Wrongful Death Damages Cap in Missouri
If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s actions, you have the option to file a wrongful death claim. It is no replacement for the family member you have lost, but a wrongful death claim can result in compensation that can lighten the burden of final expenses, medical bills, and other adjustments and arrangements you face during this difficult time.
Wrongful Death Damage Caps
In a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff (typically a family member of the deceased – see this page for details on who can file for a loved one’s death) asks for damages from the party who caused their loved one’s death. Damages are awarded to the plaintiff in the form of financial compensation. Is there a limit to how much money the family can receive in a wrongful death case? The answer is: it depends.
To understand damage caps in wrongful death cases, you must understand the difference between different types of wrongful death cases as well as the difference between economic and non-economic damages. In most wrongful death cases, there is no limit to the damages you can recover, whether economic or non-economic. There is one exception, however. In a medical malpractice wrongful death case, Missouri state law limits the damages a family can receive.
Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Damages
A medical malpractice case is one in which a health care professional or institution (like a nurse, doctor, or hospital) harms a patient in their care. It could be something the health care professional did, such as prescribing the wrong medication or severing an artery during surgery, or something they failed to do, such as missing a diagnosis or not providing life-saving care.
A wrongful death case can come from many different situations. If you lost your loved one due to the action or inaction of a health service provider, you have a medical malpractice wrongful death claim. Damages for these claims are capped based on the type of injury and the type of damages. According to the Missouri Department of Insurance, non-economic damages in 2021 medical malpractice cases are limited according to the following:
- Non-catastrophic injuries: $442,574
- Catastrophic injuries: $774,504
The current damage caps for medical malpractice cases in the state of Missouri were established by the Missouri Statute 538.205, passed in 2015. This statute set the limit for non-catastrophic injuries at $400,000 and catastrophic injuries at $700,000 in 2015 and provided a yearly increase of 1.7% to account for inflation. It also defined “catastrophic” injuries as injuries resulting in quadriplegia, paraplegia, loss of two or more limbs, permanent significant cognitive impairment, organ failure, or significant visual impairment.
What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death suit?
When a plaintiff wins a wrongful death case, they are awarded a dollar amount for their damages. There are different types of damages one can pursue for all the manners in which the loss of the loved one has impacted or caused damage to the family member. Damages are categorized as either economic or non-economic.
According to Missouri Statute 537.090, the following are the possible expenses and hardships for which a wrongful death claimant may be awarded compensation:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills and costs from the time of the accident until the time of death
- Property damage
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Grief counseling
- Loss of comfort, services, care, and support of the decedent
- Loss of income and benefits
- Loss of future income that would have been earned by the decedent
- The pain and suffering the decedent experienced before their death
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
The caps in medical malpractice cases are for non-economic damages. Economic damages for any wrongful death claim, including a medical malpractice claim, are not limited.
What constitutes an economic damage? Economic damages are damages that are tangible or quantified. Medical bills, funeral expenses, and loss of income are examples of economic damages. They can be objectively calculated. They are not limited in any wrongful death case.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are intangible. When you lose a loved one, you experience unspeakable pain and grief. Non-economic damages in a wrongful death case include loss of companionship, loss of comfort and support, and the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before their death. These are the damages that are capped at the above amounts in medical malpractice cases. For other wrongful death claims, non-economic damages are not capped.
Other Factors in Wrongful Death Damages
Each wrongful death case is unique. The types of damages and the amounts that will be awarded depend on the circumstances of the death and how the death affects the lives of surviving family members. There are many factors to consider in any wrongful death case. Both economic and non-economic damages will vary greatly depending on whether the person who passed away was:
- a spouse, a parent, or a minor child
- responsible for providing at least 50% of care and financial means for the family
- over the age of 65
As you can imagine, the outcome of a wrongful death case for the death of a young child will differ from that of the death of a 35-year-old parent and spouse who was the sole financial earner in the family. The outcome will be different still in the case of a 70-year-old who lived alone and was estranged from the family members making the claim. The case will also depend on the circumstances of death. Did the person die immediately, or were they in the hospital for months receiving treatment?
Missouri Wrongful Death Lawyer | Burger Law
Nobody should go through a wrongful death case alone. If you have lost a loved one due to another person’s negligent actions, you may have a wrongful death claim. You need a confident, experienced wrongful death lawyer to provide clarity and legal support and to obtain the compensation you deserve. The winning lawyers at Burger Law are dedicated to helping families and individuals throughout St. Louis, Missouri, and Illinois who have lost their loved ones. We will fight for you. Contact us today at 314-542-2222 or send us a message to speak to one of our attorneys and find out how we can help.