Wrongful Death Claims in Missouri
Missouri wrongful death claims are a specialized subset of personal injury law that deals with lawsuits brought by the surviving family members or estate of a person who died as a result of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct.
Missouri law, particularly Sections 537.080 to 537.100 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, provides the framework for wrongful death claims. These claims are essentially a way for the deceased’s estate and their loved ones to seek compensation for a death that should not have occurred.
A wrongful death claim can arise from various circumstances, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, or even criminal activity. The key element in these claims is the existence of wrongful conduct that directly caused the death. The claimant must demonstrate that the defendant failed in a duty of care to the deceased, this breach directly resulted in death, and quantifiable damages ensued.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Missouri is clearly defined by law. The statute prefers the deceased’s spouse, children, or grandchildren. If these do not exist, the parents of the deceased may file a claim. If there are no such immediate family members, a sibling or the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file the claim.
The damages awarded in a Missouri wrongful death claim can be split into two categories: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages can cover funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and benefits the deceased would have earned, and medical expenses related to the deceased’s final injury or illness. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, compensate for the intangible losses experienced by the surviving family members, like the loss of companionship, guidance, comfort, and support.
Missouri law allows another category of damages, known as punitive damages, but only in certain circumstances. These are awarded not for compensating the survivors, but for punishing the defendant and deterring similar behavior in the future. These damages are only available if the wrongful act was intentional or carried out with conscious disregard for safety.
However, Missouri’s wrongful death statute is subject to a statute of limitations. Generally, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the date of death. If it’s not filed within this period, the chance to bring a lawsuit may be lost.
Successfully navigating a wrongful death claim in Missouri requires a comprehensive understanding of the law and a compassionate approach to dealing with grieving families. It is often advised that families seeking to file a wrongful death claim in Missouri engage the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to guide them through the complex legal process and ensure they receive the compensation they are entitled to.
In conclusion, Missouri’s wrongful death statute serves an important purpose in helping families achieve justice and financial stability after the untimely loss of a loved one due to someone else’s wrongdoing.