During a time of crisis, the last thing the survivors might be thinking about is hiring a wrongful death attorney. 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. We have been winning cases for our clients in Saint Louis and around the country for more than 30 years. Schedule a free case evaluation so that we can determine your best path forward.
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.
What constitutes wrongful death?
A wrongful death occurs when someone dies as the result of the wrongful acts of another person. In other words, someone has died because somebody did something wrong. The most obvious example would be if a person is shot and killed by another. However, the vast majority of cases we deal with are not intentional homicides, rather they involve a death cause by the negligent or reckless acts of another person.
Many states, including Missouri, have laws on the books that govern who can bring a wrongful death case, how you bring it and what damages you can pursue. In Missouri, our wrongful death act is set out in RsMO Sec. 537.080. This statute dictates exactly how to proceed with a wrongful death action and what you can recover.
Common types of wrongful death cases
Many tragic situations can lead to wrongful death claims. If you’ve lost a family member or loved one in any of these situations or similar accidents, our team of wrongful death lawyers can help.
- Truck accidents
- Car accidents
- ATV and Motorcycle Accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Dangerous products
- Premise Liability
- Aviation accidents
- Boating accidents
How much time do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The statute 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 to get legal advice as soon as possible after the 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 forward. 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 the 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 you need in order to prove a wrongful death claim. Without having these four components on your side, proving your case will be futile.
- Negligent or Reckless Act
The plaintiff must prove that the death of their family member was caused, either in totality or in part, by the negligence or recklessness of the defendant.
- Breach of Duty
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to a deceased victim. In other words you must show that not only did the defendant engage in a negligent act that resulted in the Plaintiff’s death, but also that he had a duty to refrain from acting in such a manner. 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.
- The plaintiff must show how the defending party’s negligence caused the victim’s death. All too often we see cases in the area of medical negligence where a health care provider was clearly negligent but due to the condition of the patient no one can say with any certainty that if they would have acted differently there would have been a better outcome.
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.
Wrongful Death Damages
What damages are awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit
The purpose of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is to seek monetary damages for the life that was cut short due to someone else’s negligence. Plaintiffs can seek the following damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Funeral expenses, including 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.
Call Our Lawyers Today
Although we know no amount of money will ever compensate you for your loss, we can help you get the compensation to which you are entitled for the death of a loved one.
Our personal injury attorneys take cases in St. Louis, Mo., and throughout the greater states of Missouri and Illinois. 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. Please contact us today so that we can help you during this time of crisis.