George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the February 26, 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin generated global controversy. Zimmerman scuffled with Martin prior to Martin’s death in a gated community in Sandford, where Zimmerman was a volunteer neighborhood watchman and Martin temporarily lived. On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman reported Martin to police for suspicious activity and followed Martin toward the house of his father’s girlfriend. A fight apparently ensued. Zimmerman killed the unarmed Martin with one bullet to the chest and claimed he acted in self-defense. Prior to Zimmerman’s criminal trial, Martin’s parents sued the condo association for wrongful death and obtained an undisclosed settlement. Now, even after Zimmerman’s criminal acquittal, it is very likely that Martin’s parents will bring a wrongful death action against Zimmerman personally.
What compensation is involved in a wrongful death lawsuit?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving relatives can sue individuals or corporations for their roles in causing their relative’s death. Under Florida law, there are specific rules concerning who is eligible for compensation. As a general rule, surviving spouses, children and parents may obtain compensation. However, if the deceased has a surviving spouse, the deceased’s adult children over age 25 cannot obtain damages. If the victim left behind a spouse and/or children under the age of 25, the deceased’s parents cannot get compensation.
A family’s potential emotional and financial losses include:
Financial support the deceased would have provided
Burial and funeral expenses
Loss of companionship and marital relations
Loss of parental instruction for children under 25
Punitive damages (in limited circumstances)
Survivors have to file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the deceased’s death to be eligible for compensation.