As we have discussed in our Practice Areas page, a wrongful death claim may be brought in Missouri by the family of someone who is killed by the unsafe actions of a person or company. Wrongful death claims are usually very complicated and almost always require a wrongful death lawyer. Even when a wrongful death claim is settled, a lawsuit must be filed to obtain court approval of the wrongful death settlement.
People frequently call our law office in Joplin, Missouri asking exactly which family members can bring the claim. As you may have guessed, the answer depends on the situation. Missouri has passed a law, R.S.Mo. 537.080.1, which outlines exactly which family members can and cannot bring a claim for wrongful death.
R.S.Mo. 537.080.1 creates two classes of family members who are entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death:
Class 1: Surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. Grandchildren are also included in Class 1 if the grandchildren’s parents are deceased.
Class 2: Surviving siblings, nephews, and nieces of the deceased.
If the deceased leaves behind any family members belonging to Class 1, then only those family members are entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. Class 2 family members will be completely excluded.
In situations where there are multiple family members belonging to Class 1, any one of the family members may bring and/or settle the claim for wrongful death. A Court hearing is always required to approve of a Missouri wrongful death settlement, and the Court will usually hear evidence to determine how to allocate the money from the settlement amongst the Class 1 family members. An important point to remember is that even if only one Class 1 family member brings the lawsuit, the Court will still want all the remaining Class 1 family members to attend the settlement hearing in order to ensure that the proceeds are split fairly amongst each person.
In situations where there are no surviving Class 1 family members, any one of the Class 2 family members is entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. As is the case when there are multiple Class 1 claimants, any one of the Class 2 claimants may bring and settle the wrongful death claim, however, all Class 2 claimants will need to attend the settlement hearing so that the judge can hear from them to determine what share of the proceeds they should receive.
If your are thinking about hiring a wrongful death lawyer, or just have some questions, then please see our Practice Areas page for more information about Missouri wrongful death claims. Also, you can call us today at (417) 385-1338 to speak with a local wrongful death lawyer for free. If you prefer email, feel free to shoot us a question through our website by clicking here. A wrongful death lawyer will respond to your questions shortly.