St. Louis Wrongful Death Lawyer

In Missouri, wrongful death claims are valid in any situation where the deceased could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had they survived. An action may be filed against a person or a company whose negligent or even intentional actions cause the death of this person. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.080 (2021). In a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant is only financially liable, meaning the court may force the defendant to pay the plaintiff money, but the defendant is not at risk of ending up in prison or jail. 

Another difference is that proving the defendant owes you money is much easier than proving they deserve to be in jail. In a criminal homicide case, the prosecutor must prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil wrongful death case, the plaintiff must only prove the defendant is liable "by a preponderance of the evidence." In other words, to win a wrongful death case, you only have to prove that it's more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the death.

If the wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the court will order the defendant to pay damages. How much money defendants are ordered to pay (and to who) depends entirely on the facts of the case. Courts in Missouri usually look at several factors relating to the wrongful death case, including the deceased's:

  • Medical bills
  • Value of wages/benefits
  • Funeral/burial expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reasonable value of companionship, comfort, consortium, instruction, services, guidance, counsel, training, and support the deceased person would have provided to surviving family members.

Additional damages may also be available to compensate for caregiving services provided to the deceased person.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Missouri, there are levels to who can bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of a deceased person.

  1. First in line are the deceased person's living spouse, parents, or children; generally, in that order.
    1. If the children are deceased, the children's descendants may bring suit.
  2. Second in line are the surviving siblings or their lineal descendants.
    1. Must prove they incurred losses stemming from the death.
  3. Lastly, suppose no one from either category is alive. In that case, an appointed representative of the deceased person's estate can file the claim for the estate to receive compensation.
    1. Or, the court may appoint a "plaintiff ad litem plaintiff," if requested by a person entitled to share in proceeds.

Unfortunately, even if you fall into one of these categories, filing has an expiration date. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for filing most wrongful death cases is three years from the date of death. If the lawsuit is not filed within that period of time, the court will likely refuse to hear it at all. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.100 (2021). If you are unsure whether or not you will be barred from filing a case, give us a call.

Wrongful death cases often get confusing - even a little messy, especially among complicated family lines. The laws surrounding these cases make everything a little bit easier to comprehend, but they can change at any time. The best way to know if you have a valid wrongful death claim is to call an experienced wrongful death attorney at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry. We will evaluate your case, let you know what you are (or are not) entitled to, and ensure you are taken care of throughout the entire process.