04.24.17

What Constitutes Wrongful Death?

The loss of a loved one is difficult for anyone to comprehend.

However, when that death is associated with someone’s negligence or reckless behavior, a loved one may wonder what options they have to seek justice.

Not all deaths due to negligence are criminal or actionable. But many can form the basis for a civil case.

When a death occurs because of someone’s reckless or negligent behavior, a wrongful death lawsuit is one way to hold the culpable party accountable.

An Old Rule Removed

Historically, a family could not file a lawsuit in civil court for the death of another. However, modern times have allowed states to pass laws that supersede these outdated limitations.  Kansas and Missouri both allow family members to seek compensation when a loved one is killed by intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct.

What Makes a Death “Wrongful” in Missouri?

Missouri Revised Statues Section 537.080. is clear as to what constitutes a wrongful death.

To be considered “wrongful,” the death must include an act, occurrence, transaction, or conduct that would have resulted in a personal injury lawsuit — had the victim not died from their injuries or the incident itself.

Therefore, the victim would have been entitled to specific damages for their injury or accident, but due to their death, a third party is allowed to request the damages. The defendant in a wrongful death suit is the person or entity that would have been held liable in a personal injury suit, had the victim survived. In Missouri there is only one claim. Stated another way, any injuries the decedent suffered as a result of the injury that resulted in the death, are merged into the wrongful death case.

Wrongful Death in Kansas

In Kansas, a wrongful death action is governed by Kansas Statute Section 60-1901. When a person’s death is caused by a wrongful act or omission and the victim would have filed a lawsuit had they not passed, wrongful death has likely occurred.  Importantly, there can be two claims in Kansas. Along with a wrongful death claim, there can also be a survival action, which is brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to recover damages the decedent incurred between the time of injury and death.  As stated above, in Missouri, these two claims merge into one.

Court-Approval Required

In wrongful death actions, the Court acts as a gatekeeper when a settlement is reached. Specifically, Missouri and Kansas law require that all wrongful death settlements be approved by the Court.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

To seek damages, only specific categories of persons may collect. The law recognizes particular classes of individuals as valid, which include:

•       Surviving Spouse

•       Surviving Children

•       Siblings

•       Surviving Parents

For a Wrongful Death in Kansas City, Contact an Attorney

Determining if a case qualifies for a wrongful death suit requires a thorough understanding of the Missouri and Kansas statutes. Even then, the law is extremely complex; therefore, it is best to consult with an experienced Kansas wrongful death attorney if you suspect that someone’s negligence caused a loved one’s death.

Whether a loved one is lost in Missouri or Kansas, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney experienced with the complexities of the wrongful death laws to explore your options for compensation.

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