Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience, and having to navigate the legal aspects of a wrongful death adds an additional layer of complexity. For those who find themselves in this unfortunate situation, it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Missouri.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal concept that arises when someone’s negligence or intentional actions result in the death of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the deceased’s immediate family members, including spouse or children, surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children, or by the parents of the deceased person to recover damages.
In Missouri, claims from wrongful death can cover economic damages, like funeral expenses, medical expenses, and loss of income, or non-economic damages such as loss of consortium and enjoyment of life. If the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice or a car accident, there may be caps for non-economic damages, meaning the award may be lowered to a standard amount set by the legislature.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Missouri
Understanding the statute of limitations is essential for anyone filing a wrongful death case. It can be difficult mentally and emotionally to think about filing a lawsuit in the midst of grieving, but delaying too much could result in an inability to file. The Missouri law states that a wrongful death case will only be considered if it’s filed within three years of the person’s date of death.
What is the Cap for Wrongful Death in Missouri?
In Missouri, there is a damages cap in certain wrongful death lawsuits. Claims that arise from medical malpractice are subject to a damages cap, but deaths from personal injury, such as a car crash, do not have a cap.
A wrongful death caused by medical malpractice that occurred on or after August 28, 2015, has a damages cap of $700,000. Those that occurred before that time are capped at $500,000. These caps only apply to non-economic damages, like pain and suffering or loss of companionship. Economic damages, like medical expenses, funeral expenses, or loss of income, are not subject to the damages cap.
The Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The deceased’s survivors are obligated to prove each required element of the legal claim, also called the burden of proof. In criminal cases, the burden of proof means the defendant’s guilt must be proven to moral certainty. In criminal homicide cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil lawsuits rely on “a preponderance of the evidence,” or showing that something is more likely true than not.
This preponderance of the evidence also applies to wrongful death. In wrongful death, it is on the plaintiff to prove that it’s more likely true than not that the action or inaction of the defendant caused the death of the deceased person.
Determining Wrongful Death
Before filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to consider several factors to determine the viability of a case. For a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, the following must be present:
- Duty: There is a duty present to use reasonable care toward a foreseeable plaintiff.
- Breach of Duty: Another person’s action or inaction was a direct cause of the breach.
- Causation: The death must be considered a direct and foreseeable result of the breach of duty.
- Damages: The plaintiff must present measurable damages resulting from the death.
Pecuniary or financial loss is determined by:
- The decedent’s age, character, and condition
- The decedent’s earning capacity, life expectancy, health, and intelligence
- Circumstances of the distributees
Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Missouri
In Missouri, there are a few common scenarios that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death can be brought in any situation in which the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had they lived. Because of that, many of the same types of events can be the basis for personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, including:
- Negligence-based incidents, like car accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional acts, including criminal activities
Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Individuals filing the wrongful death lawsuit will often seek damages the decedent could have pursued had they survived. These cover damages accrued between the incident’s occurrence and the victim’s death, and include:
- Medical Expenses: Wrongful death claims can include compensation for bills from emergency medical care or other healthcare expenses related to the accident or injury.
- Lost Wages: Victims miss time at work due to injuries and, after they pass, may leave loved ones with financial difficulties because of the loss of income they would have received had the person lived. Loved ones may qualify to receive compensation for the income the decedent would have received.
- Pain and Suffering: Victims in personal injury cases can sue for physical, mental, and emotional trauma. Individuals filing a wrongful death lawsuit can receive financial compensation for these on the decedent’s behalf.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses: Funerals in the U.S. are quite expensive, and when unexpected, they can result in a large financial burden. Wrongful death claims often include requests for funeral and burial expense coverage.
- Loss of Future Wages: Most useful for surviving spouses and children, individuals can seek compensation for the loss of the decedent’s future wages, providing a means for those who relied on them for financial support.
- Loss of Consortium: Also known as loss of companionship, this helps spouses who may experience emotional trauma with financial awards to seek necessary recovery resources.
Navigating Fault Determination After an Accident With Simon Law
Losing a loved one in any way is challenging, and wrongful death brings its own mental and emotional difficulties. Sometimes, the road to justice may seem too daunting to tackle. At Simon Law, we understand the pain and complexity you’re facing, but our experienced, understanding team is dedicated to guiding you through the intricate legal landscape surrounding wrongful death cases.
By entrusting us with your case, you gain a team of skilled attorneys and compassionate advocates committed to securing the compensation you deserve. Together, we can navigate the complexities of your wrongful death claim and work toward the closure and justice your loved one deserves.
Contact us today for a personalized consultation.