The unexpected death of a family member is always devastating, taking an emotional toll on everyone else. When your loved one’s death is caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you may be able to recover for that loss by filing a lawsuit against the party at fault. That type of claim is called “wrongful death.” A question that is frequently asked by clients who have lost a loved one in this way is: what damages are recoverable in wrongful death lawsuits? Here, our personal injury attorney will explain the different types of damages available in wrongful death claims.
The Types of Damages Available Depend on State Law
Like all other types of personal injury claims, wrongful death claims are governed by the law of the state where the injury or death occurred. In both Arkansas and Missouri, the survivors of the deceased are allowed to seek damages on behalf of the deceased, as well as compensation for their own personal losses, as a result of their loved one’s untimely death. This compensation received can help to alleviate medical bills and other expenses that may have been incurred, such as funeral expenses. This is not true in every state. For example, in Alabama damages in wrongful death cases are purely punitive in nature.
Damages Recoverable in Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Every case is different and the specific damages that can be recovered depend on the circumstances involved. However, Missouri law establishes the different types of damages for which you may recover in wrongful death lawsuits. There are basically two categories of damages available: those related to the deceased and those related to the surviving family members. For example, you may be able to receive reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses and medical expenses that relate to your loved one’s final injury or illness.
You may also be able to recover the amount of wages or benefits that your loved one would have earned if he or she had not passed away. Finally, you may recover for any pain and suffering your loved one experienced just prior to their death. As for the survivor’s damages, you may recover the “reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support” your loved one provided to any surviving family members.
Other Important Facts About Missouri Wrongful Death Damages
Depending on the situation, you may be able to recover damages if your loved one provided child care or elder care for someone. In that case, you may recover the value of the care that your loved one can no longer provide. In this situation, you can show that your loved one was not otherwise employed full-time but was taking care of another family member for at least 50% of their time. In Missouri, there is a presumption that the value of this care 110% of the average weekly wage rate in Missouri. However, this presumption can be challenged depending on the facts. Missouri also places a limit on the amount of non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering) that can be recovered in medical malpractice cases that cause death of $350,000.
Damages Recoverable in Arkansas Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Similar to Missouri, Arkansas allows for two categories of wrongful death claims: the estate claim and the family claim. The estate claim involves those losses suffered by the deceased person as a result of his or her death, including funeral and burial costs, medical expenses, pain and suffering and the lost value of your loved one’s life. As for the family claim, surviving family members can recover damages such as the loss of the financial support from their loved one, loss of household services, and loss of care, comfort, and guidance.
How Wrongful Death Damages are Handled in Arkansas
When damages are awarded in estate claims in Arkansas, the award is not given to the estate so they do not become part of the taxable assets of the estate. Also, damages awarded in a family claim are paid directly to the surviving family as opposed to the estate. If the family cannot agree on how to divide the award, the court will decide.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim in court?
The personal representative appointed to handle the estate of the deceased person is required to file the wrongful death claim in Arkansas. If no such person has been appointed, then the claim can be filed by the deceased’s legal heirs, which would typically include the “surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings; individuals standing “in loco parentis,” (in place of the parent) and individuals to whom the deceased stood in loco parentis.”
In Missouri, on the other hand, the surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren have first priority to bring a wrongful death claim. The parents of the deceased would be next in line. Usually, when the claim involves the death of a child (minor), the parents will file the wrongful death suit. If none of those individuals have survived the deceased, then a surviving sibling can bring the claim.
Deadlines for filing wrongful death claims
Like all other legal claims, there is a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which differs from state to state. This deadline or time limit is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In both Missouri and Arkansas, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is three (3) years. Because wrongful death actions can be rather complicated claims to litigate, often more complex than basic personal injury cases, and typically result in a large damage award, it would be a good idea to consult with your personal injury lawyer.
If you have questions regarding damages or any other wrongful death matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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