Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death occurs when a life is taken because of negligence or willful act by another person. These lawsuits differ from murder cases because they are filed in civil court, usually for financial compensation. A person may be acquitted of a murder or manslaughter charge in criminal court, but be found guilty in a wrongful death suit. The legal actions are completely separate. If you have lost a loved one as a result of the negligent actions of someone else, contact our experienced and successful Kansas City personal injury attorneys at Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet.
The deceased’s surviving family members or other beneficiaries are the persons who file wrongful death suits. The statutes governing wrongful death cases were originally created to provide financial assistance to surviving widows and orphans. Now, they may cover any direct beneficiary who suffers the loss of the decedent but are usually restricted to direct family members, such as spouses and children.
Resources for Wrongful Death Claims in Kansas City
- Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
- What Components Need to Be Established for a Wrongful Death Case
- The Type of Accidents That Could Lead to Wrongful Death Cases
- The Different Types of Compensation You Can File For
- Are There Time Restrictions to File A Wrongful Death Claim?
- Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death Cases?
- What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice?
- What is the Average Settlement in Wrongful Death Cases?
- What Damages Would I Be Able to Recover?
- Wrongful Death Statistics
- What Causes the Highest Number of Wrongful Deaths in Kansas City?
- Contact a Kansas City Wrongful Death Lawyer Now
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The suffering of a victim’s family after a fatality can be devastating, and sometimes grief can prevent action against someone whose negligence or disregard for safety caused a death. In this situation, it can be best to contact an experienced attorney. He or she can help guide the family through the legal complexities after the untimely loss of a loved one and protect the family against further pain by serving as a mediator.
In Missouri, the law does not permit just anyone who knew the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving spouses, children, and grandchildren can file a lawsuit. So too can the parents of the deceased (e.g., in cases involving the death of a child). Siblings can file a lawsuit only if the deceased has no surviving parents, spouse, children, or grandchildren.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
To bring a wrongful death suit to court, the following components must be established:
- The death of a person
- The cause of death is directly tied to another person’s negligence or harmful intent
- The monetary suffering of the decedent’s family members caused by the death
- A personal representative appointed for the decedent’s estate
A family may file a suit against any number of individuals, including, but not limited to, faulty equipment manufacturers, bartenders and owners, transportation representatives, building contractors, physicians, and pilots and drivers. The number of reasons a person may file for wrongful death is various, and navigating the complex statutes surrounding wrongful death suits requires the expertise of a skilled attorney. Laws on wrongful death vary state by state, and the experience of an attorney who understands your state laws is vital.
Common Wrongful Death Causes
- Car Accidents
- Product Liability
- Train Accidents
- Boat Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Premises Liability
- Medical Malpractice
What Type of Compensation Can I Claim in Wrongful Death Cases?
When a family member dies, the process of settling his or her affairs can be time-consuming and emotional. Even under normal circumstances, death is tragic and difficult to process. When a wrongful death suit is filed, however, surviving family members may be facing a significant loss of income for funeral expenses and lingering medical expenses. Children may suffer the emotional loss of a parent that will not be able to pass on his/her skills and knowledge.
In a wrongful death suit, the circumstances surrounding the decedent and survivors are carefully considered. The purpose of the suit is to provide accurate and sufficient recompense for anything the decedent would have provided in life. Age, character, earning potential, health and other factors help to determine financial awards.
A few of the common financial damages that are awarded include coverage for income loss, funeral expenses, medical expenses, and loss of parental guidance. Survivors will also accrue interest from the time of death until a settlement is reached. In cases in which the cause of death has been proven to be the willful or malicious act of another, punitive damages may be awarded. This monetary compensation is pure punishment for the defendant, and laws on punitive damages vary by state. In Missouri, the cap on punitive damages is $500,000 or five times the total amount of other damages awarded.
When someone wrongfully dies from another person’s negligence or intentional act, the surviving family members may seek the help of the law. A death in the family can take an emotional and a financial toll on the survivors. Family members often want to understand the details of such a tragic event. A personal injury lawsuit can not only help family members find closure, but it can also help protect against future accidents, ensuring no one else will suffer the same loss.
A wrongful death lawsuit can provide survivors with a sense of closure and peace of mind. It can also provide relief from the financial strain of medical costs and the lost future income of the deceased. If a loved one has suffered from another person’s negligence or intentional act, you may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawsuit can repair the loss, but it can help struggling families during this stressful time.
Pecuniary damages are similar to those the court would have awarded the deceased had he or she lived to file a personal injury claim. These damages are the economic losses the victims and their family incurred from the time of the accident to the time of death. For example, if someone had a car accident and required hospitalization for a week before passing away from his or her injuries, pecuniary damages would pay for the medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs.
Lost wages may include the value of wages the deceased likely would have earned if he or she had not died. If the deceased person is a child, the courts value “lost wage” damages by averaging the earnings of the child’s parents. Pecuniary damages may reimburse the survivors for the value of household services the deceased ordinarily performed. The family may also recover the cost to repair or replace property damaged from the accident – such as a totaled vehicle in a car accident.
Missouri law does not cap pecuniary damages that are economic losses, but it does limit non-economic losses. The current cap for non-economic damages in a wrongful death case in Missouri is $350,000. One cannot readily value non-pecuniary damages. The amount depends greatly on the circumstances of the accident and the state of the family the deceased person left behind. These damages are non-tangible and may include:
• Bereavement of the loss, including mental anguish and pain and suffering
• Loss of care, comfort, society, and protection
• Loss of counsel, such as marital care, advice, and attention
• Loss of parental advice, education, guidance, and care
• Loss of filial affection and care
• Loss of consortium
“Loss of consortium” describes the losses a survivor suffers after the death of a spouse or immediate family member. These losses can include sexual relationships, love, and companionship.
Time Restrictions for Filing Wrongful Death Claims in Missouri
Every state uses a different statute of limitations, or time limit, for different types of civil claims. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is three years, starting on the date of the death in question. If a claimant fails to start a wrongful death claim within this three-year window, the court will likely refuse to hear it since the deadline has passed. However, there are some factors that may “toll” or delay the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim.
When a person dies, the cause of death isn’t always immediately clear. The investigation into a person’s sudden death may take months or even longer. In the meantime, the surviving family may simply believe that their relative passed away from unknown natural causes. If an initial autopsy is inconclusive and the cause of death is difficult to determine at first, the surviving family may be unaware of their grounds for a wrongful death claim. Additionally, if an individual responsible for a wrongful death knowingly commits fraud or otherwise attempts to conceal his or her involvement in the death in question, this can understandably delay an investigation.
In either situation, when the cause of death is not immediately determinable or the party responsible for a wrongful death attempts to hide his or her liability in any way, the statute of limitations would hold to the discovery rule and begin on the date the surviving family discovered the wrongful death.
For example, an older person suddenly dies from a heart attack. The family simply assumes it was a natural occurrence, but upon discovering old medical files a few years later, the family learns the deceased’s doctor prescribed a medication known to increase the risk of heart attack in individuals matching the deceased’s health condition.
The family then discovers that the doctor deleted the records pertaining to this prescription. In this situation, it is possible for the family to pursue a wrongful death claim against that provider, even if the statute of limitations following the death in question has already passed. The statute would instead begin on the date the family discovered this new information related to the cause of their loved one’s untimely death.
To find out if you have passed your file deadline, speak to a wrongful death attorney in Kansas City immediately.
Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death claim is functionally similar to any other personal injury claim, except the victim does not survive his or her injuries or illness caused by the defendant in the claim. Just like a personal injury claim, if the at-fault party carries relevant liability insurance, it is technically possible for his or her insurance policy to cover the damages in the wrongful death claim if he or she has enough available coverage.
Regardless of the at-fault party’s coverage limit, most wrongful death settlements come from insurance companies covering at-fault parties. However, they only pay out up to the limits of the applicable coverage. For example, a negligent driver is liable for wrongful death and the jury awards $1 million to the claimant. However, the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is only $100,000. The at-fault driver would then be personally responsible for the other $900,000 that insurance will not cover.
In wrongful death claims against large businesses and companies, defendants typically carry extensive liability insurance so they can quickly and quietly handle wrongful death claims as they arise by settling instead of contending with potential costs of litigation. Average private citizens generally only carry the insurance they need, and coverage limits rarely measure up to the full value of a wrongful death claim.
Despite the fact that a defendant’s insurance policy may not provide enough coverage for the total damages in a wrongful death claim, reaching an insurance settlement is sometimes the best option for the claimant. For example, if negligence is easy to prove, then it would be in the claimant’s best interests to pursue a lawsuit instead of an insurance settlement for the most compensation possible. If negligence is more difficult to determine, an at-fault party like a large corporation may be willing to settle just to avoid the potential litigation costs and damage to their public reputation a high-profile lawsuit would cause.
What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the legal term for a medical professional’s failure to meet an acceptable standard of care for a patient, resulting in harm to that patient. This can occur in many ways, such as misdiagnosing a patient after failing to account for visible symptoms or prescribing the wrong medication. While medical malpractice claims for nonfatal injuries are very common, it is also possible to file a wrongful death claim for an untimely death caused by medical malpractice.
When medical malpractice causes a wrongful death, the claimant must prove that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the deceased and the defendant. This means the claimant must produce a record of the deceased agreeing to the defendant’s treatment and the defendant agreeing to treat the deceased. Next, the claimant must show how the defendant failed to meet the standard of care for the deceased’s condition.
Most medical malpractice claims, regardless if they pertain to fatal or nonfatal injuries, require input from expert witnesses. Medical professionals with similar skills and experience to the defendant may testify in court as to whether the defendant’s actions were appropriate in the given situation or if they would have done things differently to avoid the death in question.
When medical malpractice results in wrongful death, state laws typically determine the amount of compensation available to the claimant. While there are no caps on damages for wrongful death claims against private individuals in Missouri, the state limits non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims at $350,000, even those resulting in death. However, there are no caps or limits for economic damages, such as lost earnings, medical bills, or lost income from long-term investments.
To learn more about medical malpractice, speak to one of our Kansas City medical malpractice lawyers now.
Average Wrongful Death Suit Settlements
It is difficult for anyone to assign a monetary value to human life, so a wrongful death claimant may wonder how a wrongful death settlement could possibly match the value of a lost loved one. It can be almost impossible to estimate the value of a wrongful death claim at first. Ultimately, there is no way to fairly price human life, so the justice system considers several factors when determining an appropriate amount of damages for a wrongful death claim.
- One of the most important factors is the age of the deceased; the wrongful death of a young person generally leads to more compensation than one for an older person due to their longer life expectancy.
- The income of the deceased helps inform the judge of the economic impact of the death on the surviving family members. The family of a person earning $500,000 per year will see much more recovery in this avenue than for someone earning $50,000 per year.
- The health of the deceased in a wrongful death claim also influences the compensation available; if the deceased was in great shape and medically healthy at the time of death, a wrongful death claim will likely yield more compensation than one for an elderly person who was struggling with significant medical issues before his or her death or a person with cancer.
These are just a few of the factors a jury will take into consideration. The claimant will need to produce significant documentation to prove the full extent of economic damages like medical expenses, funeral costs, lost valuation on the deceased’s investments, and more. Expert witnesses may testify as to the full extent of a deceased person’s lost future earning potential or lost investment value as well. One of the best ways to determine the potential value of a wrongful death claim in Kansas City is to speak with a wrongful death attorney.
Kansas City Wrongful Death Statistics
Knowing the statistics on wrongful death in Kansas City and throughout the country can help you feel less alone as you battle for compensation. Wrongful death happens more often than you might think. Unintentional injuries are the fourth-highest cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most recent year data is available, 146,471 Americans died from unintentional injury accidents. Here are some facts about wrongful death:
- Throughout the U.S., motor vehicle accidents took 37,757 lives in 2016.
- Accidents are the fourth-leading cause of death in Missouri.
- Firearms took 383 lives in Kansas in 2016 and 1,144 lives in Missouri.
- Homicide killed 147 people in Kansas in 2016 and 570 in Missouri.
- Motor vehicle accidents 945 in Missouri in 2016.
- Traffic accidents killed 96 in Missouri in 2016.
- Drunk drivers killed 507 in Missouri.
- The Kansas City death rates by cancer, heart disease, and stroke all declined from 2003 to 2014, but suicide rates increased in all but one county.
The Number of Accidental Deaths in the U.S. 2006-2016
Wrongful death can take many forms, but one thing remains constant: someone else may be liable. If you believe your loved one’s death would not have happened were it not for the negligence or intentional torts of another person, discuss your future with an attorney. Our lawyers can help you find your place amongst the thousands of families who have won settlements or verdicts for unexpected deaths.
What Causes the Highest Number of Wrongful Deaths?
You could have grounds for a wrongful death claim in Kansas City no matter what caused your loved one’s fatal accident, but a few causes are more common than others. Understanding the most frequent causes of unintentional injury or wrongful death could give you an insight into whether you have a claim. The following cause the most unintentional injury deaths in Kansas City:
- Accidental poisoning. Unintentional poisoning causes 14.8 deaths per 100,000 population, according to the CDC. In 2016, this cause of death took 47,478 lives in the U.S. – more than motor vehicle accidents and unintentional falls. Accidental poisoning can describe drug overdoses, drug mix-ups, adverse drug interactions, and unintentionally ingesting poisonous substances.
- Motor vehicle accidents. In 2016, 429 people suffered fatal injuries in Kansas City traffic accidents. The majority (311) of these victims were vehicle occupants, 40 were pedestrians, and five were bicyclists. Most fatal car accidents in Kansas City occur in urban areas (68%), during daylight hours (63%). The most common causes of fatal car accidents are driver inattention, animals, failure to yield the right-of-way, following too closely, and driving too fast for the current conditions.
- Unintentional fall deaths took 33,381 lives in the U.S. in 2016. Fatal falls can occur on slippery surfaces, dangerous staircases, unsafe scaffolds, construction zones, and other hazardous premises. Fall deaths are often the fault of a negligent property owner, for failing to keep the premises free from defects. You may have a wrongful death claim against a property owner if your loved one died from a bad fall.
- In 2016, 125 Kansas City residents lost their lives to homicide. The number of murders in Kansas City has increased over the past few years, despite the city’s goal to reduce homicide rates. Kansas City wasn’t alone in its homicide spike; large cities throughout the country saw similar increases in 2016. Black males accounted for 68% of homicide deaths in Kansas City. Thirty percent of victims were under the age of 24.
Speaking with a Kansas City wrongful death lawyer can help you answer questions such as the cause of death, liable parties, and your rights as a surviving family member. Call Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet for more information about your case.
Finding the Right Attorney in Kansas City
If your loved one has died at the hands of another, whether through willful or negligent acts, contact the attorneys at Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet in Kansas City, Missouri. You will need the experience of a qualified attorney to help you gain your rightful compensation after suffering a loss. Depending on your unique circumstances, you may be eligible to receive compensation to make the day to day expenses an easier burden to bear. Contact us today for a consultation. Our focus is always individualized and we pride ourselves on forming relationships with our clients so you don’t have to go through a wrongful death suit alone.