In life there are many things beyond our control, such as the loss of a loved one. While death is inevitable, many things causing death are avoidable. Freak accidents occasionally happen, leaving many people at a loss for words. In such times it is customary to grieve not only for the loss of a friend, but the loss of someone so early and so suddenly. When the demise of a loved one seems unnatural and untimely, it might be a good idea to call a lawyer.
The circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one often falls under strict scrutiny. This scrutiny can be caused by many impulses but is largely driven by suspicions of wrongful death. When the totality of the circumstances leads you to question the cause of death, a Kansas City wrongful death attorney can help.
Defining Wrongful Death in Missouri
Wrongful death can occur in various ways: as a result of an auto accident, a fall, a construction accident, medical malpractice, a defective or dangerous product or drug, or an intentional violent act. Missouri Revised Statutes section 537.080 defines a “wrongful death” as “the death of a person result[ing] from any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction, or circumstance which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled such person to recover damages in respect thereof.”
What does this mean? In short, a wrongful death claim is a claim for damages made against a person or company whose negligent or intentional actions cause the death of another person. It can be thought of as a personal injury claim in which the deceased person is no longer able to seek damages. Instead, the survivors of the deceased person must step in to seek damages on the deceased person’s behalf, as well as to seek compensation for their own losses in relation to the untimely death.
Who May File a Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Missouri has specific rules regarding who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit in the state’s civil courts. First in line to bring such a claim are the surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren. The parents of the deceased person may also bring a wrongful death claim. When the claim involves the death of a child, the parents are most often the individuals who file the claim.
If the deceased person has no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, or parents, then a surviving sibling may bring the wrongful death case to court. If there are no surviving siblings, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring the claim. If there is no personal representative, the court will appoint a “plaintiff ad litem” to file the claim. A plaintiff ad litem must be requested by a person “entitled to share in the proceeds” of a successful wrongful death claim.
Damages in a Missouri Wrongful Death Case
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to seek compensation in the form of money damages. Damages may be available for a wide range of losses in a wrongful death case. Common types of losses for which damages may be available include:
- funeral and burial expenses
- medical bills related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
- value of wages and benefits the deceased would likely have earned if he or she had lived
- pain and suffering experienced by the deceased just prior to death, and
- the “reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support” the deceased person provided to surviving family members.
In addition, damages may be available for the value of child care or elder care the deceased person provided. If the deceased person was not employed full-time and was involved in taking care of another family member at least fifty percent of the time, Missouri law creates a rebuttable presumption that the value of the care provided was worth 110 percent of the state’s average weekly wage at the time the death occurred. If the deceased was a child, the value of “lost wages” is based on the earnings of the child’s parent. If both parents worked, their earnings are averaged.
Time Limits for Filing a Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuit
We understand that the grieving process takes time, and you may not feel ready to deal with a wrongful death action right now. But our clients often tell us that holding the negligent party accountable for the terrible loss the family has suffered helps bring closure. When you need help, we are here for you. We are prepared to shoulder the burden and handle the many tasks that need to be done, from appointing a personal representative to negotiating with the insurance company and preparing your case for trial.
In Missouri, there are legal limits on the amount of time after a wrongful death occurs in which you can file a claim. If you wait too long, you can lose that right. We know that it’s not about the money; it’s a matter of accountability. You can’t bring your loved one back, but you can make the wrongdoer pay and face up to the enormity of the harm done. Therefore, it is important to get Janelle Bailey, Injury Attorney, on board as soon as possible to protect your right to recover damages.
The Right Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorney
At The Law Office of Janelle Bailey, we pursue each case with professionalism and compassion. We do everything in our power to handle your case in such a way as to cause you and your family the least amount of stress at this difficult time. We take wrongful death cases on contingency, so you don’t pay unless we win.
Call today to protect your family’s legal rights.