How Is The Amount Of Damages In A Wrongful Death Claim Determined?
The amount of damages is determined on a case by case basis as each case stands on its own merit. Every case has different facts and it must be determined what the economic and non-economic damages would entail. This includes things like loss of consortium, comfort, companionship, guidance, or support. What an attorney looks at is the nature of the emotional, physical, and psychological relationship everyone involved has. Every relationship is different, and an attorney will try to analyze what would have been the emotional, physical, and psychological side that the person had with the decedent.
What are the economic damages that survivors are entitled to in wrongful death cases?
Survivors are allowed to recover any medical expenses the deceased incurred before they passed away. They can also recover funeral expenses and any loss of income or lost wages that the beneficiary suffered as a result of the death. Non-economic damages are the harder issue to determine.
Are punitive damages recoverable?
In Missouri, punitive damages, under the right set of circumstances, are recoverable. In Kansas, punitive damages are not offered. However, they can be recovered in what is called a survival action and that is essentially the pain and suffering that the loved ones experienced before the deceased passed away. Thus, in Kansas, a punitive damages claim is only recoverable via a survival action and not via a wrongful death action.
What is the statute of limitations for a claim in Kansas and in Missouri?
Generally, the statute of limitations in Kansas is two years and in Missouri the statute of limitations is three years.
How are the awarded damages divided amongst multiple heirs?
Each case in each state is different and each state has their own statute which governs how awards are apportioned among the heirs. Generally, the court will look at the nature of each relationship the heir had with the deceased. They will review whether an individual was dependent on a specific person for certain things such as economic benefit or economic care and then determine which heir will be apportioned which money. The majority of the time the family will come in as a collective unit.
In our experience, after someone passes away, the heirs will come into the office as a family. Our attorneys will sit down with the family and discuss the aforementioned topics and include specifics on how the claim would be divided amongst the heirs. Usually an agreement will be made upfront that will outline how the proceeds will be distributed between the heirs. If that is not a viable option, the then courts will analyze the relationships between the decedent and the heirs and make its own determination on how the award will be split.
Do heirs ever hire separate attorneys?
Yes, this is quite common. If there is not an acceptable agreement between the heirs on how the damages will be apportioned, one attorney cannot represent all of them as they are required to come to an agreement to the claim’s terms. A single attorney cannot protect everybody’s rights. A conflict of interest occurs when an attorney represents everyone, and no one agrees with each other. If this happens an attorney will then proceed with the case as only representing their respective client. Although this happens every now and then, it has not happened on a majority of the cases our firm has been retained for.
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