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Specific criteria apply to wrongful death claims

When a person dies to the negligence of another person, the immediate family members left behind might choose to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Defendants in wrongful death litigation can either choose to settle or defend their actions in a courtroom.

To ensure that you are handling your case in the appropriate manner, here are some important things plaintiffs should keep in mind:

Wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases

When you file a wrongful death claim, you are opening a civil case against the defendant. You can do this even if the person is also facing criminal charges. Since these two cases are handled in different courts and have different purposes, there is no double jeopardy involved.

Also, each case is independent of the other. It is possible for a defendant to be found guilty in a criminal case but not in the wrongful death case. The opposite can also happen. One example of this involved O. J. Simpson. He wasn't found guilty of murder, but he was found liable in the wrongful death case filed by survivors of the victims.

Four requirements

There are four conditions that must be present if you plan to file a wrongful death claim. The first is that the decedent is a human. This prevents people from using these cases to try to receive compensation for pets and other non-humans that die because of someone else's actions.

Another requirement is that there has to be a personal representative named in the decedent's estate. In some cases, the decedent's estate plan might have an executor named, which is also acceptable.

The person's death had to be due to another person's actions. This could be a reckless, negligent or purposeful action on the part of the defendant.

The final requirement is that there has to be monetary damages stemming from the person's death. These could be the loss of income that the decedent would have earned, the final expenses for the funeral and any other financial impacts that the death caused.

On top of those four requirements, you also have to ensure that you are filing your claim within the time limit set by the statue of limitations. In Missouri, you have three years from the date the person died to file your wrongful death claim.

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