Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Missouri?

In Missouri, you may have a wrongful death claim if your loved one was eligible to file a personal injury claim before their death. Wrongful death claims can be filed against the negligent party, whether it’s a person or corporate entity. However, the plaintiff must produce proof of liability to recover damages.

In most cases, a spouse, child, or parent brings wrongful death claims forward. In Missouri, potential claimants are categorized in order of entitlement. If your loved one passed away due to someone else’s actions, your first step should be to contact experienced St. Louis wrongful death lawyers.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims in Missouri are personal injury claims that resulted in the victim’s death. Since the deceased cannot recover compensation, the case must be filed on their behalf.

Wrongful death lawsuits are civil court cases that can result in the defendant paying damages to the victim’s family rather than serving jail time as they would in a criminal case.

Proving Wrongful Death in Missouri

In a civil case, such as a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove negligence through a preponderance of evidence. Under this standard, the defendant may be liable if the court determines there is more than a 50% chance they are responsible for the victim’s death.

The plaintiff must prove these elements in a civil wrongful death case to obtain compensation for the loss of a loved one:

  • Duty of care: The defendant had an obligation to the plaintiff.
  • Breach of duty of care: The defendant failed to fulfill that obligation (driving according to traffic laws, providing a standard of medical care)
  • Causation: The breach of duty directly resulted in the wrongful death.

Types of Wrongful Death Claims

The basis for wrongful death claims is often similar to personal injury claims. The most common type of wrongful deaths include:

  • Negligent acts: Negligence is when the responsible party doesn’t take reasonable care to prevent injury to the victim. Automotive accidents are among the most common causes of wrongful death. In most car accidents, at least one of the drivers is negligent, whether they were speeding, distracted, or driving recklessly. If the claimants can prove negligence against the defendant in a wrongful death case, they may receive compensation.
  • Medical malpractice: If medical professionals fail to provide an appropriate standard of care to a patient causing death, they may be liable. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Intentional acts: Intentional acts, such as assault or battery, can result in wrongful death. While wrongful death is a civil action, deliberate assault may also provide the basis for a criminal case.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Missouri?

Under Missouri law, wrongful death claimants are divided into two classes.

  • Class 1: Class 1 refers to the first people eligible to make a claim. Class 1 includes the spouse or children of the deceased. If the deceased is an unmarried adult, their mother and father (natural or adoptive) can file a claim. 
  • Class 2: Class 2 includes siblings of the deceased. If the deceased’s siblings are also dead, their children can file a claim if they can demonstrate a right to the damages.
  • If there are no class 1 or 2 claimants: If no eligible claimants from classes 1 or 2 file lawsuits, the case is assigned to plaintiff ad litem. This person is a prosecutor who sues for damages on behalf of the heirs of the deceased. The court decides on the share of compensation if the defendant is liable.

What Damages Can You Claim for Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death claimants can sue for economic and non-economic damages in Missouri. Economic damages have specific monetary value, such as loss of earnings.

Non-economic damages don’t have a clear monetary value. Examples of non-economic damages include emotional distress and mental health conditions.

Damages from a wrongful death claim can help the surviving kin of the deceased financially and emotionally. The amount of damages a claimant receives depends on factors such as:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Medication costs or hospital bills related to the cause of death
  • The value of future wages and benefits the deceased party would have earned if they did not pass away
  • Non-economic damages experienced by the deceased in the aftermath of the incident that caused their death
  • Non-economic damages experienced by the claimant relating to the death of the victim
  • Damages to the value of caregiving services if the deceased was providing care for a dependent

Strong Legal Representation Can Make All the Difference

If you’ve lost someone you love due to negligence, malpractice, or the intentional actions of someone else, don’t suffer in silence. Seek legal representation from the skilled lawyers at Cofman Townsley.

We have been serving clients in Missouri for more than four decades. Our experienced team can build a strong claim in your case. Contact Cofman Townsley today for a free case evaluation.