The loss of a loved one is a life-altering event. It is made even worse if the surviving family members feel that this death could have been prevented. The family is left dealing with the emotional grief of such a loss; if the deceased was a parent or provider, relatives might also be faced with a real and immediate financial crisis.

During this time of crisis, the last thing the survivors might be thinking about is hiring a wrongful death lawyer. However, it is crucial to get an experienced law firm with a proven track record on the case, investigating the facts — immediately, before evidence is lost and witnesses or documents disappear.

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What is considered a wrongful death?

A wrongful death occurs when someone dies as the result of the wrongful acts of another person; someone has died when they shouldn’t have died. What’s unique about a wrongful death case is that it was avoidable and that it was the direct result of something wrong that somebody else did.

Common causes of wrongful death

Who can sue for wrongful death?

In Missouri, there are three categories of people who can sue for the wrongful death of a person.

  • Category 1

In this category, the spouse, father, mother or children of the deceased can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If the children are dead, the descendants of the children can bring a lawsuit.

  • Category 2

If there are no people from the first category who can sue, then a member from the second category can bring the action. This group includes the siblings of the deceased or siblings’ descendants.

  • Category 3

If no persons from the first two categories can bring a lawsuit, the court can appoint a plaintiff ad litem; this is someone whom the legal heirs of the deceased have requested the court to appoint.

How do you prove wrongful death?

There are four basic elements to proving a wrongful death case.

  • Negligence

The plaintiff must prove that the death of their family member was caused, either in totality or in part, by the negligence of the defendant.

  • Breach of Duty

The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to a deceased victim. For example, medical staff has a duty to maintain a patient’s health, and motorists have a duty to follow traffic laws. The plaintiff should show what the duty was and how the negligent action of the defending party breached this duty.

  • Causation

The plaintiff must show how the defending party’s negligence caused the victim’s death.

  • Damages

The plaintiff must show that the deceased’s death caused damages, such as medical expenses, loss of income and potential earnings, and funeral and burial costs, along with pain and suffering of the victim.

Damages in a wrongful death suit

Plaintiffs can seek the following damages.

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills related to the victim’s injury or illness that caused the death
  • Pain and suffering the deceased experienced between the final injury or illness and death
  • Value of wages and benefits the deceased would have been likely to receive if he or she had lived
  • The reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support plaintiffs enjoyed from the victim.

 How much time do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Statutes of limitations for wrongful death vary by state. In Missouri, the statute of limitation is three years, calculated from the date of death. If no lawsuit is filed within this time, it is unlikely the court will agree to hear it at all; it’s imperative you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after the death.

Contact Devereaux, Stokes, Fernandez, & Leonard

Although we know there is no amount of money that will ever compensate you for your loss, we can help you get all of the compensation to which you are entitled.  Whether the accidental death was sudden or occurred sometime after a car crash or surgical error, we are ready to hear your story and advise you on legal steps to take. Contact us to help you during this time of crisis.