Wrongful Death: Your Rights to Compensation Because of the Death of a Loved One

If a family member has been killed in Missouri because of the negligence or wrongful act of a person, company or government agency, you may be going through one of the most traumatic and painful times in your life. Someone you loved, someone who brought meaning and joy to your life, is no longer with you for literally no good reason.

If this is your situation, a lawsuit in civil court could hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and provide you with compensation for the pain and financial harm that’s been done. A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought when the circumstances show that the death of a family member was due to the negligence or intentional act of another party.

For example:

  • A fatal house fire was caused by an electrical problem due to substandard work by an electrician.
  • A death occurs in a vehicle accident when a dump truck collides with a car because its brakes were negligently maintained by its owner.
  • A police officer fails to follow department rules or guidelines and shoots and kills someone mistakenly believed to be a suspect.
  • A teen’s parents buy alcohol for their son’s graduation party where underage drinking occurs, and an intoxicated teenaged guest is killed in a one-vehicle accident on her way home.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Missouri 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.”

How does this apply to your situation?

A lawsuit filed due to a wrongful death seeks damages from a defendant (or multiple defendants) whose negligent or intentional actions caused the death and resulting damages. Not just anyone can be a plaintiff in a Missouri wrongful death action. Under state statute, the first in line with the ability to bring such a claim would be a surviving spouse, the person’s children or grandchildren. The victim’s parents can also bring a wrongful death claim, which commonly happens if the victim is a child or young person who hasn’t married.

What damages are available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A lawsuit for wrongful death seeks compensation in the form of money damages for losses suffered due to the person’s death.

Some types of losses for which damages can be awarded include:

  • Final expenses
  • Medical bills related to the final injury or illness
  • Value of the wages and benefits the victim would likely have received if he or she had lived
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased just prior to death
  • The reasonable value of the services, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance and support the deceased person provided to surviving family members.

Wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the date of the decedent’s death. If the case is not filed by the deadline, it will probably be dismissed.

How does negligence factor into a Missouri wrongful death lawsuit?

In a wrongful death case, unless it was caused by an intentional act, a negligence theory would be used by a plaintiff to prove the case. In a case involving a fatal house fire caused by a negligent electrician, the plaintiff would have the burden to show these things:

  • The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care (an electrician should have complied with local building codes and used reasonable care for the work),
  • The defendant breached that duty of care (building codes weren’t followed, reasonable care wasn’t taken by the electrician when doing the work and the material used was not designed for the purpose it was installed for),
  • The breach was in fact the cause of death (faulty wiring caused a fire which killed the deceased, who died of smoke inhalation),
  • The breach was the proximate, or legal, cause of death, and
  • Because of the death, the plaintiff suffered harm which can be compensated for under Missouri law.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers

If a wrongful death case goes to trial, a defendant may use any defenses which would be available in a legal action based on the same act, conduct or circumstance which caused the death if the deceased had survived and filed his or her own personal injury action.

At Bley & Evans Trial Attorneys, we handle wrongful death cases in Missouri arising out of a variety of circumstances. We understand the difficulties you’re facing and know how to best represent you so you can receive fair compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. We can start with a free consultation. Give us a call at 844-443-8385 to schedule yours today.

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