Caring Legal Support For the Loss of a Loved One
If you’ve lost a family member due to someone else’s negligent or intentional act, you may be entitled to monetary relief through a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the responsible person, party, or entity. The experienced and compassionate St. Louis wrongful death lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm can help you during this immensely difficult time.
At The Dixon Injury Firm, we realize that no amount of money will come close to replacing your lost loved one. However, the individual (or individuals) whose actions resulted in your loved one’s death should to be held accountable for their behavior. Additionally, receiving the compensation you deserve can help alleviate the stress of paying for your loved one’s medical bills and funeral costs.
Our firm offers legal support to families that have suffered a wrongful death. If we don’t win your case, you don’t pay. Feel free to contact our St. Louis wrongful death lawyers today for more information.
Common Causes for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death is a tort (civil legal wrong) that requires underlying tortious conduct. Any personal injury case could turn into wrongful death litigation if victims die from their injuries. Wrongful death lawsuits can result from many different types of accidents and events.
One of the most common causes of wrongful death is motor vehicle accidents, but these cases can also arise from issues involving medical malpractice, defective products, falls, and workplace accidents, among many other incidents. Families must file wrongful death litigation to recover compensation if the victim died of accident-related injuries or illnesses. However, they may pursue personal injury litigation on behalf of claimants who died for reasons unrelated to accident injuries. Experienced attorneys might help St. Louis relatives distinguish between these causes of action and pursue justice on behalf of late loved ones.
Medical wrongful death is particularly challenging. These cases arise when medical malpractice acts as the underlying tortious conduct.
The most common medical errors resulting in unnecessary and unlawful deaths include:
- Anesthesia Errors – The medication used to render patients unconscious during surgery is so dangerous doctors must specialize in the field. Anesthesiologists undergo intense training and must precisely calculate dosages based on the patient’s weight and surgical timeframe. Even non-surgical anesthesia and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, contribute to numerous wrongful death claims each year.
- Missed Diagnosis – Incorrect diagnoses or missed conditions account for the majority of medical malpractice litigation. The most common missed conditions include cancers, heart attacks, and strokes—all potentially fatal conditions.
- Prenatal and Birth Errors – Labor and delivery errors have resulted in stillbirths due to umbilical cord compression and maternal death due to delivery malpractice. Parents, spouses, and children might file St. Louis wrongful death litigation in such cases.
- Prescription Drug Mistakes – Similar to anesthesia errors, certain prescription opioids and medications can kill patients when mixed or prescribed in the wrong dosages. These mistakes may result in brain trauma or organ failure resulting in fatalities.
- Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect – Licensed long-term care facilities and registered nurses are subject to medical malpractice and wrongful death litigation. Failing to properly supervise patients resulting in broken hips or nutritional neglect often leads to wrongful death litigation against nursing homes and medical caretakers.
When handling these types of cases, our firm will look into any prescribed drugs, the provider’s experience, and even any negligence on behalf of the medical facility. Families might hold hospitals, nursing homes, nurses, and doctors liable for medical mistakes resulting in death.
Workplace and Construction Accidents
Unintentional death on the job is another major concern for our wrongful death attorneys. Often, workplace fatalities happen due to safety cutbacks and other hazards on construction sites. If you’re a spouse, child, descendant, parent, or even a sibling, niece, or nephew, you may file a wrongful death case against negligent property owners and third parties. However, families must generally demand death benefits from workers’ compensation insurers.
All construction industry employers and any employer with more than five employees must carry workers’ comp benefits in St. Louis. Families might demand lifetime lost wages, funeral costs, final medical payments, and death benefits if the death occurred after an on-the-job accident. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), elevated falls and electrocutions most commonly result in workplace fatalities. Toxic work environment cases, including claims related to asbestos exposure and mesothelioma deaths, might also qualify families for workers’ comp death benefits.
Motor Vehicle Collisions and Falls
Car accidents and falls are the two leading causes of accidental deaths in the United States. The CDC estimates that these two events cause nearly 80,000 unintentional deaths annually. Many of these deaths result from driver negligence—especially drunk driving, speeding, and driver distraction—or property owner neglect. Drowning accidents, motorcycle crashes, pedestrian impacts, and semi-truck crashes might all support wrongful death litigation in St. Louis.
Below are some of the most common types of wrongful death cases we manage:
- Car accidents
- Criminal acts (assaults and domestic violence)
- Workplace negligence
- Product liability
- Medical malpractice
- Defective drugs
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list; if your loved one died and you believe someone else is to blame, reach out to our team to learn how we can help. Speaking to a lawyer right away can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. The Dixon Injury Firm’s wrongful death lawyers have won over $50 million in settlements and verdicts for our clients. We know what it takes to win tough, complicated wrongful death cases—and we are ready to fight for you.
Understanding Missouri Wrongful Death Laws
To have grounds for a wrongful death case, you must be able to prove that your family member’s death happened due to someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior. If victims would have the right to file personal injury claims, including car accident, medical malpractice, assault, or property neglect litigation, then their families may file wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful death cases might support corresponding criminal liability, especially if the death resulted from drunk driving, aggravated assaults, child neglect, or murder. However, families may also demand civil compensation for unintentional deaths resulting from general negligence.
Relatives may only file one wrongful death case. In most cases, close family members, such as spouses, parents, and children (both biological and adopted), can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family member who has died. However, problems can arise when there are multiple eligible parties, such as a spouse and children from previous relationships.
Missouri law (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.080) and associated case law address these conflicts by establishing litigation priority:
- Tier 1 Priority – Spouses together with minor children, if any, then adult children and their descendants (grandchildren, great-grandchildren), then parents (mother and/or father), then grandparents.
- Tier 2 Priority – Qualifying siblings, if any, then nieces/nephews, and then great-nieces/nephews.
- Tier 3 Priority – Qualifying plaintiffs ad litem appointed by the court, which may including beneficiaries under the victim’s will or persons otherwise entitled to proceeds from the litigation. This may include stepchildren, domestic partners, cousins, or close friends.
If immediate family members (tier 1 plaintiffs) refuse to bring wrongful death litigation, other qualifying plaintiffs cannot generally bring the claim. Distant family members and plaintiffs ad litem can only file litigation if they suffered pecuniary losses from their loved one’s death, i.e., paid funeral costs or lost supportive income, and no other qualifying family members exist.
However, Missouri’s common law slayer rule generally prohibits family members responsible for the victim’s death, including through domestic violence or poisoning, from pursuing and benefiting from wrongful death litigation. Family disputes over litigation priority are one reason that it’s important to retain the services of an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if you’re considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Missouri has a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.100). The clock starts ticking upon the date of death, even if the injuring event occurred months or years before your loved one’s eventual passing.
Severe injuries and conditions resulting in delayed deaths often include:
- Severe traumatic brain injuries (comas or vegetative states)
- Quadriplegia or paraplegia
- Widespread full-thickness burns
- Organ failure
The wrongful death statute of limitations is two years shorter than the five-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims (car accidents, property defects, or dangerous products) but one year longer than the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims. This means that if your loved one died in the past three years, you may still be able to file a wrongful death case against those who were responsible. However, if more than three years have passed since the date of death, your ability to file a claim may be limited or nonexistent. Speak to a St. Louis wrongful death attorney at The Dixon Injury Firm to learn more.
Contact Us Today for a Free and Private Consultation
We understand just how traumatizing it is to lose someone you love. When the death of your loved one could have—and should have—been prevented, you deserve justice. Our team is here to provide you with compassionate, personalized legal support and dedicated advocacy throughout every stage of the process, from gathering evidence to submitting a demand letter to negotiating with the liable insurance provider. If necessary, we are fully prepared to represent you at trial.
Put a powerful, proven team on your side; call The Dixon Injury Firm today at (314) 208-2808 to request your free initial consultation.
Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases
If you bring a wrongful death case on behalf of your loved one, you could receive monetary damages falling within several different categories. Most successful wrongful death cases result in the awarding of compensation to cover outstanding medical bills and the funeral and burial costs of the deceased. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, you could also receive money for loss of anticipated earnings, loss of companionship, loss of benefits, mental anguish, pain and suffering, or other awards that the court deems appropriate.
Consider the following primary damage categories potentially available in St. Louis wrongful death cases:
- Victim’s Economic Damages – Any medical bills, lost wages, and nursing costs incurred by the deceased before death.
- Family’s Economic Damages – Any medical costs, funeral expenses, and other calculable financial losses families necessarily incurred because of the death. This may include the value of lifetime lost wages, healthcare benefits, and retirement contributions.
- Victim’s Pain and Suffering Damages – Families may demand non-economic damages on behalf of a loved one’s delayed or prolonged death, including deaths occurring after months of inpatient care and suffering. Missouri does limit non-economic damages in wrongful death cases based on medical neglect to $700,000 plus inflation. Illinois wrongful death law does not cap damages.
- Family’s Non-Economic Damages – These damages account for the real but incalculable losses immediate family members—generally spouses, minor children, or parents of minors —experience following preventable deaths. In Missouri, they may include the lost value of services, such as household help, loss of consortium (spousal relationships), and lost companionship, training, guidance, counsel, instruction, and comfort.
- Punitive Damages – Though rare, wrongful death litigation may support punitive damage verdicts. Juries may generally award these damages to punish offenders who intentionally harmed the decedent or acted with extreme disregard for the decedent’s life and safety. Cases supporting punitive awards generally involve murder, manslaughter, drunk driving (vehicular manslaughter), and caretaker abuse and negligence.
Certain damages, including compensation for the victim’s economic damages and suffering, must go through estate distribution proceedings. These damages are distributed among beneficiaries under the decedent’s will or via state inheritance laws. Other damages, including the plaintiff’s direct economic expenses and lost value of services and guidance, go directly to the prosecuting family members and minor children.
Most states allow you to claim both these special and general damages. Regarding non-economic damages, the rule-of-thumb is to multiply any financial compensation (for hospital fees, burial costs, etc.) by four or five. It is important for survivors not to rush insurers or negligent parties with a demand letter. The Dixon Injury Firm’s wrongful death attorneys know how to approach insurers with a wrongful death claim and can help you send the right demand letter.
Options for Recovering Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Settling Claims With Liable Insurers
Many wrongful death claims resolve through settlements. In most cases, an insurance company will handle settlement negotiations for the other party. It can be very stressful for grief-stricken family members to engage in effective settlement negotiations, especially when they’re prone to accepting lowball settlements just to end the dispute. Adjusters must determine liability during the claims process, which means requesting evidence of the fatal accident and questioning whether the deceased caused or contributed to his/her death.
Adjusters and defense attorneys frequently shift blame to the victim to reduce their overall financial liability. Even when insurers do accept fault, they will ask difficult questions about the victim’s suffering immediately before death and question the victim’s overall earning capacity and family contributions.
Our attorneys at The Dixon Injury Firm can handle all settlement negotiations and can work to ensure that any offer you choose to accept is fair and adequate. Importantly, insurance adjusters, defendants, and accident-related collections agencies cannot contact represented clients directly. They must filter all communications through your attorney’s office, which clients agree provides necessary relief during the grieving process. Reputable St. Louis wrongful death lawyers also frequently help clients understand the administrative and probate procedures associated with wrongful death lawsuits. Removing this administrative stress and protecting families from unnecessarily painful insurance requests is part of how dedicated injury attorneys protect their clients.
Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Should your wrongful death claim not settle, our experienced trial lawyers fully prepare to advocate on your behalf throughout the litigation process, including in courtroom proceedings. Our attorneys may recommend filing wrongful death cases against liable parties, including negligent drivers or property owners, if insurers refuse to accept liability or offer fair settlements. Sometimes, simply filing the complaint is enough to pressure insurers into raising settlement offers.
In high-value cases—including those with corresponding homicide, manslaughter, or assault charges—attorneys may recommend arguing the case before the jury. Juries may award wrongful death damages regardless of applicable insurance limits. Families may also desire to go public if egregious crimes or corporate negligence caused their loved one’s death. Our St. Louis trial attorneys understand that recovering needed financial compensation is only half the battle.
Engaging in Alternative Dispute Resolution
Litigating wrongful death claims often requires substantial client participation. This may include providing detailed deposition testimony, publicly expressing your pain, facing liable defendants, and subjecting yourself to cross-examination. Sometimes filing lawsuits is simply too much for grieving families, but insurance companies refuse to offer reasonable compensation. In such cases, wrongful death lawyers may recommend alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
ADR refers to mediation or arbitration. Mediation is voluntary and involves the parties sitting down with trained neutral mediators, generally third-party attorneys, to reach contractual settlements. The parties can attend multiple mediation sessions as necessary, but they’re not legally obligated to reach an agreement. They may reach smaller settlements with some defendants and narrow the issues for litigation with others.
The parties may also agree to attend binding arbitration. This private mini-trial occurs before an arbitrator (private judge) or panel of three arbitrators. The parties are not subject to the same stringent rules applicable to trial and may obtain accelerated decisions resolving the litigation. However, arbitration is binding. The arbitrator’s decision controls the case, and the parties cannot generally retry the issues in court.
There are lots of types of compensation you can receive in a wrongful death settlement through settlement, litigation, or ADR. Wrongful death cases are complicated, and if you’re looking to get justice, you’re going to need a qualified lawyer. The Dixon Injury Firm has handled car accident cases, premises liability, medical malpractice, truck crashes, and other claims involving wrongful death.
Proving Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims
Just as in other types of personal injury cases, proving negligence and liability is critical to a successful wrongful death claim. You must be able to prove that your loved one’s death could have been preventable had the at-fault party not acted negligently or wrongfully.
There are a few common things to consider in any wrongful death case to prove negligence:
- Duty of Care: As a society, we must act responsibly. For example, you’re supposed to yield at yield signs, and doctors should deliver quality medical care to patients. This is known as the “duty of care,” and it is different in different situations. However, if another person had a responsibility to act in a way that would not cause you harm (within reason), they owed you a duty of care.
- Breach: A breach of the duty of care happens when the person/party that owes the above-mentioned responsibility to prevent you from coming to harm fails to act in a way that is consistent with that duty. You can look at a breach as a failure to act, like not stopping at a stop sign and killing a pedestrian, or as an act, such as assault or murder. Both represent a breach of the duty of care.
- Causation: You must prove that a negligent party’s breach of the duty of care actually caused the death and caused you (the survivor) harm. If you’re in an accident, it’s important to prove that a negligent party caused the accident and that this is what led to your damages.
- Damages: To be reimbursed for your damages, you’re going to have to prove that you were financially and/or non-economically harmed. This includes proving your hospital bills, your inability to work, your funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and other special and general damages.
At The Dixon Injury Firm, our Metro East and St. Louis wrongful death attorneys can help you navigate this process and build a strong case that proves the other party’s negligence and your losses. Strong evidence of negligence often encourages insurers to settle. Further, civil wrongful death lawyers may recommend waiting for appropriate criminal convictions. Guilty pleas or jury verdicts may establish fault in corresponding civil cases because prosecutors have higher burdens of proof.
The Cost of Retaining Wrongful Death Attorneys in St. Louis and Illinois
Surveys suggest that prospective clients hesitate to contact lawyers due to cost concerns. Many fear being charged hundreds of dollars for simply calling a law office, and others know they can never afford expensive hourly fees. Fortunately, wrongful death attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis and do not charge any consultation or communication fees. We don’t receive payment unless we recover compensation in your case. We even front all necessary litigation and settlement expenses to help maximize the value of our clients’ financial recoveries.
Provided our dedicated lawyers obtain valuable insurance settlements or verdicts in your case, we take a portion of the overall award before reimbursing the firm for pre-paid costs.
Consider this example:
Initial Offer Without a Lawyer = $50,000
Accepted Wrongful Death Settlement after Representation = $300,000
Attorneys’ Fee = $100,000 (33 percent of $300,000)
Remaining Balance = $200,000
Reimbursement for Prepaid Costs = $15,000
Remaining Balance = $185,000
Payment of Outstanding Funeral Expenses/Medical Liens = $30,000
Total to Client and Estate = $155,000
Every case differs, but reputable wrongful death lawyers will explain their fees in writing, so families know what to expect. Represented clients generally receive substantially higher wrongful death settlements, even after fees and costs, than clients without dedicated legal counsel.
Frequently Asked Questions About St. Louis Wrongful Death Claims
Who Are Victims of Wrongful Death?
You might think of sudden fatalities happening to other families since you hear about these tragedies on the news and never imagine it would happen to you. However, the reality is that almost 175,000 people die from unintentional injuries each year in the United States, and someone in your family could be a victim.
These people are common victims of wrongful death:
- Drivers or vehicle passengers
- Pedestrians or cyclists
- Construction workers
- Medical patients
- Patrons at theme parks, hotels, or other businesses
- Crime victims
Anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which can lead to fatal injuries. This means that the phone can ring at any time, and someone can inform you that your close loved one suffered fatal injuries.
Wrongful death victims can be spouses, parents, children, or other family members. Their loss can leave gaping holes in families and leave surviving loved ones wanting justice. No matter who was the victim of the sudden death, it can help your grieving process and recovery to learn about your legal rights.
Our wrongful death attorneys represent families from all walks of life throughout the St. Louis area and including the Metro East. We can advise you of the best course of action and handle the entire process to allow your family to focus on your emotional recovery.
Can a Criminal Case Address Wrongful Death?
Many wrongful deaths happen as a result of unlawful conduct, and the person liable for the death might face arrest and criminal charges in either Missouri or Illinois criminal court.
Some examples of criminal charges that might follow a wrongful death include:
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Missouri or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) in Illinois
- Assault and battery
- Vehicular homicide
- Reckless driving and other serious traffic violations
Many families assume that the criminal system will bring justice for their loved one’s death. While criminal courts can impose penalties to punish the offender, families often find that a criminal case does little to compensate them financially. The court might order the offender to pay restitution, though there might be a minimal chance that the offender will pay it, especially if they go to prison.
This is why civil law provides close family members with the right to file a wrongful death claim.
You need to file this claim in civil court—depending on where the fatal incident occurred, you might file in:
- St. Louis County court
- St. Louis City court
- St. Clair County court
- Madison County court
- Clinton County court
- Jersey County court
At the Dixon Injury Firm, we know the laws, procedures, and personnel in all of those court systems, among many others. Regardless of where in Illinois or Missouri the accident took your loved one, we can help with your wrongful death claim.
This civil case will be a separate matter from the criminal case, even though they might be taking place in the same county court. You should never rely on a criminal case to compensate you and, instead, contact a wrongful death lawyer in St. Louis or the Metro East to help you initiate your claim.
This does not mean that a criminal matter will not play a role in your case, however, as there can be some overlap. For example, if the offender receives a conviction of the crime, you can use the conviction as automatic proof of liability for the death.
Even if there is no conviction, you can still pursue a wrongful death claim. This is because the burden of proof is lower in a civil case. Just because the prosecutor could not prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt (the highest legal standard) does not mean that you will be unable to prove your wrongful death case.
The burden of proof for a wrongful death case is “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which means it is more than 50 percent likely that the party was liable for the death. This is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Do not let what is happening in criminal court deter you from pursuing your rightful compensation in a wrongful death case. Contact our legal team for more information today.
What if the Insurance Company Reaches out to You?
In some cases, the insurance company of the liable party might reach out before you have a chance to call an attorney. This usually happens when liability is clear, so the insurer might be trying to get you to accept a lowball offer.
The insurance representative might seem helpful and compassionate about your loss, but remember that the company is never on your side. The adjuster is always trying to minimize the payment on your claim. Even though their initial offer might seem generous, and it can be tempting to get a check in your hand quickly, accepting an initial offer is almost always a big mistake.
Once you accept an offer, you lose the right to seek additional compensation, even if you learn that the settlement was grossly inadequate. Always have a wrongful death attorney evaluate your case, so you know how much your claim is worth before you ever agree to a settlement amount with an insurer.
How Do I Find the Right Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Finding an attorney can be an intimidating process. Searching for “St. Louis wrongful death attorney” or “Metro East wrongful death lawyer” can bring up millions of results, and sifting through these can seem daunting or impossible. When you are already facing a tragic loss, you do not want to add any stress to your plate.
The tips to finding the right wrongful death attorney include:
- Talk to family or friends who had personal injury cases in the Metro area and had success with their attorney.
- Look at the experience and practice areas of any law firms you are considering, as well as case results.
- Check reviews and scores on sites like Avvo to determine if prior clients were happy with their representation.
- Schedule a free consultation and ask the lawyer all questions you may have for them.
The process of finding the right lawyer can take some time, so you should never put it off. The right compassionate and committed wrongful death attorney is waiting at The Dixon Injury Firm.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
Many people avoid getting an attorney involved because they assume that means they will need to go to court. When you are dealing with your grief and adjusting to your new life without your loved one, the last thing you need is to be in court in front of a jury.
The good news is the large majority of wrongful death claims never make it all the way to trial. Our attorneys work to negotiate favorable settlements directly with insurers before we ever file a lawsuit. If we do file a lawsuit, we work to negotiate a settlement agreement during the pretrial process. This prevents the need to go to trial.
However, if the insurance company refuses to pay what you deserve, our legal team does not hesitate to represent your rights and seek justice in court. We handle every step of litigation to take the stress off of you.
Connect with Our Compassionate St. Louis and Metro East Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
Don’t take on corporate insurers and defense attorneys alone, especially when you’re grieving the wrongful loss of your loved one. Discuss your right to demand financial compensation on behalf of wrongfully killed family members with the dedicated wrongful death litigators at The Dixon Injury Firm. We offer free, confidential case consultations and contingency fee agreements to eligible claimants.
Whether you need help demanding death benefits from workers’ compensation insurers, fighting for car accident settlements, or litigating cases against dangerous product manufacturers, schedule your free case analysis with our St. Louis wrongful death lawyers by calling (314) 208-2808 or contacting us online.
The Dixon Injury Firm
9666 Olive Blvd #202,
St. Louis, MO 63132