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Most States specifically define the type of damages that are recoverable under its wrongful death law, as well as the people who are entitled to recover in a wrongful death action.
From damage caps to defining the individuals who may recover in a wrongful death suit, it is imperative that family members be aware of their rights and any restrictions created by the specific state’s laws. For example, Missouri lists the categories of persons who may recover in a wrongful death action in RSMo. 537.080. Usually, a wrongful death case is brought by the spouse or children of someone who is killed, or by the mother or father of a child that is killed. Importantly, only one person has to actually bring the claim on behalf of all the persons that are entitled to recover under that category. In Kansas, the action can be brought by any one of the heirs at law of the deceased, pursuant to K.S.A. 60-1902.
After a loved one is killed by the negligent actions or inactions of another, a family member can seek to recover damages like funeral and burial costs, loss of income, medical expenses, and certain non-economic damages, generally referred to as “pain and suffering”.
Damages in a Missouri wrongful death claim are dictated by RSMo. 537.090. In this statute, juries can determine a number of applicable damages, but within the confines of the law. These damages include:
• Funeral expenses
• Reasonable value of the loss of consortium or companionship
• Reasonable value of the loss of services, comfort, instruction, guidance, support, counsel, and training
• Medical costs
• Property damage
• Loss of income
Additionally, the jury may award an amount of money to compensate for the deceased’s suffering between the time of the injury and the time of the death. Importantly, any suffering the deceased suffered between the time of injury and the time of death is merged into a wrongful death statute. There is not a separate claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death.
Generally, there is no cap (or limit) on the amount of economic damages that are recoverable. However, for medical negligence wrongful death cases, Missouri law caps the amount of non-economic damages to $700,000 – no matter how much an injured patient suffered. This amount is increased by 1.7% each year. There is no cap on non-economic damages in non-medical negligence wrongful death cases.
There are many other important considerations. For example, if the deceased was not employed full time and was at least 50% responsible for the care of one or more minors, disabled persons, or persons over the age 65, there is a rebuttable presumption that the value of the care provided is equal to 110% of the state average weekly wage under law. Further, if the deceased was a child, there is a rebuttable presumption that the pecuniary loss is calculated based on the annual income of the parents.
Given all the intricacies involved in Missouri’s wrongful death statute, it is vitally important that you contact an experienced attorney to understand your options.
For wrongful death actions in Kansas, only legal heirs can collect compensation. Legal heirs include surviving children, spouses, and other family members that follow the line of succession.
Pursuant to KSA 60-1904, some of the damages include:
• Mental Anguish
• Suffering and Bereavement
• Loss of Society, Companionship, Comfort or Protection
• Loss of marital care, attention, advice or counsel
• Loss of parental care, training, guidance or education
• Lost Income
• Medical Costs
• Household Expenses
• Other Pecuniary Losses (Out-of-Pocket Expenses)
Like Missouri, there is no cap (or limit) on economic damages. However, there is a cap on all non-economic damages in Kansas. Currently, the cap is $300,000 for causes of action accruing from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2018. The cap increases to $325,000 for causes of actions accruing from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2022; and then $350,000 for causes of action accruing after July 1, 2022. However, experienced attorneys will analyze whether “Wentling Damages“ can be obtained. This allows a case to surpass the non-economic damages threshold.
Wentling Damages are primarily economic damages, but a financial expert must testify and quantify the costs based on the services provided by the deceased, such as child care or yard work.
A vast majority of wrongful death claims in Kansas are two separate civil actions. The first is the wrongful death suit, while the second is known as a survivor claim. In survivor claims, the estate of the deceased exercises their right to recover for non-economic damages.
Decoding the statutes in Missouri and Kansas to determine adequate compensation is best left to an experienced Kansas City wrongful death attorney.
Regardless of the type of accident that was responsible for your loved one’s death, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to investigate your case.
To explore your options and see what compensation is available to you and your family, you must contact a qualified wrongful death attorney in Kansas or Missouri with experience.