case. Persaud v. Cortes, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2017 arose from a November 2008 accident.
The car that Batista was in struck another vehicle and then rolled over. Batista died.
Joshua Batista was survived by his young son, Lorenzo Batista. I assume that Lorenzo was no older than 5 years old since Joshua was only 20.
A jury awarded Lorenzo $25,000 in past loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and pain and suffering from the date of the crash to trial.
They awarded $150,000 for the future loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and pain and suffering.
I don’t know why the wrongful death award was so small. I don’t know how close of a relationship Lorenzo had with his dad, Joshua.
If Joshua wasn’t involved in Lorenzo’s life, then I possibly understand this low verdict.
Since Joshua was under 25 years old at the time of the crash, his parents sued also for pain and suffering. Each parent was awarded $20,000 in past pain and suffering, and $10,000 in future pain and suffering. This is also a small verdict.
The jury awarded funeral expenses of $5,419.
$6.6 Million Awarded to Each of 3 Minor Children (Pharmacy Gave Wrong Medication)
This isn’t my case. In the case is Deane Hippely v Walgreen Co., a jury awarded $6.625 million to each of three minor children for the loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and mental pain and suffering.
The appeals court approved the verdict. Beth Hippely died to Walgreen’s pharmacy negligence in Mulberry (Polk County), Florida.
She was survived by 2 daughters (age 10 and 14) and 1 son (age 21). Each child also received damages for the loss of his or her mother’s services.
The pharmacy gave the woman the wrong medication and it led to the inability for her to fight her cancer. The decedent spent four years with 24 hour care before she died due to Walgreen’s negligence.
The husband was awarded $3.5 Million for his pain and suffering due to his 46 year old wife’s death. The Estate was awarded money for the mother’s medical bills and funeral expenses. The verdict was in 2007.
I believe that this case was appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The appeals court approved the verdict.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal serves the following counties (Pasco, Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry and Lee).
This verdict shows that a verdict for up to at least $6.625 Million for the pain and suffering for a minor child (whose parent is killed) in the counties mentioned above may be considered reasonable by the appeals court.
Court OKs $4 million verdict in non-economic damages to 7-year-old
This is not my case. In Citrus County v McQuillin, 840 So. 2d 343, 347 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003), an appeals court approved a $4.4 million pain, suffering and loss of parental companionship award to a seven-year-old son of woman killed in a car accident.
The jury found her mom, who died in the crash, to be 80% at fault for the accident. Thus, the verdict is reduced by 80%.
This case arose out of a tragic one-car accident caused by the driver losing control of the car which was traveling at a high rate of speed on a county road. The car’s wheels left the side of the road and when the driver “jerked” the car back onto the road, she lost control of the car.
The rear of the car skidded sideways across the road causing the car to roll over and hit several trees. The damage to the car was described as “horrific.” Two passengers were ejected from the car, but Deborah was killed instantly, having suffered massive head injuries.
Based on the estate’s expert testimony presented at trial, the jury concluded that the accident was partially caused by a drop off of some three to five inches from the surface of the pavement to the shoulder of the road.
The county had just re-paved that section of the road, and there were no warning signs or markers to delineate the drop off. Experts testified that while the drop off did not contribute to the driver running off the road, it prevented her safe return to the surface of the road.
They testified the drop off on this newly paved county road was a clear hazard to cars, even ones traveling only thirty miles per hour, especially since the drop off was straight down at a ninety degree angle.
The court said: “Who can place a dollar value on a human life, measured by the loss and grief of a loved one? That difficult decision is generally one for the jury or judge, not the appellate court.”
The court said that $4.4 Million is “on the outer limits in size,” but not so high as to require reduction.
The jury also awarded Bruce McQuillin, personal representative of his late wife’s (Deborah McQuillin) estate:
- Net accumulations ($50,400)
- Funeral expenses ($8,000)
- Loss of service and support to the surviving spouse ($591,260)
- Past and future pain and suffering for the surviving spouse ($516,000)
$7.5 Million Awarded per Minor Child Reduced to $2 Million Per Each Child
This is not my case. A federal trial court reduced (or ordered a new trial) for a non-economic damages award of $7.5 million to each surviving child to $2 million to each. One surviving child was age 13. The other was age 10.
The court acknowledged the huge loss suffered by the minor children of Mrs. Wisekal.
It also acknowledged their entitlement to recover a substantial amount of money in non-economic damages to compensate them for mental pain and suffering resulting from the loss of their mother’s support and companionship.
The court said that Florida law doesn’t support $7.5 million individual awards to the surviving Wisekal children in this non-tobacco lawsuit.
It also said that $7.5 million to each minor child is far in excess of challenged non-economic wrongful death damage awards which have been approved on appeal in the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
The 4th District Court of Appeal governs cases in this district, and other mid-appellate courts of appeal throughout the State of Florida.
The personal representative relied on the testimony of Mr. Wisekal, the children’s father and surviving spouse of Mrs. Wisekal, to describe the closeness of the bond.
He illustrated the bond in part with a video of a family holiday where the jury could view the intimate interaction between Mrs. Wisekal and her children directly.
Mr. Wisekal also testified that the children were afraid to sleep alone, or play outside alone since the loss of their mother, out of an apparent fear of losing their remaining parent.
This evidence showed a tender and loving relationship between the decedent and her children, and a grief which lingers with the children in her absence. It is evidence that the children suffered a grief common to all children who endure the loss of a parent.
There court said that there “was no evidence of any physical or mental abnormality or emotional impairment which the Wisekal children suffered due to the death of their mother.”
The surviving spouse of 14 year marriage had her $2 million non-economic damage award reduced (or a new trial) to $1 million. The parties then entered a confidential settlement.
$1 Million Verdict for 2 Minor Children Whose Father Was Killed
On Aug. 14, 2006, a father died from a heart attack while he was working as a conductor for defendant CSX Transportation in Clay County, FL.
His wife, as personal representative of his estate, sued CSX for failing to provide a safe place to work and failing to give him quick medical attention after he fell.
CSX blamed Larry for:
- not taking care of his own health and following his doctors’ orders for heart testing, and
- not letting CSX know about the fact that his cardiac testing was not complete, and
- failing to disclose his heart problems when he applied for a job with CSX.
Larry was survived by his wife and two minor children.
On November 2012, the verdict in this case was for $1,000,000 for the loss of care and guidance to his minor children.
According to my knowledge about this verdict, since the decedent had 2 minor children, each received $500,000 in pain and suffering.
I do not know if Larry’s wife received any money for pain and suffering which is strange.
I think his wife should have been awarded damages for her pain and suffering. In Florida, you are entitled to damages if your spouse (husband or wife) is killed in an accident caused by someone else.
Because Larry’s death occurred while working for a railroad company, Florida Employers Liability Act (FELA) governs this case. The case is S vs. CSX Transportation, Inc. (Circuit Court of Duval County, Florida).
The fact that each child was awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering is in line with my belief that $500,000 is a starting point for the full value of pain and suffering damages that a survivor may get when a family member is killed.
But $500,000 is a starting point for the full value, and each survivor could be awarded pain and suffering damages of more or less than this amount depending on how close they were to their parent.
Generally speaking, the closer a child is to his or her parent then the greater the award will be for pain and suffering. It does not appear that the jury placed any comparative fault on Larry, so the verdict will not be reduced by his fault and other factors that can lead to a lower recovery.
For example, if the jury would have found that Larry was 50% at fault for not following his doctors’ medical advice, each child would have received $250,000. I arrived at that number by using the formula:
Pain and Suffering Damages = (Pain and Suffering x percentage of fault of father) / number of children
Assuming Larry was 50% at fault, the formula would be:
Pain and Suffering Damages = ($1,000,000 x 50%)/2
Pain and Suffering Damages = $250,000
The above formula assumes that each child was awarded an equal amount of pain and suffering.
Daughter Gets $632K and Son Gets $878K Verdict for Death of Father (Truck Accident)
This is not my case. A $632,000 verdict was awarded to a “minor” daughter and $878,000 to a “minor” son child for the death of their father. Their father was driving a truck when another truck collided with it.
The other driver was working at the time of the accident so the other driver’s employer, in addition to him, was responsible to pay for the damages (the verdict).
The jury found that the “minor children’s'” father was 35% negligent (at fault) for the accident so each of their awards will be cut (reduced) by 35%.
The jury found that the other driver was 65% negligent. The trial was in 2013 in Martin County, Florida.
The “minor children’s'” father was working at the time of the accident, and his employer paid him workers’ compensation benefits.
Because it gave workers compensation benefits to him, it was immune (not responsible) to pay for any damages other than the money that the workers compensation benefits that it paid him.
My thoughts: If the parent of a minor child is killed in an incident, in rare cases the “minor children” may have a claim for loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and mental pain and suffering even if the decedent’s employer carried workers compensation insurance.
This verdict does very little to tell me the amount of damages that were awarded for the loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and mental pain and suffering for each “minor child.”
This is because a child of any age may recover the value of loss support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to the date of death, and he may also recover future loss of support and services from the date of death.
So for all we know, 100% of the award for each child was for the value of lost support and services. On the other hand, it is possible that 100% of the award for each child was for loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and mental pain and suffering.
It is also possible that the award to each child was for the value of lost support and services and loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and mental pain and suffering for each “minor child.”
This case (verdict) does show that each “minor child” may be awarded a different amount of money if his/her parent is killed in an accident.
Can a Minor Child Get a Payout for the Death of a Stepparent?
Unfortunately, not in a Florida wrongful death case. In Grant v. Sedco Corporation, 364 So.2d 774 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1978), the court ruled that the doctrine of equitable adoption permits enforcement of contractual rights. However, it does not establish a relationship of parent and child under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. See also Jolley v. Seamco Labs. Inc., 828 So. 2d 1050, 1051 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002)
Grant was cited with approval by the Florida Supreme Court in Tarver v. Evergreen Sod Farms, Inc., 533 So. 2d 765 (Fla. 1988). In Tarver, the court denied workman’s compensation benefits to an equitably (not legally) adopted child of the decedent.
The court said that the doctrine of equitable adoption was not intended to create the legal relationship of parent and child. Thus, it could not be utilized as a law before the death of the adoptive parent. The court restricted the use of the doctrine to probate cases where it is needed to avoid harsh consequences from the use of intestacy statutes.
Thus stepchildren can’t get compensation for pain and suffering for a stepparent’s death.
Can Adopted Minor Children Get Compensation for an Adopted Parent’s Death?
Yes. A minor child that is a legally adopted child of a decedent has a claim under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. Grant v. Sedco Corporation, 364 So.2d 774 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1978)
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. However, it is not legal advice. Always consult with an attorney for your particular situation.