In Missouri, a wrongful death claim may arise when a person is killed in an incident that was caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another person or an entity. If the person had lived, he or she would have had the grounds to file a claim for personal injury. A wrongful death action is a lawsuit that can be filed by certain parties who figuratively step into the shoes of the person who died. In addition, the wrongful death claimants may have additional damages relating to the death of their loved one. Exactly who can file a wrongful death suit? Missouri has a specific statute that governs who may bring a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit or Claim?
Under Missouri Rev. Statute § 537.080, only certain people who have specific relationships with the deceased are allowed to file a claim or lawsuit. The statute divides people into classes.
Classes of Potential Plaintiffs
The classes of potential plaintiffs help explain who can file a wrongful death suit and in what order.
Class I Beneficiaries and Potential Plaintiffs
Class I beneficiaries in wrongful death claims and lawsuits include the father, mother, spouse, and children of the deceased person. Children who are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim include natural children and adopted children. If the deceased person’s children are deceased, the surviving lineal descendants are eligible as well.
Class II Beneficiaries and Potential Plaintiffs
People who are class II beneficiaries may not file a wrongful death lawsuit if there are any people remaining who are class I beneficiaries. Even if a person in the first class is alive but fails to file a lawsuit, a person in the second class may not do so. The second class of potential plaintiffs includes the siblings of the deceased person and the descendants of the siblings.
Class III Beneficiaries and Potential Plaintiffs
In some situations, there may not be any surviving class I or class II beneficiaries and therefore nobody who would otherwise be entitled to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. When that happens, the claim or lawsuit may be brought by a plaintiff ad litem appointed by the court, usually the person appointed as the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This person may bring the wrongful death claim or file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In cases in which the deceased person died without a will in which a personal representative was named, the court may appoint some other interested person to file an action for damages. In order to have a plaintiff ad litem appointed, a person who has an interest in the potential damages must petition the court, generally through a knowledgeable attorney who practices in wrongful death cases.
Limitations Period for Wrongful Death Claims
In Missouri, people who are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit must do so within three years of the victim’s death. This time period is called the statute of limitations, and it serves as a deadline. If a lawsuit is not filed by a person who is entitled to sue within the limitations period, the ability to recover damages resulting from the death of the victim will be barred. This means that people will be permanently unable to file a lawsuit to recover damages for their losses if they do not do so within the three-year time limit.
Potential Damages in a Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuit
How much you can recover in a wrongful death claim will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and the losses that you have suffered because of your loved one’s death. An experienced lawyer at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave can analyze your potential claim and provide you with an honest assessment of its value.
The potentially available damages in a Missouri wrongful death lawsuit are defined under Missouri Rev. Statute § 537.090. These losses include the following:
- Damages that the deceased could have claimed had they survived
- Economic losses to the survivors caused by the death of the victim
- Funeral and burial costs
- Pain and suffering that were suffered by the victim between the time of his or her injury and when he or she died
- Reasonable value of the victim’s services, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of guidance, loss of support, and others
Actual damages in Missouri for wrongful death cases are not limited unless they arise from medical malpractice. In that case, the damages are capped by law.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you have lost a loved one because of the negligent or careless actions of another person, you may have legal rights. It is important that you talk to an attorney with extensive experience in wrongful death claims. He or she can help you understand who can file a wrongful death suit. Time is of the essence. Schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave by calling 417-322-2222.