Was your loved one's death wrongful in the legal sense?

The unexpected loss of a loved one is naturally a traumatizing experience, and it could bring about financial instability. End-of-life expenses do not typically form part of anybody's monthly budget, and if you lose the family's primary breadwinner, the sudden loss of income could be devastating. Fortunately, the civil justice system of Missouri allows surviving family members to pursue financial relief by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

When does the law regard a fatality as a wrongful death? Most such claims involve some type of accident, and when carelessness, recklessness or negligence occurs, it may prove to be a wrongful death.

Frequent causes of wrongful death

While some deaths are the direct result of negligence or intent, some cases involve alleged negligent parties who had no contact with the deceased person, such as with faulty medicine prescriptions and automotive or tire defects. Your loved one's death might have involved one of the following:

  • Commercial truck or automobile crashes: Truckers and trucking companies can be responsible for non-compliance with driving-hour laws, unbalanced loads, negligent maintenance and other factors that lead to fatal commercial truck accidents. However, if an auto crash caused your loved one's death, you may claim financial recovery from the other driver, the state's roadway governing agency, auto manufacturers or another responsible party.
  • Product liability: If a defective or dangerous product caused the death, you might name any or all entities in the supply chain as defendants in a lawsuit. If a design or manufacturing defect caused the fatality, the designer or developer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer could all be held accountable because state product liability laws require manufacturers to provide the consumer market with safe products.
  • Occupational accident: Although most workplace fatalities lead to workers' compensation claims, a death that followed an employer's gross negligence or the actions of a third party can give rise to a wrongful death claim in a civil court.
  • Criminal activity: If your loved one was the victim of a crime, you might seek financial relief from the perpetrator -- regardless of the outcome of criminal proceedings. A successful civil lawsuit needs only a preponderance of guilt rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as is necessary for a criminal court.
  • Medical malpractice: Medical facilities and their staff must provide care of an acceptable standard. Any breach of those duties that leads to death can give rise to a wrongful death claim. Common causes include surgical errors, birth injuries, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, anesthesia errors, neglect, abuse and more.

Recovery of damages

The damages for which you may seek recovery when you file a wrongful death lawsuit include financial losses, such as medical and end-of-life expenses, loss of income, and loss of potential inheritances. Furthermore, non-economic damages for your deceased's pain and suffering and loss of services, guidance, support and companionship can also be part of your documented claims. The support and guidance of an experienced wrongful death attorney can make the difference with the challenging task of quantifying these claims and handling negotiations with insurance companies or aggressively advocating for you in the courtroom if it goes to trial.  

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