Understanding Wrongful Death Accidents
Deaths occur all too often in accidents including motor vehicles, elevator accidents, prescription errors, medical malpractice, slip and falls, and other injury producing incidents. The Missouri Revised Statute section 537.080 states that a wrongful death is a death caused by an action by someone else in which the victim would have been able to file a personal injury compensation claim to recoup any financial hardship as a result of the injuries received. It is in short a personal injury claim in which the deceased’s survivors can pursue on his or her behalf.
Types of Accidents Classified As ‘Wrongful Deaths’
A wrongful death is a death that has been caused by a negligent action of another, such as when:
- a driver fails to stop when a pedestrian is on a crosswalk;
- a truck driver rear-ends a vehicle because he or she fell asleep behind the wheel;
- a motor cyclist is speeding and runs down a cyclist;
- a drug company knowingly supplies a drug that could lead to death;
- a care worker repeatedly, beats or starves an elderly person to death.
There are many other situations when a wrongful death may take place; those situations listed above are just a few examples.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Accident Claim?
Missouri has standardized rules in place in relation to who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri’s civil courts. First is the surviving spouse, followed by the children if there is no living spouse. If there are no children still alive, the responsibility will lie with the grandchildren. When the wrongful death claim involves a child’s death, the parents typically file the claim. If the person’s closest relatives are no longer alive, a surviving sibling may be eligible to file the wrongful death claim.
If there are no representatives related to the deceased under Missouri law, the wrongful death claim may be brought by an appointed personal representative. If a personal representative does not exist, the court may appoint what is called a “plaintiff ad litem”. The classification as to who is the appropriate person or persons entitled to bring a wrongful death action can be complex. It is best to consult with a wrongful death attorney to ensure this procedure is handled properly.
What Are My Damages In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Those bringing a wrongful death action on behalf of another person may receive compensation for:
- funeral expenses;
- medical treatment costs if the deceased received medical treatment;
- the monetary value of any potential wages earned if still alive;
- the monetary value put on pain and suffering of the deceased experienced when close to death;
- the monetary value for lost services such as loss of consortium, comfort, companionship, guidance, instruction, training, counsel and support the deceased individual provided to his or her family.
Additionally, damages could be awarded for the value of elder or child care that was provided by the deceased person if she or he was not engaged in full-time employment, but instead looked after by another member of the family at least 50% of the time.
There is no cap on a wrongful death claim for non-economic damages related to the value of pain and suffering. In addition, if the loss of a loved one was caused by conduct that a jury deems had an evil motive or was extremely reckless, punitive damages may also be awarded.
Is There A Time Limit For Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?
As a general rule, you must file a wrongful death claim within 3 years of the death. However, in certain cases, such as medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations may be shorter. If you fail to file the wrongful death case within the applicable statute of limitations period, you will be cut off from filing in the future.
The Dixon Injury Firm’s wrongful death lawyers are standing by to discuss your case. Our lawyers will help you understand the appropriate time frames and investigation which must occur. Wrongful death cases are often complicated because the deceased is unable to give his or her version of the facts. For this reason, an investigation must occur as soon as possible after the crash to gather all necessary evidence. (We understand this is the last thing anyone wants to deal with after losing a loved one. Our injury team will handle all aspects of the investigation while you focus on caring for your family)
Call today for a FREE consultation (314) 409-7060.