FAQ Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death is defined as a death resulting from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons. If an individual is killed because of the wrongful conduct of another party, the deceased person’s heirs or other beneficiaries have a right to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are separate from criminal charges, and neither proceeding influences the other claim.
A claim for wrongful death can be brought by a beneficiary or heir for an intentional or unintentional act that led to a death. The people who are authorized under the law to file a wrongful death claim are determined by their relationship to the deceased, starting with a spouse, then children or parents, then other immediate family members, financial dependents or common law spouse.
If you wish to file a wrongful death case, you will likely be claiming both economic and noneconomic losses. Examples of economic harm or loss include medical bills, funeral expenses, and/or lost income as these are tangible and quantifiable. There is no limit or cap on the recovery of these types of damages.
Non-economic harm includes “pain and suffering” or “loss of care, comfort or companionship.” Although these harms are often felt more intensely than even the financial harms, they are hard to quantify. It is difficult to put a value on the care and companionship you received from your loved one, or to measure the amount of your pain and suffering. Kansas laws set limits on the amounts that can be recovered for non-economic losses. Missouri limits the recovery of non-economic losses in wrongful death cases that arise out of medical malpractice.
The short answer is the Judge. Once the family and their wrongful death lawyer reach a settlement agreement on financial compensation with the other party, it is up to the Kansas or Missouri court to approve the wrongful death settlement and divide the proceeds among the eligible heirs. In most cases, the heirs agree upon how any money received should be divided, and the Judge simply approves the agreement. But if the heirs cannot agree upon a distribution that is fair to all the eligible heirs, the Judge will schedule an evidentiary hearing to hear testimony, and then decide the amount each eligible heir will receive.