Recovery under Missouri law for the loss of a loved one
Missouri law allows those losing close family members to negligent acts to hold the responsible party accountable.
The unexpected loss of a loved one can cause painful feelings. If the loved one's death was caused by someone else's carelessness, the experience is particularly horrific. In addition to the feelings of emotional loss, the death can cause financial losses because of the loss of income, medical bills and other expenses stemming from the tragic loss.
Fortunately, Missouri law allows those in this situation to recover these expenses by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death occurs when a person's death is caused by the carelessness, neglect or intentional acts of another person. This type of lawsuit is different from other personal injury lawsuits in the sense that the actual victim of the wrongful conduct does not file the lawsuit. Instead, the decedent's family members or estate brings the lawsuit.
Conduct that may warrant a wrongful death lawsuit happens in everyday life. Fatal car accidents are probably the most common example of wrongful conduct. However, wrongful death actions are commonly filed following instances of medical malpractice, fatal workplace injuries, criminal activities and dangerous property conditions. It is important to note that it is possible that the person responsible for the death will face criminal charges. However, since wrongful death is a civil action, it is separate from the criminal proceedings. Additionally, an acquittal in a criminal case does not affect the right or outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who is eligible to recover damages?
Not just any family member may recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Missouri law limits recovery to the spouse and children of the deceased. However, if the spouse is unmarried and without children, the deceased's siblings may recover.
Under the law, several types of economic expenses may be recovered, such as funeral, burial and medical costs. Additionally, damages for pain and suffering may be recovered if the decedent experienced pain during the time between the injury and his or her death. Also, eligible parties may recover the reasonable value of the decedent's financial support, companionship, parental guidance and comfort. Finally, in certain cases, a court may award punitive damages if the conduct responsible for the death was wanton, reckless, intentional or exhibited a disregard for other people's safety.
While it is true that a wrongful death lawsuit cannot bring the loved one back to life, it can help grieving family members by providing them the financial support in their time of need. If someone's careless act has caused the loss of your loved one, an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you further on your right to demand accountability under the law.