All Questions

October 20, 2021 | Gary Burger

My Grandmother Died in a Car Accident, Can I Sue?

Often, we lose the elderly people in our lives through no one's fault at all. Sometimes a heart attack, sometimes cancer, sometimes just "old age." Occasionally we are faced with the difficult decision of what to do if someone elderly in our lives dies due to someone else's negligence - meaning our loved one's death was caused by an individual or individuals who are responsible for his or her death.

Whether occurring as the result of a motor vehicle accident, a doctor's mistake, or a nursing home's mistake, such a tragedy can prove a challenge when the family wants to hold the at-fault person responsible. The first question that may come to mind is, what can I do?

A standard answer to such a question is to file suit. Various other options may be available, such as reporting a doctor to an investigatory committee or agency. If the family is seeking compensation for their loved one's loss, the best option is to file suit. The next question that comes to mind is who can file a lawsuit?

Missouri has a statute (Section 537.080) that sets forth three classes of plaintiffs who may bring suit.

The classes offer a descending order of priority: class 1 plaintiffs can sue; if no one exists in class 1, then class 2 plaintiffs can sue, and if no one lives in class 1 or class 2, then class 3 plaintiffs can sue. This discussion explains a further division within the eligible class 1 plaintiffs.

The statute says suit can be brought "by the spouse or children or the surviving lineal descendent of any deceased children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive."

To answer the question at the top, if your grandma died in a car accident, you might be able to sue, but only if your parent, who was her child, has already passed. If your mother or father has not died already, you cannot be the only plaintiff named in the suit. Your parent will need to be also named. For many families, this will not be an issue.

However, if there is a dispute over whether to file a suit or if the parent and child are estranged, this can cause conflict to keep in mind when deciding about filing a lawsuit and pursuing compensation.