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Court Clarifies what “Surviving Spouse” Means in Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute

If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to sue the at-fault party. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we will examine the facts of your case and provide you with an honest evaluation of your claim. While no amount of money in the world can fill the void of losing your loved one, it can help cover some of your bills so you can focus on healing.

The Case

In Domino’s Pizza v. Wiederhold, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that a surviving spouse who had married the decedent after the date of injury, which ultimately led to his death, was still eligible to recover damages as a statutory survivor under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

In this case, a couple was engaged when they got into a life-changing car accident in which the vehicle overturned several times before landing in a ditch. The man suffered such serious injuries that he was rendered a quadriplegic. The woman did not suffer any serious injuries. The man filed a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver as well as Domino’s and the franchisee owner.

Some time after the lawsuit was filed, the couple got married. The man died approximately one year later due to accident-related injuries. After her husband’s death, the wife amended her complaint to include a claim for wrongful death damages. Domino’s argued that the woman did not qualify as a “surviving spouse” due to the fact that she was not married to the decedent at the time of the injuries. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

The defendants appealed. The court of Appeals held that whether someone is considered a “surviving spouse” under the Wrongful Death Act is determined on the date of the other spouse’s death, not on the date of injury. In reaching its decision, the court examined the plain and obvious meaning of the under the statute, which it said was clear and unequivocal.Under Fla. Stat. § 786.21, the phrase “surviving spouse” is clearly determined on the date of the other spouse’s death since one cannot be a “survivor” prior to that date. The court also found support for its interpretation from other Fifth DCA opinions as well as one other Supreme Court decision. As such, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Seasoned Miami Wrongful Death Attorneys

Unexpectedly losing a loved one in an accident is nothing short of a tragedy. If you have lost a loved one in an accident that was someone else’s fault, we can help. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami wrongful death attorneys understand that the last thing you want to think about after losing a loved one is a lawsuit. However, you shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden associated with a loved one’s death when you are already dealing with the emotional agony. We are here to help you understand your legal rights and options. Call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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