How Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim?

elder holding hand of a younger person

When a death occurs due to the negligence of another person or entity, the surviving family members may have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Eligible parties can file this type of lawsuit to seek compensation for damages such as medical and funeral expenses, lost income and benefits, and emotional distress.

Wrongful Death Versus Criminal Homicide

It is worth noting that a wrongful death case is vastly different from a criminal homicide case. In wrongful death cases, the outcome is intended to result in compensation and financial recovery for the plaintiff on behalf of the deceased. In homicide cases, the intended result is a criminal conviction and the following consequences.

Establishing Liability

One of the most critical elements in any Missouri wrongful death claim is establishing who is liable. Determining liability can be done through various means, including eyewitness testimony, police reports, and expert opinions. Establishing liability can prove to be more difficult in certain cases than others. For example, liability in a car accident can be just one driver. In a construction accident, the liability can fall onto a supervisor, a coworker or a third-party, like an equipment manufacturer. Once liability has been established, your legal counsel will better understand the potential amount of compensation you will be able to receive.

Who is Allowed to File

Missouri wrongful death laws designate a specific order for who may file a wrongful death claim. The surviving spouse, children, or lineal descendants of a deceased child have priority to file a wrongful death claim. If there are no individuals in this category, a person’s parents may file a claim. If none of the above individuals survived the deceased person, the decedent’s siblings and their descendants might file a wrongful death claim.

Potential Compensation

There are various types of compensation available in a wrongful death lawsuit. These can include financial losses before or after your loved one’s passing. Damages can also be non-economic, like emotional distress or pain and suffering.

Financial Recovery

In successful wrongful death cases, individuals are eligible to collect monetary losses suffered due to the death of a loved one. Among others, an individual can be compensated for financial expenses, including:

  • Medical Expenses.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses.
  • Lost Income and Benefits.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are a form of compensation for non-monetary and personal losses. These damages generally include:

  • Pain and Suffering (of the deceased or plaintiff).
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life.
  • Value of Care the Deceased Would Have Given.
  • Loss of Companionship.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may also be sought as a form of punishment for the defendant for either intentional misconduct or gross negligence. This type of compensation is relatively rare, occurring in about six percent of all civil lawsuits. Although uncommon, they have proven to be reasonably practical.

Compensation Caps

In Missouri, there are maximum restrictions, or caps, on the amount of compensation that can be collected in wrongful death cases. These caps pertain to wrongful deaths resulting from medical malpractice and are exclusive to non-economic damages. In these cases, the maximum amount of compensation for non-economic damages is $350,000 (this amount could change due to inflation.)

Statute of Limitations

Wrongful death claims are time-sensitive, as the statute of limitations is three years. Extensions can be made, although rarely if the cause of death is not immediately known. If the cause of death is discovered outside the statute of limitations, the discovery rule may be put into effect.

Missouri Wrongful Death Attorneys

At Kolker Law Firm, we understand that money cannot bring your loved ones back. But we believe collecting your deserved compensation can help to ease the hardship you are facing. When death results due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve the peace of mind and justice for yourself and your loved ones.

Call us today at (314) 684-8285 or fill out our form online to start your path toward justice.

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