Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorneys
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Missouri
When a person dies due to the negligent or wrongful act of another person or party, members of the victim’s family have the right to seek monetary damages in a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. However, there are certain limitations that have been placed on wrongful death lawsuits in Missouri and in other states in the U.S.
If your loved one was tragically killed in an accident or after sustaining injuries caused by someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct, we at Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd. offer our sincerest condolences. We are here to help you seek justice and fair financial compensation for the unexpected challenges you have been forced to face. While no amount of monetary recovery can truly compensate you for what you and your family have endured, a successful wrongful death claim can provide you with the resources and justice you need to heal.
To learn more, please contact us at (816) 542-5999. Your initial consultation is completely free and confidential, and we do not collect any attorneys’ fees unless we win your case.
To jump to any section on this page, click the topic below:
- What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Claim?
- Who May Bring a Claim & Under What Circumstances?
- Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
- How Our Legal Team Can Help Your Family
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone dies due to the fault of another person or entity—whether by accident or otherwise—certain surviving family members may be justified in pursuing compensation for their loss, including lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, funeral expenses, or even mental anguish and emotional trauma.
Every state has some form of wrongful death law involving all types of fatal accidents, including:
- Medical Malpractice: Medical errors, misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, medication errors, or failure to provide appropriate care can lead to wrongful death. This can occur in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings.
- Car Accidents: Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death. Reckless driving, drunk driving, distracted driving, and other negligent behaviors can result in fatal crashes.
- Workplace Accidents: Inadequate safety precautions, lack of proper training, and negligence in the workplace can lead to fatal accidents. This includes construction site accidents, industrial accidents, and more.
- Product Liability: Defective products, such as faulty medical devices or dangerous consumer goods, can cause fatal injuries. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers may be held responsible for wrongful deaths caused by their products.
- Premises Liability: Property owners can be held liable for deaths that occur due to unsafe conditions on their premises, such as slip and fall accidents, inadequate security, or building code violations.
- Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: Negligence and abuse in nursing homes or long-term care facilities can result in the wrongful death of residents.
- Criminal Acts: Homicide or other criminal acts can lead to wrongful death claims. The responsible individuals may face criminal charges, and the victim's family can pursue civil action for compensation.
- Recreational Accidents: Wrongful deaths can occur during recreational activities, such as boating accidents, amusement park accidents, and sports-related injuries, when negligence is involved.
- Dangerous Drugs and Pharmaceuticals: Prescription or over-the-counter medications can sometimes have unforeseen side effects or be inadequately tested, leading to wrongful deaths.
- Dangerous or Reckless Behavior: Reckless behavior, such as assault, battery, or dangerous actions by individuals or groups, can result in wrongful death claims.
- Occupational Hazards: Some occupations, such as those in the construction, mining, or oil and gas industries, carry inherent risks. Inadequate safety measures can lead to fatal accidents.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to hazardous substances, pollution, or unsafe environmental conditions can lead to wrongful deaths, especially in cases of toxic exposure or environmental disasters.
Persons, companies, and governmental agencies can be legally at fault for acting negligently, which occurs when they fail to act as a reasonable person would have acted, or for acting with deliberate attempt to cause harm or death. To succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri, you typically need to prove certain elements to establish your case.
The following are the general elements you must prove in a Missouri wrongful death lawsuit:
- Death of a Person: You must demonstrate that a person has died, and the death was caused by the actions or negligence of another party.
- Negligence or Wrongful Act: You must show that the death resulted from the defendant's negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct, or a wrongful act. This means proving that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased and breached that duty.
- Causation: You need to establish a direct link between the defendant's actions or negligence and the death of the person. In other words, you must demonstrate that the defendant's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the death.
- Personal Representative: In Missouri, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person's estate. If there is a valid will, the personal representative is usually named in it. If not, the court may appoint one.
- Beneficiaries: You need to identify the surviving beneficiaries who are entitled to recover damages in the wrongful death lawsuit. Under Missouri law, these beneficiaries can include the spouse, children, or other dependents of the deceased.
- Damages: You must establish that the wrongful death caused damages, such as funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses related to the deceased's final illness or injury, and loss of financial support that the deceased would have provided to the family. Additionally, non-economic damages, such as the loss of companionship, can be sought by the surviving family members.
Who May Bring a Claim & Under What Circumstances?
You and others in your immediate family who have suffered from the loss of love, companionship, and/or loss of financial support of a deceased loved one are entitled to just compensation.
In Missouri, the following individuals (in order) may file a wrongful death action:
- The surviving spouse/domestic partner of the deceased
- The deceased’s surviving child/children
- The deceased’s surviving grandchild/grandchildren
- The surviving parent(s) of the deceased
- The surviving sibling(s) of the deceased
If the deceased has no surviving spouse/domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parent, or sibling, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim. If no such representative exists, the court may appoint one.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Damages for wrongful death may be claimed by the victim’s dependents. Dependents may include minor children, a spouse, or the dependent parents of the deceased victim. In certain cases, the victim’s siblings may have the right to claim compensation for wrongful death, but limitations have been set on the legal claimants for a wrongful death lawsuit. Only one wrongful death lawsuit may be initiated for the set of facts in question.
The victim’s claimants or dependents or their legal representative must present evidence to support their case alleging wrongful death. Since this is a civil lawsuit, wrongful death lawsuits have a relatively lower degree of proof than a criminal trial. Wrongful death lawsuits do not need to meet the high standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that applies in a criminal case. The burden of proving the case, however, lies with the claimants, and they must do so by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiffs can present their evidence before either a judge or a jury.
Damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri include:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses incurred prior to death
- Loss of support, guidance, comfort, and companionship
- Pain and suffering experienced by the decedent after the injury and prior to death
No damages are recoverable for grief or bereavement on the part of surviving family members and/or loved ones.
How Our Legal Team Can Help Your Family
Wrongful death lawsuits can be very complex. If you believe a loved one’s death was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of a person or company, an experienced Kansas City wrongful death lawyer at our firm can help you evaluate your options.
At Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd., we understand the emotional issues that arise after losing a family member. Allow us to sit down with you to discuss the specific circumstances of your loved one’s death and to help you through this very difficult time. You can rely on our team to take care of the legal matters so you and your family can cope emotionally. While monetary damages cannot make your life the same, they will help you to pay the necessary expenses so that you can begin to move forward with your life.