Finding out that a loved one has passed away in a preventable accident, such as a deadly car crash or workplace disaster, is devastating. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit gives your family the opportunity to seek justice by holding the party at fault for the loss of life accountable. It could also lead to financial compensation to help your family pay for related expenses, such as the costs of a funeral. Learn more about how wrongful death cases in Missouri work with these five facts from our Kansas City wrongful death attorneys.
Most Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Based on Negligence
Missouri’s definition of “wrongful death” (Revisor of Missouri Section 537.080) is a cause of action brought when the death of a person results from any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction or circumstance which would have entitled the deceased individual to recover compensation had death not ensued. Under this law, a crime does not have to have been committed for a family to have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri.
The most common grounds for a wrongful death claim is negligence. Someone is negligent if that person or party fails to exercise an appropriate amount of care. To file a wrongful death claim, there must be evidence of a duty of care owed to the decedent, a breach of the duty of care, and a causal connection between the breach of duty and the victim’s fatal injury or illness. These are the key elements of a negligence claim.
A Statute of Limitations Limits Your Time to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Missouri has a law known as the statute of limitations that limits a family’s time to file a wrongful death claim. According to this law, a legal claim must be commenced within three years of the accrual of the cause of action. A claimant has three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
With only a few exceptions, if a claim is filed later than three years, it is dismissed and the family is barred from financial compensation. The purpose of this law is to keep the justice system fair for both parties – the claimant and defendant – by encouraging timely claims filing.
Only Qualifying Parties Can File
In Missouri, only certain parties have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This right is reserved first for the decedent’s surviving spouse, parents or children. If the decedent’s children are deceased, the children’s descendants can file. If none of these parties exist, the right to file goes to a surviving sibling or his or her descendants. If there is no surviving sibling or descendants, the court will appoint a “plaintiff ad litem” to bring the claim if one is requested by someone who is entitled to share in the proceeds of a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
State Law Can Limit How Much You Receive for a Wrongful Death Claim
A successful wrongful death claim in Missouri could result in financial compensation (damages) for losses such as funeral arrangements, lost wages and inheritance, medical bills, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. If the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, however, Missouri law has a cap on the damages available. The maximum amount available is $801,061 in noneconomic damages as of 2022. This cap increases by 1.7 percent each year.
Your Family Can Benefit From Hiring an Attorney
Hiring an attorney is not just about making the legal process easier for yourself and your family during this difficult time; it can also lead to significantly better case results than if you handled the claim on your own. Insurance companies tend to take advantage of unrepresented claimants and convince them to accept less than they deserve. A Kansas City personal injury lawyer can help you pursue just financial compensation for the tragic loss of your loved one’s life – all while you focus on the healing process. Call (816) 268-1960 today for more information.