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How to Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Missouri

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Flowers on top of a casket

Losing a loved one under any circumstance can be devastating. However, the unexpected death of your loved one as a result of someone else’s actions can be even more overwhelming and difficult to handle. If you lost a close family member because of another person’s negligent or intentional acts, you might have the right to pursue compensation through a wrongful death civil action. Scroll down to learn how to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri.

Understanding Wrongful Death

Under Missouri law, a wrongful death occurs when a victim dies as a result of any action, conduct, event, or circumstance that would have entitled them to recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived. This includes situations in which a person, company, or governmental entity engages in negligent or intentional acts that cause someone else’s death. In a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri, the deceased victim’s survivors can step in and pursue compensation on the victim’s behalf.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Under R.S.Mo. § 537.080, Missouri restricts the parties that are allowed to file wrongful death lawsuits to those with specific relationships with the deceased individual in the following order of priority:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving natural or adopted children
  • Surviving descendants of the children if the children are deceased
  • Surviving natural or adoptive parents

If no one in the above-listed group survives, the victim’s sibling(s), nephews, or nieces can file a claim.

If no one in the first two groups survives, the court can appoint someone to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri on behalf of those who are entitled to an intestate share of the proceeds.

Why File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Some people think it’s unnecessary to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the person responsible for the death is already facing criminal charges. However, it is still a good idea to file a wrongful death claim even under those circumstances.

A wrongful death action is a civil claim instead of a criminal matter. Civil lawsuits have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases, which means they are easier to win. Because of this, it’s possible to hold a defendant accountable in a wrongful death lawsuit even if they are found not guilty in a related criminal matter.

You can pursue a wrongful death claim against a defendant even if they are being criminally prosecuted. Since civil matters proceed under a different body of law than criminal cases, they can proceed even though a criminal case might also be pending.

Finally, pursuing a wrongful death claim might allow you to recover compensation for the losses your family has suffered because of your loved one’s death. While no amount of money will ever replace your loved one, a wrongful death civil lawsuit might help you to be made whole while holding the defendant accountable for what they have done.

Potential Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

Damages refer to compensation for the losses suffered because of the victim’s death. In a successful wrongful death claim, the defendant will have to pay damages to the deceased victim’s survivors or their estate. Some examples of the types of compensatory damages that might be recoverable include the following:

  • Reasonable funeral and final burial expenses
  • Medical expenses incurred to treat the victim’s final injury
  • Lost wages and benefits the victim would have earned if they had lived
  • Pain and suffering the victim suffered between the time of injury and when they died
  • Loss of consortium, guidance, and support the victim would have provided
  • For an unemployed victim who provided caregiving services, the value of that care

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

In Missouri, wrongful death lawsuits are subject to a statute of limitations that establishes a filing deadline. Under R.S.Mo. § 537.100, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years from the date the victim died. If you fail to file a lawsuit within that time, your ability to pursue justice through the courts will likely be foreclosed.

Talk to an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

If your family member was killed because of another’s actions, you should speak to a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave. We provide free consultations and can help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us today at 417-322-2222 or contact us online.

Files under: Wrongful Death