Few experiences are more difficult than the sudden loss of a loved one. Although no amount of money can eliminate the pain and suffering of losing a close family member, a wrongful death claim may provide financial compensation to certain relatives of someone who was killed as a result of carelessness or misconduct.
Common causes of wrongful death include car accidents, truck crashes, motorcycle collisions, construction accidents, defective consumer products, and nursing home neglect. For over 90 years, the law firm of Gump & Faiella, LLC has provided legal advice and guidance to clients in Columbia and across Missouri who have lost a loved one. Our compassionate Columbia wrongful death attorneys can help you pursue a claim for damages against the party responsible for your tragic loss.
Filing a Missouri Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim seeks to compensate a victim’s relatives for his or her loss of life, companionship, love, and the financial support that the family would have received had the victim survived. Only certain relatives are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri: the victim’s spouse, children, and parents. If none of those relatives are alive, a deceased person’s sibling may file a wrongful death case. However, only one wrongful death action may be filed for each victim.
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years of the incident that caused your loved one’s death. Outside some narrow exceptions, a family will generally lose the right to recover for their loved one’s death if they do not file within this time window.
Who Is Held Liable?
The majority of wrongful death claims filed in Missouri are based on negligence. This occurs when someone is hurt or killed because a person or company failed to use reasonable care, which is defined as what a typical person or company would have done in a similar situation. The failure to use reasonable care must have directly caused the victim’s injuries and damages. For example, a speeding driver who causes a collision that kills another motorist may be guilty of negligence.
Missouri is a comparative fault state. This means that the family of a wrongful death victim may be entitled to recover for their loved one’s death even if he or she was partly to blame for the accident. The financial recovery awarded, however, will be reduced by the victim’s degree of fault.
Compensation for the Survivors
Both economic and non-economic damages may be collected in a wrongful death action. Economic damages include a victim’s medical bills as well as his or her lost earnings and benefits. Additionally, a victim’s family may be eligible to receive non-economic damages related to the victim’s pain and suffering before death and the family’s loss of companionship or consortium. A relative may also receive reimbursement for the costs associated with their loved one’s funeral.
In extreme situations, a jury may choose to award punitive damages. These are intended to punish a negligent person or business for especially outrageous behavior. A punitive damages award requires “clear and convincing” proof of culpability.
Discuss Your Case With Moberly Wrongful Death Attorneys
If someone’s carelessness caused the accidental death of a beloved family member, they should be held accountable for their actions. The dedicated Missouri wrongful death lawyers at Gump & Faiella, LLC offer tenacious representation to clients who are located in Moberly, Columbia, and elsewhere in the state. Our Moberly wrongful death attorneys can help you seek the financial compensation you deserve following the death of a loved one.
Wrongful Death Damages in Missouri
Losing a loved one is a difficult experience, regardless of how it happened. However, an unexpected and preventable death can have profound psychological, emotional, and financial consequences.
Bringing a lawsuit will not bring a lost loved back, but it can have profound effects that can provide answers, accountability for the responsible parties, and justice to the victim and their family. Successful lawsuits and settlements force defendants to be accountable for their actions by costing the defendant money in the form of paying compensatory damages. In particularly egregious cases, punitive damages may also be available. Lawsuits may also stir up publicity or shed light on systemic problems with a business or a person that can result in positive changes such as changes in policies or the recall of a dangerous product.
Wrongful death compensatory damages are to compensate for a loss suffered as a result of the death of a loved one. Theses damages are not intended to put a value on a person’s life, because there is not enough money in the world to pay for a human life. Instead these damages must be paid by a defendant when they are responsible for the death to pay for the losses caused by the harm the defendant caused.
When someone is killed, the harm caused, including mental, emotional, and financial losses, is called damages. Damages are recoverable through the legal process by bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Before damages can be collected, the defendants must be found to be liable for causing damages in a court of law. Alternatively, if the defendant believes they will likely lose the case, they may make a settlement to avoid a trial.
Common damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim include:
- Loss of the deceased’s earnings.
- Medical and funeral expenses from the time of injury until death.
- Loss of services and support.
- Loss of the relationship with the deceased.
About Earnings & More
The loss of a deceased’s earnings includes the amount of money the deceased would have earned over his or her lifetime from work. These damages are commonly calculated by using the decedents past earnings and projecting them over an average work-life expectancy, minus a reduction for the chance of disability or death and personal consumption. Medical and funeral expenses can be collected for any bills incurred for the care and burial of the decedent.
Loss of service and support are damages for things the decedent did for the people bringing the lawsuit. These can include household services such as home maintenance, mowing the lawn, care repair, and child rearing. These damages are typically calculated by finding equivalent market prices for the service the decedent provided and calculating those over the expected period the decedent would have performed those services in the future.
Loss of relationship damages are for things such as loss of companionship, guidance, and counsel of the decedent. These damages are intangible in the sense that there is not a market for these services where one can pay for them to be performed by someone else. However, everyone realizes that these losses are real, and perhaps the most profound. These losses are proven by testimony from family and friends as well as from pictures, videos, cards, and letters.
Division of Damages
Often there are multiple people who are entitled to either bring suit or share in the proceeds of a Missouri wrongful death claim. If a claim is resolved prior to trial by a settlement, then the settlement must be approved by the court. The court will consider the merits of the settlement and decided whether it should be approved or not. If the case is tried in court and is successful, a judgment will be obtained in favor of the plaintiff, which is for the benefit of all people entitled to bring the claim.
As there may be several people who might share in the proceeds, whether a settlement or a judgment resolved the claim, all the people who have an interest must be put on notice of the settlement or judgment. The court will then allocate damages amongst the interested parties. In most cases, the interested persons are close and can come to an agreement on how the money should be allocated amongst all parties.
When all the parties agree, courts rarely disagree with the allocation, unless the allocation is obviously unfair or there is a conflict of interests. If there are minor children or incompetent parties the court may appoint a guardian to represent their interests.
Time to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Missouri
When a party has a right to sue for wrongful death to recover compensation for wrongdoing, that right is not unlimited. Time limits in which a claim must be brought are imposed. So if a claim is not brought within the time restraints, the right to file a claim is lost. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is three (3) years. There can be other limitations which can shorten this time, and there are exceptions when the time may be extended. Each case is unique based upon its facts, and the application of the law to those facts can be complex. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced injury attorney if you have lost a loved one as a result of wrongdoing.
Consult With Our Team
Our Columbia wrongful death attorneys have handled wrongful death cases in Columbia, Moberly and throughout the state of Missouri. We have offices to meet with you by appointment in Moberly and Columbia or we can come to your home or business to meet with you for your convenience.