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What is Florida's 'Free Kill' law?

The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things for people to bear -- especially when that death is premature and could have been avoided. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to hold the person or persons responsible for that death financially liable for their actions.

The only problem is that Florida Statute 768.21(8) creates a protection for situations where medical negligence is the cause of someone's death. When the victim of medical malpractice is an adult over the age of 25 with no spouse or minor children, there's no legal recourse available. Hence, it has earned the nickname "Free Kill" -- a term that is generally despised by both the medical and insurance industries.

The term, however, is a sign of the frustration that both personal injury attorneys and the survivors of malpractice victims feel toward the exemption. Florida is the only state that makes that kind of specific exemption in its wrongful death statute -- and many people feel that it is unfair. This is particularly true in light of the fact that more than half of the state's population is made up of seniors whose spouses have died, college students without spouses and single or divorced adults without minor children.

The restriction does not exist on wrongful deaths caused by other situations, such as accidents involving drunk drivers, industrial accidents and construction mishaps. The exemption was carved out during the tort reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s with the idea that it would encourage physicians to come there to practice. The side effect of that law is that it may attract problematic or irresponsible physicians who have had previous malpractice suits to move to the state. Some of those doctors may have even lost their licenses in other states.

Opponents of the law are urging people to contact their legislators to encourage changes in the wrongful death statute because every life should be treated as having equal value. If you believe that your loved one was the victim of negligence in or out of a medical setting, find out what legal options you have today.

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Wieland & DeLattre
226 Hillcrest St.
P.O. Box 944
Orlando, FL 32802

Phone: 407-841-7699
Phone: 321-639-4777
Fax: 407-841-2084
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