Key Facts From Our Kansas City Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a family member is tragic. However, when the death is because of another person’s negligence or wrongdoing, a sad event can become even more devastating. Wrongful death claims can compensate families for the financial loss and other damages associated with a wrongful death. However, there are specific rules, processes and limitations to these types of claims.
Below are five things that you need to know about wrongful death cases from our Kansas City wrongful death attorneys.
1. Statutes of Limitations Limit Your Time to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Both Missouri and Kansas
Each state has a law known as the "statute of limitations" that governs how long you have to file a wrongful death claim. This is critically important because if you wait to long to pursue a claim, the statute of limitations will bar your right to any recovery.
In Kansas, most wrongful death claims must be filed within two years from the date of death. Under Missouri law, most wrongful death claims must be filed within three years from the date of death. There is an exception to medical malpractice cases. The statute of limitation in Missouri for those claims is two years.
There are some exceptions, such as the discovery rule. The discovery rule applies in cases in which the cause of death may not be immediately known. The statute of limitations would begin from the date that a reasonable person would have discovered the cause of death. It is best to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after the death of a family member if you suspect errors, negligence, or other wrongdoing was the cause of your loved one’s death.
2. Only Certain Parties May File a Wrongful Death Claim
There are specific legal processes that you must follow to assert a wrongful death claim, including who is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Under Kansas wrongful death laws, any heir at law of the deceased person may file a wrongful death claim. In most cases, it is a surviving spouse or children who file a wrongful death claim. If there is not a surviving spouse or children, parents, siblings, or other relatives may file a claim.
Missouri wrongful death laws designate a specific order for who may file a wrongful death claim. The surviving spouse, children, or lineal descendants of a deceased child have priority to file a wrongful death claim. If there are no individuals in this category, a person’s parents may file a claim. If none of the above individuals survived the deceased person, the decedent’s siblings and their descendants might file a wrongful death claim.
If there are no surviving individuals in any of the above categories to file a Missouri wrongful death action, the court may appoint a person to file an action upon the motion of an interested party.
3. The Amount of Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim Can Be Limited
In Kansas, there is no cap for economic losses. Family members can recover funeral and burial costs; medical expenses related to the decedent’s last illness or injury; loss of income and wages that the deceased family member would have earned; and, loss of services that the deceased would have provided to other family members. Kansas law has a cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. Non-economic damages include emotional distress, mental anguish, and the loss of support, love, guidance, and care. The cap arises from K.S.A. 16-1903 (cannot exceed $250,000).
Under Missouri wrongful death laws, a family can recover a variety of damages such as loss of income; funeral expenses; medical expenses from the last illness or injury; and loss of companionship, service, guidance, and support. In most wrongful death cases, there is no cap on the amount of damages a family can recover. One exception in Missouri is a wrongful death arising from medical malpractice. Non-economic damages are capped in those cases under Missouri law.
4. A Survival Action Might Also Exist in Addition to a Wrongful Death Action
In some cases, a person’s estate may file a survival action against the person or party who caused the death of another individual. A survival action is separate from a wrongful death action. The personal representative of the probate estate files the survival action on behalf of the decedent’s estate. The estate may be entitled to recover damages suffered by the decedent, such as pain and suffering that the decedent experienced between the date of injury and the date of death.
In Missouri, there is no need to bring a separate cause of action for survival damages because all damages awarded in a single action. By contrast, Kansas law provides for two separate causes of actions for a death caused by the negligence of another party. There is a survival action set forth in K.S.A. 60-1801, and a wrongful death action can be brought under K.S.A 60-1901.
5. You Need a Qualified Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death claims are complicated. The laws involved in proving that another party is responsible for the death of an individual are complex. Searching for insurance coverage and other resources that might be available to pay damages in a wrongful death claim can be time-consuming and challenging. An attorney handles these matters for you so that you can focus on your family and continuing the healing process after the sudden loss of a family member.
Contact a Kansas City Wrongful Death Accident Attorney for More Information
Call The Law Office of Kevin J. McManus at 816-203-0143 to schedule a free consultation with a Kansas City wrongful death attorney. We are very sorry for your loss, and we want to help you seek justice for you and your family from the party or parties responsible for the death of your loved one.