What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If a person dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, survivors can seek damages for their family member’s death. While every jurisdiction varies, a wrongful death lawsuit is usually brought by the spouse or family member of the deceased. It can also be brought by a representative of the deceased’s estate.
What Kind of Damages are Possible?
The purpose of damages in a wrongful death action is to compensate the deceased’s family for their economic and emotional loss caused by the death of their loved one. The amount and type of damages you could receive will depend on the jurisdiction involved and the circumstances of your case.
In order to determine the amount of damages, the court will consider:
- The age of the victim
- The state of their health when they died
- The victim’s earning capacity
- Their income at the time of death
- The victim’s profession, education, and training
- The age and circumstances of any dependents
- The amount of medical expenses incurred
- Value of any lost benefits
- Burial expenses
Every state has its own unique laws that will determine what type of damages may be available and whether there are any caps on the amounts awarded. There are differences between the wrongful death statutes in Kansas and Missouri for instance.
Damages in a wrongful death action are broken down into two categories, economic or non-economic. What is considered economic or non-economic damages varies by jurisdiction. Economic damages include things that are quantifiable, such as medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss of income. Generally, there are no caps on the amount of economic damages that can be awarded in Kansas or Missouri. There is, however, an exception to this in Missouri. If the damages arise out of a medical negligence claim, there is a cap of $700,000.
Non-economic damages include things that aren’t easy to put a price on, such as loss of comfort, care, and companionship, loss of parental care, guidance and education, or loss of marital care for instance. The non-economic damages that can be awarded vary between jurisdictions and have changed over time. In Kansas, there is currently a cap for non-economic damages of $325,000. There is no cap for these types of damages for Missouri.
Punitive damages can sometimes be awarded as well. These types of damages are appropriate where the acts of the defendant are considered particularly reckless or egregious. Whether these damages are available also varies by jurisdiction. In Missouri for instance, statutes provide for punitive damages where aggravating circumstances are present. Kansas, on the other hand, does not have a statute specifically addressing this. However, they may be permissible under common law.
We’re here to help
If you have lost a loved due to the negligent actions of another, come speak to us. The laws surrounding wrongful death are complex and it is important to seek the advice of experienced legal counsel. We understand the grief and stress that you are experiencing and are here to help. We can assess the circumstances of your case and determine whether a wrongful death action is in your best interests. Call us today at 913-839-2808.