A wrongful death lawsuit is one brought by the family members of a deceased person who was killed at the hands of another person or entity’s negligence. When you have suffered through the death of a loved one as a result of someone else’s carelessness, you should be aware that it is possible to receive financial compensation for your loss. You will almost always be suing the defendant under a personal injury tort theory for the loss of love, companionship and financial support of your family member.
Purpose of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to obtain financial compensation for economic damages including funeral and burial expenses, medical bills relating to the deceased person’s final illness or injury, and the value of wages and benefits that the deceased person would probably have earned over their lifetime if they had lived. In addition to this, you will also be able to claim non-economic damages including pain and suffering that the deceased relative experienced related to their injury just prior to their death. Non-economic damages may also include compensation for loss of consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support that the deceased person provided to their surviving family members.
When the cause of the deceased person’s death is medical malpractice, Missouri limits the amount of non-economic damages that surviving family members may recover to approximately $428,000. With any other type of wrongful death claim, Missouri imposes no limit on non-economic damages. Until recently, Kansas had limited non-economic damages recovery to $250,000 in all wrongful death suits, but in 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that these caps were unconstitutional in that they invaded the province of the jury. A skilled attorney with experience handling wrongful death claims can make sure that the maximum recovery is obtained on a case involving wrongful death.
It is also possible to seek damages for the loss of caregiver services provided by the deceased family member. If your family member was not employed full-time and as a result they were providing child care or elder care to another family member, in Missouri, there is a presumption that the value of the care being provided by the deceased was 110% of the average wage in the state for that service, and this can be factored into the calculation of economic damages.
Wrongful Death Claim Time Limits
Family members do not have an unlimited amount of time to file their wrongful death claims. In Kansas, the suit must be brought within two years of the person’s death and in Missouri the lawsuit must be filed within three years of the death. There are other potential deadlines that come into play that can affect and at times even act to shorten these statutes of limitations. For example, in Missouri, an estate must be created within a year of death in order to pursue certain types of actions. Thus, for certain claims, if an estate is not created, those claims may ultimately be barred even if the statute of limitations for such claim was longer than the one-year limitation to open an estate.
There are limitless scenarios that can result in wrongful death cases, but common ones include medical malpractice, defective or dangerous products, workplace accidents, premises liability, abuse, neglect, violent or intentional acts, as well as bicycle, car, truck, motorcycle, train and airplane accidents.
Proving a Claim and Seeking Justice
When bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove that someone died because of the wrongful actions of another person or entity, and that you have endured damages because of the death of your family member. In addition to this, you must also prove the elements of the underlying claim. For example, if you are claiming that your loved one died at the hands of a reckless driver, you will ultimately be bringing a claim based on negligence. This means you will need to show that the other driver had a duty not to harm others, that they violated this duty through their actions, say by speeding excessively and causing a car accident, and that your family member was killed as a result.
Wrongful death claims are civil claims and this means that it is not necessary for criminal charges to be filed against the wrongdoer. It is possible to seek justice and hold the responsible party accountable for their actions, even if the criminal justice system is unable to do so. While nothing can bring back your loved one or make right what you have suffered, holding the wrongdoer responsible for their actions can provide you with financial support to ease the burden of a life you are facing without them and provide some peace of mind knowing that there has been accountability.
If you have lost a family member or a loved one due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. Contact Aaron House today at 816-875-4260 for a free case evaluation.
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