Wrongful Death Attorney in St. Louis, MO
Strong, strategic legal advocacy when you suffer the loss of a loved one
There is no greater loss than the sudden or accidental death of a family member or loved one, a tragedy made even worse when the loss is the result of another’s negligence. These cases are called “wrongful death,” and if you have suffered this type of loss, you need an experienced, aggressive, and qualified attorney on your side.
The Hayden Law Firm understands that no amount of compensation can ever make up for the loss of your loved one, but it can help ensure that the right person or party is brought to justice and you will not have to worry about financial difficulties in an uncertain future. As you prepare to move forward past this tragedy, we will work to ensure you are compensated to the fullest extent of the law to help cover the monetary and emotional costs. Contact us today for a free and no-risk consultation. We serve the greater St. Louis area and Illinois.
What is wrongful death?
Wrongful death is a type of legal action brought against a responsible party who has caused an individual’s death, either through negligence or intentional misconduct. This is a civil action and not a criminal one, and can hold the responsible party accountable, as well as recover compensation to help fill the financial gap left behind by their death.
Who can sue for wrongful death in Missouri?
Under state law, only certain individuals can bring a wrongful death action, and only one wrongful death action may be filed on behalf of the deceased. The following three types of persons can file a wrongful death claim here in Missouri:
- The parents, spouse, children, or descendants of the deceased, like grandchildren and great-grandchildren
- If there are no persons in category 1, then any eligible siblings, nieces, or nephews
- If there are no persons in categories 1 and 2, then a plaintiff ad litem is eligible to make a claim. The plaintiff ad litem is appointed by the court.
Missouri’s wrongful death law gives preference to the first class of people, but if the decedent had no one who qualifies in this category, then the second category of potential claimants may step forward. If no one qualifies for either category, the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem to prosecute the action.
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How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim?
If you qualify in one of these classes and are thinking about pursuing justice for someone who has died because of another person’s or entity’s negligence, keep in mind that there are restrictions on how long you have to file a claim. In most situations, a wrongful death claim has to be filed within three years of the date of the death in Missouri.
One important question is: when does the clock start ticking after a wrongful death occurs? Generally, the answer is that once the party bringing the suit has discovered — or should have discovered with reasonable diligence — the cause of death of the victim, the clock starts. For example, this could be the very same day someone has died if the cause of the misconduct is obvious. This is known as the Discovery Rule and, put simply, if the victim was killed because of negligence that was uncovered months or even years after the event, the family may still be eligible to file suit.
There are also a few exceptional circumstances that may qualify for an extension or a pause in the timing, including:
- Plaintiff is underage
- Plaintiff is disabled or mentally incapacitated for an amount of time following the death
- The defendant leaves the state
- One of the parties has caused multiple ongoing delays
- Fraudulent concealment of evidence by the opposing party
Once again, if you don’t file your case within the time period designated by your state, then you will likely be barred except for certain circumstances. That is why it is critical that you speak with a St. Louis wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible following the death of your loved one so that you can figure out if you have a case and, if so, when the filing deadline is.
It’s best to file as soon as possible after an accident to ensure that your rights are protected from the start. We know this can be challenging to do when grieving the sudden loss of a spouse, child, parent, or close family member. The Hayden Law Firm is here for you when you are ready.
What do I need to prove a wrongful death claim?
For a successful wrongful death action, you must prove four things – negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Here’s how that works:
- Negligence. The family member who is bringing the wrongful death case must be able to show that it was the negligence of the defendant that caused the victim’s death. Negligence could mean several things, such as recklessness, carelessness, irresponsibility, or inattentiveness.
- Breach of duty. Breach of duty involves two parts in proving a wrongful death claim. First, you must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. Second, to support your wrongful death claim, you must prove that the defending party not only owed a duty of care, but also that they breached this duty through their actions.
- Causation. After negligence, duty of care, and breach of duty are shown, the person filing the wrongful death suit has to prove that it was the defendant’s negligence that caused the death of the victim. In other words, it is not enough, for example, to prove that a driver ran a stop sign. You and your attorney must demonstrate how the action of running a stop sign is what ended your loved one’s life.
- Damages. Finally, you must show the court that the negligent actions that caused the death of your loved one resulted in damages. This is where you, as the surviving family member, show how you were affected by the defendant’s actions. Wrongful death damages can include expenses like funeral and end-of-life costs and medical bills, loss of income like the decedent’s future wages and benefits, and nonmonetary damages like loss of companionship and pain and suffering.
What is my St. Louis wrongful death case worth?
At The Hayden Law Firm, we believe that wrongful death claims are about justice. They are the most effective way to hold the person or entity accountable for your loved one’s death, as well as prevent this tragedy from happening to anyone else in the future. An experienced personal injury lawyer works to secure financial compensation for the loss of your loved one.
These expenses can include things like:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Hospital, doctor and medical bills incurred before the death
- Grief counseling after the death
- Loss of future income
- Loss of future benefits
In some cases, damages can be awarded for non-monetary losses from the death of the loved one. These damages may include:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of support, guidance, training, counsel, and instruction
- Loss of instruction to children
- Punitive damages may also be recovered to punish the negligent party
A number of factors are considered when determining damages in a wrongful death case, including the deceased’s age, health, condition, life expectancy, intelligence, character, and earning capacity at the time of death. This is often difficult to prove in court without the help of an experienced St. Louis wrongful death lawyer on your side. We can help.
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St. Louis wrongful death attorney protecting your rights
If you lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence, look to The Hayden Law Firm for strong, skilled representation. We work to secure compensation for your losses and take care of the legal issues while you focus on healing from your tragedy. Please call our offices at 314-480-3100 or fill out our contact form for a free, no-risk consultation. We proudly serve clients in St. Louis, and throughout Missouri and Illinois.