Many people have likely seen high-profile wrongful death lawsuits covered by the news media, including famous cases against O.J. Simpson filed by the families of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson and the wrongful death case filed against Nancy Grace by the family of Melinda Duckett. While these cases made the news, wrongful death claims are filed every day in courts across the U.S. If you have lost your close family member because of someone else’s intentional or negligent conduct, you might be entitled to pursue damages through a wrongful death claim. Scroll down to learn how to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Who Can File?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed after someone is killed as a result of the wrongful or negligent actions of another person or entity. In a case involving an intentional act, the individual might be charged criminally and prosecuted by a prosecuting attorney. However, certain members of the deceased person’s surviving family also have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for their loved one’s death.
Under R.S.Mo. § 537.080, the following survivors have a right to file a wrongful death claim in descending order of priority:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Surviving grandchildren if no surviving spouse or children
- Surviving parents if no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren
- Surviving siblings if no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, or parents
- Surviving nieces or nephews from deceased siblings
- Plaintiff ad litem if no surviving family members in the above-listed categories
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members can pursue compensation from the defendant while also holding them accountable for their negligent or wrongful actions. Some of the types of damages that might be available include the following:
- Cost of the decedent’s final medical care
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the future income the decedent might have earned if they had lived
- Lost rights to an inheritance
- Physical pain and suffering of the decedent from the time of their injury until they died
- Loss of consortium or guidance
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
It is also important to know the statute of limitations for filing Missouri wrongful death claims. Under R.S.Mo. § 537.100, the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims is three years. This operates as a deadline for filing a lawsuit, and if you do not file your claim before the deadline, your claim will be time-barred and will likely be dismissed.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
After you have determined that you are the person entitled to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and that the deadline for doing so has not expired, you will next have to figure out how to file a wrongful death lawsuit. To commence your lawsuit, you will need to file a civil complaint in the court that has jurisdiction to hear your case. Once you file your complaint and pay your court filing fee, you will need to have a copy of the complaint and a summons served on the defendant.
Service of process is normally done either with a private process server or the civil service division of the sheriff’s office in the county where the defendant is located. Once the paperwork has been served on the defendant, the process server will file proof of service with the court. The defendant will then have 30 days to file an answer in court.
Get Help from an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
Navigating the claims process following the death of your loved one can be difficult. Starting your lawsuit by filing and serving your initial pleadings is just the first step. Because of the complexities involved, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave before filing your complaint. Call us today at 417-322-2222 or send an online message to schedule a free consultation.