Springfield: 417-322-2222
Joplin: 417-624-4258

Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?

Home » Blog » Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?
Woman holding a rose at a funeral

If someone causes the death of your loved one through negligence or intentional action, the impact on your family can be devastating. Under Missouri law, if you had a certain type of relationship with the deceased, you may be entitled to recover compensation for the losses you have suffered due to your loved one’s death. Who is entitled to wrongful death benefits? Scroll down to better understand the legal options you may have to hold the negligent actors liable for their actions.

Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits in Missouri?

Under R.S.Mo. § 537.080, wrongful death is defined as a person’s death that is caused by conduct, circumstances, transactions, occurrences, or acts that would have entitled the deceased person to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived. Wrongful death claims can be filed to recover compensation against people or entities who negligently or intentionally cause someone else’s death. Certain family members may step into the shoes of the deceased person to seek damages that the deceased person might have recovered if he or she had not died. They can also recover compensation for the losses that they have suffered because of their loved one’s untimely death.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Missouri?

Missouri’s wrongful death statute places limits on who is allowed to file a lawsuit following a wrongful death. The people who can file a lawsuit are placed in order of priority. The deceased person’s spouse has first priority, followed by any children, followed by any grandchildren. If the deceased person does not have any of those types of survivors, his or her parents can file a claim. If the deceased person does not have surviving parents, then one of his or her siblings can file a claim. When a child passes away, the child’s parents are typically the people who file a wrongful death claim.

If none of the previously listed family members survive the deceased person, the representative of his or her estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Finally, if there is no personal representative, a person who is entitled to share some of the proceeds of a successful lawsuit can ask the court to appoint a plaintiff ad litem to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties.

What types of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by people with the previously listed relationships to the decedents to seek monetary damages. There are several types of damages that plaintiffs might recover through a claim under R.S.Mo. § 537.090, including the following:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses from treating the deceased person’s injuries until he or she succumbed
  • Value of the income and benefits that the decedent would have likely earned if he or she had not been killed
  • Pain and suffering that the deceased person suffered between the time of his or her accident and death
  • Reasonable value of the lost support, companionship, services, guidance, and training that the deceased person provided to his or her family

If the deceased person provided child or elder care, the plaintiff might recover damages for the value of the services. In Missouri, there is a rebuttable presumption that the value of provided care by a deceased person who was not a full-time employee is 110 percent of the average weekly wage in the state when the person died.

In cases in which a child is a victim, damages for lost wages are calculated based on the parents’ earnings. In wrongful death cases arising from medical malpractice, Missouri places a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that are recoverable under R.S.Mo. § 538.210. The limit for non-economic damages in medical malpractice wrongful death claims is $700,000, which is adjusted for inflation each year. Economic losses, including lost wages and medical expenses, are not impacted by this cap, however.


If your loved one has died because of the actions of someone else, schedule a consultation with an attorney at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave as soon as possible. We can help you to figure out who is entitled to wrongful death benefits and who should file the claim in your loved one’s case. Missouri has a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. If you do not file a claim within that time, your ability to recover compensation may be barred, so please schedule your free consultation today.

Files under: Wrongful Death