Written by attorney Scott Andrew Robbins

An overview of the Missouri Wrongful Death process

The death of a family member is painful. The death of a family member caused by someone else’s wrongful actions can be even more painful. Under the law, the personal representative or heirs of the person who died, called the “class", may file a lawsuit for monetary damages.

There is a statute of limitations to bring a wrongful death claim. The exact time allowed to bring a claim will vary on multiple factors. Regardless, if you have lost a family member as the result of negligent conduct of another, you must act immediately or you can lose your legal rights to seek compensation.

If a plaintiff is successful in establishing fault, the legal system attempts to balance the harm the plaintiff has suffered, through a monetary award that is paid by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. The law can not place the plaintiff in the position they were in before the injury, however, it can minimize the effects of the harm through a monetary award. The monetary award comes in the form of economic and non-economic damages, and typically includes the following remedies: (1) payment of any medical, doctor, or hospital bills incurred prior to death; (2) Funeral and burial expenses; (3) the reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and financial support lost because of the wrongful death; and (4) compensation for the suffering the deceased may have experienced between the time of injury and the time of death. Finally, punitive damages may be awarded. To receive punitive damages the injured patient must show that the medical provider exhibited behavior that constituted a degree of recklessness greater than that of mere negligence. Punitive damages are not usually awarded.

A wrongful death settlement or jury award must be apportioned by the court. The trial court apportions the settlement to any or all members of the class of persons entitled to sue or join the wrongful death action, regardless of whether they did in fact join the suit. The trial court's discretion in apportioning the verdict is so broad that the appellate court will not interfere unless the apportionment is grossly excessive or inadequate.

A wrongful death attorney will assist you through the legal system, and counsel you as to the value of your claims. Your lawyer will gather all information necessary to present your case favorably. This includes talking to witnesses, investigating the claim, working with your physicians, and, if necessary, hiring expert consultants to assist a jury in fully understanding the accident or the resulting harms suffered. Your attorney will file the necessary pleadings to institute suit, make multiple court appearances to move your case towards trial, and ultimately present your case to a jury for a decision in the event a settlement can not be reached.

NOTE: This legal guide is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney that practices in the subject practice discipline and with whom you have an atttorney client relationship along with all the privileges that relationship provides. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question.

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