Wrongful Death FAQs

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After losing a loved one, you may be overcome by grief and overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next. Can you hold the party who caused your loved one’s death responsible? Can you file a wrongful death claim? These frequently asked questions will help you understand whether you may have a valid wrongful death claim, but be sure to consult with an attorney experienced in wrongful death about your specific situation.

Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions

When is a Wrongful Death claim applicable?

A wrongful death is when someone is killed as a result of another’s wrongful actions. Those actions may be intentional or accidental. Wrongful death is the basis for a lawsuit against those who caused your loved one’s death. And a wrongful death claim can arise out of almost any kind of personal injury.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in the state of Missouri?

In Missouri, to bring a wrongful death suit, you must be: the surviving spouse, children, lineal descendants of a deceased child or the parents.

If there are no individuals that meet this definition, then the siblings or their descendants may be entitled to damages. If there is no one that meets this definition, the court may appoint a “plaintiff ad litem”.

Who has the burden of proof in a wrongful death claim?

You, the plaintiff, have the burden of proof when you file a claim.

What are the basic elements of a wrongful death suit?

Basically, you must first prove:

  • An individual died
  • The death was caused by the wrongdoing of another individual or entity; and,
  • You suffered damages because of the loss of your family member

wrongful death claim losing a loved one loved one's death

Of course, there is more to a wrongful death suit than these basic elements. The plaintiff must meet the same burden of proof that the deceased would have had to meet had he or she lived. Additional elements may arise based on the cause of death. In a case of negligence, the deceased’s family would have to show that:

  • The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care
  • The defendant breached this duty of care
  • The breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the death
  • The death caused the damages plaintiff is seeking to recover

Elements in a wrongful death claim may vary. Your attorney will provide legal guidance based on your situation.

Are all state laws the same with regards to a wrongful death?

No. For instance, some states may have different statutes of limitations. This is one of the reasons you should obtain an attorney who is knowledgeable in the laws and the statutes of limitation of your state.

Can a claim be brought based on the death of a child?

Yes; however, typically the damage awards are usually modest.

What damages can you get in a wrongful death case in Missouri?

Monetary damages differ from state to state; however, in Missouri, in most cases, there is no cap on the amount of recovery. Damages can be awarded for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills related to the deceased’s final injury or illness
  • Value of wages and benefits the deceased would likely have earned if he or she had lived
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased just prior to death
  • Reasonable value of the services, consortium companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training and support the deceased provided to surviving family members

Are there time limits for bringing a wrongful death claim?

Yes, in Missouri it is three years from the date of death. So, unless a lawsuit is filed by the right party within this time frame, any right to recover monetary damages will be lost forever.

personal injury personal injury practice frequently asked questions attorney experiencedWill your lawsuit need to be settled in court?

There is always the chance that a lawsuit of any kind will have to be settled in court; however, filing a lawsuit does not mean it has to go to court.

When choosing your attorney, you want to choose someone who is qualified to represent you and your interests before a judge and jury.

 How do attorneys charge for a wrongful death case?

Typically, these cases are handled on a contingent fee arrangement. That means that you will pay a defined percentage of the amount recovered and the percent can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. No money is paid upfront and your lawyer’s firm will usually pay all necessary out of pocket expenses. This is a question to address as you are interviewing candidates.

What do you want in a wrongful death attorney?

The law can be complicated so it is in your best interests to obtain the services of an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in wrongful death claims. You want someone who has a:

  • Track record of success in court
  • Reputation for results, which translates to achieving the maximum recovery
  • Dedication and diligence
  • Individual attention with a focus on the client

Why choose Nash & Franciskato?

We offer personalized legal service, are your advocates and are highly experienced litigators. With our attorneys, you will have:

  • Over 80 years of combined experience
  • Trusted legal advisor committed to your needs
  • Free, no-obligation review of your case
  • Super Lawyers for over 10 years
  • The AV Preeminence Rating for Ethical Standards & Legal Ability
  • Compassionate advocacy for you and your family



Missouri has a time limit on the filing of a wrongful death claim, which is three years from the date of the decedent’s death. If filed after that date, the court will likely not hear your case. Seeking the advice of a wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the complexities and ensure you file within the statute of limits. With the help of a personal injury lawyer the odds of a successful outcome increase.

Contact the capable counsel at Nash & Franciskato. One of our experienced staff will speak with you personally and will provide you with a free, no-obligation case evaluation.



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Past results afford no guarantee of future results and each case is different and is judged on its own merits. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published April 23, 2020. It was reviewed on September 27, 2023, and  updated for content and accuracy.

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