Wrongful death occurs when the negligence or carelessness of one person causes the death of another. The Terry Law Firm has experience in handling wrongful death cases in a wide variety of venues, ranging from nursing homes, to medical negligence to motor vehicle accidents.
Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Claim?
The laws on who can bring a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In Missouri there are three "classes" of individuals who are permitted to bring a wrongful death case. The best way to describe the law is by example: Assume Joe dies as a result of the negligence of another individual. The following individuals - in this order - are permitted to bring a wrongful death case:
1st Class of Claimants:Parents, spouse,children or surviving lineal descendant of deceased child.
- If Joe's parents are deceased and he is divorced has three living children, then any one of his three children can bring the wrongful death lawsuit. Even if two children object to bringing a lawsuit, the third child can initiate the lawsuit without the blessing of the siblings.
- If Joe's mother is still alive and he is divorced with three living children, then his mother or any one of his three children can bring the wrongful death lawsuit.
- If Joe's parent's are deceased, he is divorced and all three of his children are deceased, but there is one grand child who is a lineal descendent of one of his children, then that grandchild may initiate the wrongful death lawsuit.
Basically any one person from the first class of claimants can initiate a wrongful death case. If there is no one in the first class of claimants (i.e. no parents, no spouse, no children and no grandchildren) then the law looks to the second class of claimants.
2nd Class of Claimants: Siblings or their descendants
- If there is no one from the first class of claimants then the law looks to Joe's brothers and sisters and their children (i.e. Joe's nephews and nieces). If Joe had three brothers, then anyone of them can bring the wrongful death lawsuit.
- If two of Joe's brothers are deceased either the living brother or the children of either of the two deceased brothers can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.
If there is no one in the second class of claimants (i.e. no siblings and no nieces or nephews) the law looks to the third class of claimants.
3rd Class of Claimants: Plaintiff ad Litem
- If there is no one from the first or second class of claimants then the law permits the Court to appoint a Plaintiff ad Litem looks to pursue the wrongful death case.
But What If.....?
What if the decedent was very close to a niece who took care of him and helped him with his daily needs and financial issues but he also has a daughter who he rarely saw....can the niece bring the wrongful death lawsuit? Unfortunately, no. The law tries its best to be fair, but it can't foresee every possible circumstance, so in that instance, the daughter would be the only person eligible to bring the wrongful death lawsuit.
How Is Compensation Handled In Wrongful Death Cases?
Generally, family members or beneficiaries bringing a wrongful death claim must demonstrate that the decedent died as a result of the defendant's negligence and that the surviving family members or beneficiaries are entitled to monetary damages as a result of the defendant's conduct. Often family members can collect for the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before death as well as lost wages and loss of companionship (sometimes called "loss of consortium"), to name just a few. When a wrongful death case is resolved, Missouri requires that every person who had the right to bring the wrongful death case be notified and that a judge approve the resolution.
What Has to be Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Lawsuits are complicated and there are a lot of things that the plaintiff must prove. But, basically, to prove a wrongful death, the plaintiff must convince a jury that by the preponderance of the evidence (i.e. more likely than not) the defendant was negligent and that the defendant's negligence caused or contributed to cause the death of the decedent.
How We Can Help
If negligence of another person has caused the wrongful death of a family member or loved one, you need a knowledgeable attorney to help you to determine your rights under the law. The Terry Law Firm has represented the rights of many families who have experienced the tremendous loss of someone they loved being taken too soon because of another person's carelessness.