The loss of a loved one is a tragic event. In the event the passing was unexpected or accidental, the family may have an even harder time coping with their loss. When someone loses their life because of the negligence of another person, a company, or an entity, the surviving family members have the option of pursuing a claim to seek justice and compensation for what happened. If your family is in a situation like this, a Kansas City wrongful death lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 170,000 deaths occur on an annual basis as a result of accidents. Unintentional falls, motor vehicle accidents, and accidental poisonings are the most common causes of wrongful deaths in the United States.
No matter what situation resulted in your loved one’s untimely passing, it’s important to understand your family’s legal rights and options. Wrongful death laws are established at the state level, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced, local attorney who will be aware of what applies to your claim.
Wrongful Death Laws in Missouri
Missouri Revised Statutes §537.080 discusses legal actions for wrongful death, who is allowed to sue, and what limitations surround this particular litigation area. According to the law, wrongful death is the death of a person that results from “any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction, or circumstance which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled such person to recover damage in respect thereof.” In other words, if your loved one had survived their accident and were legally eligible to pursue a personal injury claim, your family has the right to file a wrongful death claim.
It’s important to understand that not just anyone can file this type of claim. In Missouri, a spouse, child, or surviving lineal descendant has the right to take action. This includes natural or adopted and legitimate or illegitimate persons. In the event there is no one who qualifies, the state then allows a sibling of the deceased to establish their right to any damages. If no direct family is available, the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem—which is someone appointed by the court on the request of the people who have legal heirs of the decedent.
It’s important to note that all wrongful death claims are subject to a statute of limitations, which limits how long the plaintiff has to file the claim. In Missouri, all cases must be filed within three years of the date of the deceased’s death. If that deadline is not met, the court will likely dismiss the case without review and any potential compensation will be voided.
How to Prove a Wrongful Death Case
To successfully prove a wrongful death case, your lawyer will help you collect evidence related to the concept of negligence. Negligence, in general, is the disregard for others’ wellbeing. If, for example, a person is driving through a green light at an intersection and a speeding car illegally passes through the red light and hits them, the driver who disregarded the rules of the road can be found at fault and held accountable for any of the consequences associated with the auto accident.
There are four elements to proving negligence for any wrongful death case. First, you’ll need to prove that the at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care to keep them safe. Using the car accident example from above, all drivers owe all other motorists and pedestrians a duty of care when driving. Another example of owing a duty of care would be a property owner who is responsible for ensuring their property is safe for visitors.
Once a duty of care has been established, you’ll need to prove how that duty was breached. Evidence for this may be found in a police report, if one was filed, or expert testimony may be required—particularly in the event of medical malpractice.
Your lawyer will then help you show how the breach in duty led to the fatal injury or injuries your loved one incurred. Finally, you’ll need to prove that losses were sustained. Losses may include pecuniary losses suffered by reason of death, funeral and burial expenses, damages suffered by your family member at the time of death—like pain and suffering, and reasonable value for loss of consortium, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, support and more.
Thomas Law Offices Is Here for You
If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s actions or inaction, consider getting in touch with a Kansas City wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier you get a claim filed, the better your chances are of receiving full and fair compensation for what your loved one and family have been put through.
We understand that you may be uncomfortable with the idea of receiving compensation for your familial loss, but it’s important to protect and secure your family’s financial future—especially if you relied on your deceased loved one’s monetary support. When you work with Thomas Law Offices, we’ll help your claim carefully and respectfully, while making sure to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.
If you’re ready to pursue a wrongful death claim, schedule a case evaluation with our office. We’ll review your situation and help you determine how best to proceed based on your family’s unique circumstances. Contact us today to learn more.