Missouri & Illinois Wrongful Death Attorneys
In many personal injury cases, the victim is able to bring a claim on their own behalf to seek compensation for their injuries. But what happens if, instead of an injury, a death occurs? Someone who has passed away can’t show up in court and advocate for themselves. If their death was caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another person, who acts as the voice for the deceased to ensure that justice is still found?
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In both Missouri and Illinois, wrongful death cases are guided by sets of laws that control who can bring the claims on behalf of the deceased, and what types of compensation is available to them.
Missouri Wrongful Death Claims
In Missouri, there are several categories, or “classes,” of people who may bring a claim on behalf of a loved one who has passed away. The priority goes first to one of three groups of people: the deceased’s spouse, the deceased’s children, or the deceased’s parents. Both the parents and children may be adopted; the right to bring a claim is not limited to only “natural” family members. Any one of the people in each category can initiate the claim or lawsuit; therefore, agreement or consent between all members of the class is not necessary.
If the deceased doesn’t have a spouse, children, or living parents at the time of their passing, the right to bring a claim falls to the next “class” of people. Under these circumstances, the deceased’s brother or sister, or any of the brother’s or sister’s descendants, has the right to bring the claim. A person who falls into this category is only able to bring a claim if there is no one that fits into the prior category of people. In the circumstance where no relatives are eligible to claim on behalf of the deceased, the court will appoint a “plaintiff ad litem” to file. However, the action must be requested by an individual qualified to share in the proceeds of a successful wrongful death claim.
Illinois Wrongful Death Claims
Illinois’ wrongful death laws are similar to those in Missouri. The statutes in Illinois permit a wrongful death claim to first be brought by the spouse and “next of kin” of the deceased. “Next of kin” includes the parents and children of the deceased, whether they be natural or adopted. If the person dies with no spouse and no next of kin, then the responsibility to bring the claim goes to whoever is appointed as the personal representative to administer the deceased’s estate.
Wrongful Death Damages
Often, personal injury cases come down to what medical care and treatment the injured person needed. However, in the tragic circumstances where a person passes away because of an automobile crash or other unfortunate situation, there may not have been any medical care administered between the time of the incident and death. Therefore, other damages may be compensated.
Categories of Wrongful Death Damages in Missouri
The categories of damages in Missouri wrongful death cases are set forth in statutes. The law states that anyone who brings a wrongful death claim is entitled to seek compensation for:
- The loss of monetary support the deceased might have provided to family members
- Reasonable value of the loss of companionship, comfort, support, guidance, and counsel of the deceased
- Value of the caregiving services the deceased provided
- Funeral expenses
- Any pain and suffering the deceased may have experienced between the time of injury and time of death
Categories of Wrongful Death Damages in Illinois
Illinois also permits the recovery of “pecuniary,” or monetary, damages that result from the loss of the deceased. Claimants in Illinois are also permitted to seek compensation for “grief, sorrow, and mental suffering” to the surviving spouse and next of kin. Some states place a cap on the amount of compensation, but Illinois currently does not have such a law. Types of damages commonly awarded in Illinois wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Financial support the deceased would have provided, including lost wages and benefits
- Loss of consortium (companionship)
- Loss of instruction, education, and moral training the deceased would have provided to any surviving children
The Death of An Unborn Child
Missouri courts have long held that a cause of action exists for the death of a viable fetus. Under the law, a viable fetus is considered a “person” under the wrongful death statute. Therefore, a natural parent is permitted to bring a wrongful death claim if their unborn child tragically passed away while they survived with injuries. Illinois similarly recognizes an unborn fetus as a “person” and parents may also recover damages for the death of their unborn child.
Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Attorney
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional neglects to provide adequate treatment, does not take appropriate action, or gives substandard treatment that causes harm, injury, or death. The negligence normally involves a medical error, such as an inaccurate diagnosis, medication dosage, treatment, or aftercare. When a loved one dies as a result of medical malpractice, it’s important to hold the health care professional or entity liable with the help of an experienced attorney.
A hospital, doctor, or other health care professional is expected to provide a certain standard of care, as stated by law. When they fail to adhere to the established standards and a death occurs from their negligence, it’s only right to seek justice for the victim who can no longer speak for themselves. It’s crucial to file a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit if:
- A duty was owed by the health care professional or entity
- The duty was breached, due to the health care provider or hospital not adhering to the applicable standard of care
- The breach resulted in a preventable death
- Considerable damages arose for the victim and their loved ones
Car Accident Wrongful Death
A wrongful death accident is defined as an unintended fatality that was caused by another’s negligence. In wrongful death car accidents, another motorist, a vehicle manufacturer, or even the authorities responsible for maintaining safe roads may be at fault for the victim’s passing. Potential negligent parties and behaviors involved in wrongful death car accidents include:
- Intoxication, fatigue, recklessness, distraction, or poor judgment of another driver
- A hired driver that fails to follow traffic laws
- Poor or invisible signage on a road or highway
- A vehicle manufacturer, installer, or distributor that released faulty cars
- A truck that was not properly inspected for safety
Although some believe that submitting a claim to your insurance company is the best way to receive compensation for losses following a wrongful death car accident, doing so will not take all aspects into account. The insurance companies strive to resolve your claim as quickly and inexpensively as possible. With that said, they aren’t concerned about the amount of pain and suffering your loved one endured prior to their death, nor do they care about damages such as medical bills and funeral costs. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible can reward you for damages that insurance companies won’t.
What’s the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Case and a Criminal Homicide Case?
Just as in other personal injury lawsuits, the defendant is ordered by the court to provide financial compensation to the deceased person’s family in a wrongful death case. Conversely, in a criminal homicide case, conviction can result in jail or prison time, probation, fines paid to the state, and other penalties. Also in a criminal case, the defendant’s fault must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning an overwhelming amount of evidence has to exist for a conviction. On the other hand, the defendant’s liability in a wrongful death lawsuit must be shown “by a preponderance of evidence,” meaning that it need only be more likely than not that the individual is responsible for the death.
Why Choose Keane Law LLC for your Wrongful Death Case?
You might be tempted to call the first number you see on a billboard if someone you love passes away. Keane Law LLC will give your case the personal attention you deserve. We are not a billboard-and-tv-ad mill, churning out case after case. That approach makes sense for attorneys just looking to make money—who cares if the client is happy when the massive advertising machine will generate as many clients as you need? However, Keane Law LLC views “success” in terms of client success. If you received the compensation you or your loved one deserves, we are happy. We are not going to toss your important case into a pile and survive on volume. If you want attorneys who actually care about you and your matter, call us today or complete the form below for a free consultation.
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What Our Clients Have To Say
The attorneys at Keane Law are committed to ensuring our clients’ voices are heard. Whether we are representing one client in a personal injury case or fighting for many in a class action, we always have their best interests in mind. But don’t take our word for it. Here are a few testimonials from some of our clients.