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I’m Gonzalo Fernandez, and I’m a partner at the law firm Devereaux, Stokes, Fernandez, & Leonard. We’ve been helping the victims of negligence and their families since the mid-1970s. One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “When lawyers talk about a wrongful death case, what does that mean?” It sounds confusing, and it shouldn’t be.

What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

All “wrongful death” means is that somebody has died as the result of the wrongful acts of another person. Somebody’s died when they shouldn’t have died.

Obviously, people die all the time and it doesn’t result in a lawsuit. What’s unique about a wrongful death case is that it was avoidable and it was the direct result of something wrong that somebody else did.

Wrongful death cases can come up in all sorts of contexts. They can be truck accidents, they can be medical negligence, they can be police abuse cases, they can be dangerous products. Just about anything you can think of.

Sometimes they can be intentional: Somebody picks up a gun and shoots someone in a bar fight. But most often, they involve negligence. In other words, somebody who didn’t intend to kill somebody, but they did something they shouldn’t have done, and it resulted in a death. The most obvious example that I can think of is somebody driving drunk and running a red light, resulting in a car accident that kills somebody.

What Makes A Wrongful Death Case Unique?

Wrongful death cases do share some common threads that make them unique in the legal world. One of them is that obviously you’re dealing with catastrophic injuries. Someone’s died. Someone’s lost a spouse, a child, a brother, a father, a mother.

Another unique issue is that instead of your client being the injured person—which is normally the case—you’re dealing with surviving family members. Your clients are the grieving spouse, the children, the parents.

Another big issue with wrongful death cases is that your key witness is dead. They’re not around to tell their side of the story, and very often, you’re left with piecing together the truth and trying to get around the defendant’s version of the facts and this can present some pretty unique challenges.

What Is The Wrongful Death Statute In Missouri?

Most states have a specific law or statute that deal with wrongful death cases, and Missouri has one as well, and it tells you how you can bring this case, who can bring it, and what kind of compensation you can get.

Who Should I Contact About A Potential Wrongful Death Case?

Wrongful death cases kind of occupy their own unique space in the legal world and they do offer some unique challenges—but they shouldn’t feel overwhelming and they shouldn’t be confusing.

If you find yourself in this situation, pick up the phone and talk to a lawyer with experience handling these kinds of cases. Me and my partners, we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’d be happy to meet with you in person or talk to you by phone, listen to what happened, and tell you whether you have a case we can go forward with.