If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, the grief can be extremely difficult to bear—and no amount of compensation can ever make up for your loss. Nonetheless, those left behind deserve justice for the wrongful death of their family member and for the economic consequences the death may have caused. From medical bills to funeral expenses, the costs of losing a loved one can have far-reaching effects. Your family shouldn’t have to bear this burden alone.
Missouri law allows you to file a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for your loved one’s passing. While you’re dealing with the tragic loss of a family member, hiring a wrongful death lawyer may be the last thing on your mind. However, in order to preserve your rights under the law, you should have an experienced attorney safeguarding your interests.
Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims may arise from a number of tragedies. For example:
- Car, truck, or motorcycle accidents
- Defective/dangerous products
- Workplace and industrial accidents
- Explosions and fires
- Gun accidents
- Drug overdoses
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
Definition of Wrongful Death
In order to show that the negligent or intentional actions of a person or other entity led to the wrongful death of your loved one, you must prove:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- That breach resulted in the death of your loved one.
- As a result of that death, survivors of the deceased sustained financial and other losses.
- A personal representative has been appointed to file the wrongful death claim.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
In Missouri, a surviving spouse, parent, child, or grandchild may be appointed as a personal representative of the deceased’s estate. If the deceased is a child, a parent may serve as the personal representative. If the deceased is not survived by any of the above, a sibling may serve.
If you, as the personal representative, can prove all of the above elements of wrongful death, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical expenses of the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Future lost earnings of the deceased
- The family’s loss of the deceased person’s services, companionship, guidance, comfort, instruction, training, counsel, and consortium
- Any pain and suffering of the deceased person before their death
- Emotional pain and mental anguish of the survivors
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
- Punitive damages (sometimes added to the award to punish extremely reckless, negligent, or intentional behavior)
Criminal vs. Civil Cases
If local, state, or federal authorities file criminal charges against the person responsible for your loved one’s death, their case is totally separate from your wrongful death claim. While a criminal conviction of the defendant might strengthen your civil case, you may still file a wrongful death claim in civil court even if the defendant has not been charged with a crime.
Statute of Limitations
In Missouri, the statute of limitations generally gives you three years to file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, the statute might pause or “toll.” However, if you miss the deadline, you could lose your chance to seek compensation.
The Role of Your Attorney
An experienced wrongful death lawyer can not only be sure that you file within the time limit but also strengthen your claim by:
- Knowing your legal rights and options
- Investigating the death
- Gathering and preserving evidence to prove the defendant’s fault
- Communicating with the insurance company and defense lawyers
- Evaluating and negotiating your settlement offer
- Taking your case to court if necessary