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July 2, 2024

What Is Considered Wrongful Death in the State of Missouri?

Understanding Wrongful Death in Missouri

In the state of Missouri, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person or entity. This legal concept encompasses various scenarios, such as medical malpractice, car accidents, workplace accidents, and criminal activities. The purpose of wrongful death laws is to provide a legal avenue for surviving family members to seek compensation for their loss and hold the responsible parties accountable.

To establish a wrongful death claim, several elements must be proven. Firstly, it must be demonstrated that the defendant had a duty of care towards the deceased. This means that the defendant was expected to act in a certain way to ensure the safety or well-being of the deceased. Secondly, it must be shown that this duty was breached. This breach can occur through actions or omissions that a reasonable person would not have committed under similar circumstances. Thirdly, it must be established that this breach directly caused the death. Lastly, the death must have resulted in damages, such as financial loss, emotional suffering, and loss of companionship.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Several situations can lead to a wrongful death claim in Missouri. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Medical Malpractice: This occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide the standard of care expected in the medical community, leading to the death of a patient. Examples include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, and medication mistakes.
  • Car Accidents: Fatal car accidents often result from negligent or reckless driving behaviors, such as speeding, drunk driving, distracted driving, or failing to obey traffic laws.
  • Workplace Accidents: Employees can suffer fatal injuries due to unsafe working conditions, lack of proper safety measures, or employer negligence. Common examples include construction site accidents, exposure to hazardous materials, and machinery malfunctions.
  • Criminal Acts: Homicide or other violent crimes can lead to wrongful death claims if the perpetrator's actions result in the death of another person.

Each of these causes involves different legal considerations and types of evidence. For example, proving medical malpractice might require expert testimony to show that the healthcare provider deviated from accepted medical standards, while a car accident case might rely heavily on police reports and eyewitness accounts.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Missouri, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is generally granted to the immediate family members of the deceased. This typically includes the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. If none of these relatives are available, a more distant relative, such as a sibling, may be eligible to file the claim. In some cases, a personal representative of the deceased's estate may also bring forth the lawsuit.

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Missouri is three years from the date of death. It is crucial to take legal action within this timeframe to preserve the right to seek compensation. Failing to file within this period can result in the forfeiture of the right to pursue justice and compensation for the loss.

The Legal Process of a Wrongful Death Claim

Filing a wrongful death claim involves several steps. Initially, the plaintiff must gather evidence to support the claim. This evidence can include medical records, autopsy reports, witness statements, and expert testimonies. The plaintiff's attorney will then file a complaint in the appropriate court, outlining the facts of the case and the damages sought.

After the complaint is filed, the discovery process begins. During discovery, both parties exchange information and evidence related to the case. This can involve written questions (interrogatories), requests for documents, and depositions, where witnesses are questioned under oath. The discovery process is crucial for building a strong case and preparing for trial.

Many wrongful death cases are settled out of court through negotiations between the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's insurance company or legal representatives. These settlements can provide compensation without the need for a lengthy trial. However, if a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments, and a judge or jury decides the outcome.

Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases

Compensation in wrongful death cases aims to address both economic and non-economic damages suffered by the surviving family members. Economic damages can include medical expenses incurred prior to death, funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support, and loss of benefits such as health insurance or pension plans. These damages are typically quantifiable and supported by documentation.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are more subjective and can include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, and emotional distress experienced by the surviving family members. These damages recognize the profound emotional impact of losing a loved one and seek to provide some measure of justice and solace to the grieving family.

Our wrongful death attorneys are dedicated to helping you understand the potential compensation available and guiding you through the legal process to ensure your family's rights are protected. We understand the immense pain and confusion that can accompany a wrongful death, and we are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, an attorney can provide valuable legal advice and explain your rights and options clearly. They can help you understand the complexities of wrongful death laws in Missouri and how they apply to your specific case.

Secondly, an attorney can handle all aspects of the legal process, from gathering evidence and filing paperwork to negotiating settlements and representing you in court. This allows you to focus on grieving and healing while knowing that your case is in capable hands. An attorney can also help ensure that all legal deadlines are met, preserving your right to seek compensation.

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence or wrongful actions, it's important to seek legal advice promptly. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you through this difficult time and secure the justice and compensation you deserve. Please contact us to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options.

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