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How A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help Your Family

Wrongful Death Attorney Missouri

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, unintentional accidents led to almost 225,000 fatalities in the United States. Many families who have lost loved ones in these types of incidents may decide to bring a legal claim to hold the responsible party liable. This is where a wrongful death lawyer may be able to help. Read about how a Missouri wrongful death attorney can help families who have recently experienced the death of a loved one by calling Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341.8336.

What Is a Wrongful Death Action in Law?

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), wrongful death refers to a person or entity performing an action that leads to another person’s death. Wrongful death actions are civil lawsuits brought by a deceased individual’s family against someone else whose actions either directly caused the decedent’s death or a resulted in a serious injury that eventually led to the injured person’s death.

What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit?

Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits, with the main difference being that the action led to someone’s death rather than to that person getting injured. Additionally, personal injury suits are typically filed by the person who has been injured against the person they consider responsible for their injuries. A person who dies as a result of someone else’s actions is not in a position to file their own wrongful death claim––these suits are brought by bereaved family members, instead. 

To succeed in court, any wrongful death suit must prove four essential elements. These four components are common to all wrongful death lawsuits:

  • Duty of care: This refers to the accused being in a position whereby they ought to have acted responsibly toward the decedent. For instance, a driver should act responsibly toward pedestrians and other motorists by adopting safe driving practices.
  • Breach: The plaintiff must establish that the accused breached the above duty. Using the above example, the breach may involve the motorist texting while driving, which resulted in them becoming distracted.
  • Causation: The party bringing the claim must demonstrate that this breach resulted in the decedent’s death. For example, this could entail proving that due to driver distraction, the deceased person passed away.
  • Damages: The family of the deceased has to prove that the act of the negligent party caused them damages, which may include funeral expenses, pain and suffering, medical costs, and wage losses.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death?

Technically, any circumstance that meets the criteria outlined above may be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit. However, some scenarios result in wrongful death suits more often than others. The following incidents frequently lead to wrongful death claims:

  • Violent crimes
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective products
  • Animal attacks
  • Falls
  • Nursing home neglect and abuse

Why Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Surviving family members may hire a wrongful death lawyer for these reasons:

  • Investigating the scenario: They might ask an attorney to investigate the situation to find out exactly what happened, acquire evidence, and determine who is responsible.
  • Navigating the legal process: Surviving family members may have no prior knowledge or experience of the law, so they seek the services of a seasoned attorney to assist them with the procedure of filing a wrongful death claim.
  • Gaining assistance with negotiations: Many families opt to settle outside of court and use an attorney to help them effectively negotiate with the other party or their insurer.
  • Having court representation: If settling with an insurance firm or the opposing party is not possible, surviving family members may get their attorney to represent them in a court trial. During this time, they present evidence, construct legal arguments, and question witnesses to fight for the family’s legal rights.

Learn more about how a Missouri wrongful death attorney can assist with these types of claims by arranging a consultation with the experienced legal team at Steelman Gaunt Crowley.

How Do You Protect Yourself From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Understandably, bereaved family members often want to find the person responsible for their loved one’s death and hold them to account; they want to feel that justice has been achieved. On the other hand, sometimes accidents do happen despite the best efforts of all involved; sometimes a tragic outcome is no one’s fault. Those facing a wrongful death claim could consider using one of these defenses.


This common defense may apply to situations involving physical altercations between the parties. Alternatively, an individual may use this defense if they believed that another person’s actions were endangering their life or someone else’s, requiring an intervention to stop them. Worth noting is that even if there is such an immediate danger, the actions taken must be reasonable and warranted.

Time Limit for Filing

The deadline for submitting a wrongful death claim varies between states, but it is generally either two or three years after the decedent’s death. Once the deadline passes, the plaintiff cannot bring a claim. Time limits for these cases also depend on the type of case, such as whether it involves government entities or medical malpractice. 

Risk Assumption or Waivers

Some companies ask their customers to sign a waiver or liability release so they can rely on this defense if the consumer dies as a result of participating in an activity. For example, when registering to go snorkeling, bungee jumping, skydiving, or rock climbing, the company arranging the activity is likely to ask the customer to read and sign a document outlining the risks involved. That said, these waivers do not allow parties to escape all forms of liability, such as if they acted negligently or intentionally committed wrongdoing resulting in the decedent’s death.

Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims?

Missouri Revised Statute 537.080 states that surviving children, grandchildren, and spouses can file these claims. If the case concerns a child, the parents possess the right to submit a suit.

Additionally, if the deceased person does not have any immediate surviving family, such as a spouse or children, their siblings, nieces, or nephews may file a suit instead. In Missouri, it is possible for an individual who represents the decedent’s estate to file these claims, or a court may appoint someone to perform this role.

Wrongful Death Claim Compensation

The exact compensation received by family members who win these cases varies and depends on the decedent’s age, health, income, education, training, and earning potential before they died, as well as the survivors’ circumstances and ages and whether the surviving family members lost any benefits, such as the decedent’s health insurance policy. If a case wins a favorable verdict, the decedent’s survivors could receive non-economic and economic damages to compensate the family for the following:

  • Loss of earnings and inheritance
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral costs
  • The decedent’s pain and suffering before they passed away
  • Emotional distress sustained by surviving family members
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of parental support
  • Childcare services

Contact a Missouri Wrongful Death Attorney Today

When a family loses a relative due to the negligence of another, this can cause feelings of frustration, confusion, and grief for all involved. Hiring a seasoned attorney to pursue a wrongful death claim can help family members focus on mourning for the loss of a loved one instead of concentrating on how to hold those responsible to account. Discover more about how a wrongful death attorney can aid grieving families by contacting Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341.8336.