When someone dies unexpectedly, those left behind often struggle. Not only do they have grief to process and overcome, but they also have many practical challenges to address. For example, someone’s premature passing can trigger major expenses, including end-of-life medical care and burial costs. Their loved ones also lose out on their financial contributions to the household and the practical ways that they help support the family, such as maintaining vehicles or doing lawn work.
The law in Missouri does allow litigation when misconduct or negligence by a business or individual causes someone’s death. Those considering a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri need to understand the three rules introduced below before committing to a plan of action or inaction.
Who can file
State statutes very clearly outline who has the right to file a lawsuit after someone’s untimely death. Close family members typically have the strongest rights. Spouses, children and parents can file wrongful death lawsuits. If someone dies without a spouse, child or surviving parents, their siblings, nieces, and nephews may also have the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. In cases with no such family members, the courts can appoint a plaintiff ad litem to take legal action.
Limits on the compensation sought
There are specific limits on what compensation people can seek in a wrongful death lawsuit. Most cases prioritize economic losses. Lost income, medical expenses and property damage costs are all among the economic losses that contribute to the overall value of a wrongful death lawsuit.
People can also seek compensation for non-economic losses, including the pain and suffering of the deceased and the value of their household services, comfort and support. Missouri’s rules on punitive damages allow claims when someone acted with flagrant disregard for others or the intent to harm the decedent but limit how much the courts can award.
Limits on timing
Missouri limits how long people have to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit after a family tragedy. In all but the rarest cases, people must take legal action within three years of someone’s death or lose the right to do so.
Those who learn about Missouri’s rules for wrongful death lawsuits, and seek legal guidance and support accordingly, may have an easier time seeking justice after a tragedy affects their family.