There over 100,000 unintentional injury deaths each year. Some of these deaths are tragic accidents, but many others are the result of negligence. If your loved one passed away due to the negligence of someone else, you may not only feel grief but you may also struggle to pay for medical expenses. You may also feel as if the party responsible for death should pay for your loss.
How Does Wrongful Death Work?
There are two types of wrongful death cases. One involves the deceased’s estate. The representative responsible for the estate brings the wrongful death claim and the beneficiaries of the estate then might receive compensation for their injuries. Another situation is when you choose to bring a wrongful death claim if you are entitled to compensation under Missouri law.
To file a wrongful death claim, you must prove that you were not responsible for the death of your loved one and that the death was instead caused by the negligence of another party.
Leading Causes of Wrongful Death
Car accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death. The other motorist might have been:
- Ignoring traffic lights or signs
- Under the influence
- Experiencing road rage
Besides car accidents, motorists can also suffer from wrongful death due to a defective product, workplace accident, medical malpractice, or even a criminal activity. As long as the other party failed to show due care, you may have a case.
Can I Sue?
The state of Missouri limits who can sue for wrongful death to the spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased. If the deceased is 25-years-old or younger, you may file a wrongful death claim if you are one of the parents of the deceased. Brothers and sisters may be entitled to compensation if there are no other living relatives.
In some cases, a personal representative of your loved one’s will is appointed to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim. The representative is usually a close relative, spouse, or adult child. If the deceased did not have a will, the courts may appoint a representative. The representative is only responsible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, coordinating with a Kansas City wrongful death attorney, and settling. The beneficiaries of the will are the only individuals who may receive compensation for the wrongful death through the estate.
With the estate, even a charity may be entitled to compensation. For example, if the defendant chooses to leave all of her assets to a charity, her assets will be donated after the estate pays for all expenses and debts.
What Documents Do I Need?
Before speaking to a Kansas City wrongful death attorney, consider obtaining every document you need. This will include a death certificate and OMI findings. The death certificate will not always include an accurate cause of death. The OMI report is much more detailed.
If your loved one passed away due to an accident, there will always be an incident report. The incident report will be produced after a formal investigation of the accident.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
You may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of consortium
- Lost earnings
- Lost services
If the death was caused by reckless or malicious behavior, the courts may even argue that the defendant deserves to be punished for any injuries. Any compensation you receive is referred to as “punitive damages.”
Who Will Pay For Damages?
If the responsible party is covered under insurance, such as in the event of a car accident, you should contact the insurance provider. Otherwise, you may be forced to sue the responsible party directly.
Negotiating with an insurance provider can be intimidating.
The best way to handle an insurance provider is to speak with a Kansas City wrongful death attorney. The insurance provider is highly motivated to do everything possible to offer you the lowest settlement possible. They will often start with a settlement offer that does not even begin to cover your medical expenses. Also, in some cases, your damages might far exceed the cap imposed by the insurance provider for a payout and you may be forced to settle with the negligent party out of court.
The best way to negotiate with an insurance provider is to have the wrongful death attorney create an itemized list of your expenses. Then, you can create a demand letter that will ask for the highest settlement possible. You will always want to start from a strong negotiating position so that you will have plenty of room to negotiate. While it may take some time to reach a settlement, the process is much faster than going to court.
If you have already filed a lawsuit, you may still settle before your case goes to trial. You must petition the probate judge to approve of the settlement and provide the judge with enough details to prove your case.
However, if the facts of the case are highly contested or if the insurance provider refuses to cooperate, your case might need to go to trial. You’ll want to consider whether it’s worth going to trial and whether you will want a jury trial.
The Time Frame For A Wrongful Death Case
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death case is three years in Kansas City. The only exception is with medical malpractice cases in which you have only two years.
If you manage to settle your wrongful death case out of court, you will be able to resolve the case much more quickly and you may even reach a much larger settlement. Unlike with a court case where you would owe the defendant lawyer’s fees if you lose, there is no downside to trying to settle your wrongful death case out of court.
Do I Need An Attorney?
You are not required to hire an attorney to file a wrongful death claim. However, the process of filing the claim is much longer and more complicated than some other forms of civil litigation. The burden of proof will lie on you to show that the defendant caused the wrongful death case. As soon as you are planning a funeral, you should consider contacting a wrongful death attorney.
There is a lot of evidence that might disappear after your loved one has passed away especially after a medical malpractice case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more likely that you’ll be able to track down witnesses and important documents that will support your case. That is why if you contact our law office, you will be entitled to a free initial consultation. Please contact us today if your loved one has passed away due to negligence.