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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Powell

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Missouri?

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

Laws surrounding wrongful death claims have minor differences in each state, including who is legally entitled to file such a claim on behalf of the deceased. Because there is financial compensation involved, there must be sufficient proof that the person making the claim has suffered damages. That applies both financially and emotionally.

Wrongful Death Summary

Wrongful Death Summary

Before looking at who, under Missouri law, can file a wrongful death case, it is worth noting several other elements surrounding this type of lawsuit.

● Wrongful death is a civil action raised by an eligible relative. It is not a criminal action, and the only outcome is financial punishment. Criminal charges may also be brought against the defendant by The State of Missouri, depending on the circumstances.

● The statute of limitations on wrongful death in Missouri is three years, regardless of causation or the pursual of other criminal charges.

● To win a wrongful death claim, there must be sufficient evidence to show that the defendant directly caused the death through negligent actions that violated their duty of care.

● Financial compensation may cover medical bills, funeral costs, loss of future income, pain and suffering damages (both for the deceased and the surviving relatives), and other support lost because of the wrongful death.

● In exceptional cases, there may be additional punitive or exemplary damages issued against the defendant. They represent the fact that the actions taken were grossly negligent, reckless, and dangerous. Although used to set an example and deter future wrongdoing- rather than compensate the relatives- the amount is added to the final settlement.

● The average wrongful death settlement in the USA is between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

There are restrictions on who can sue for wrongful death. Missouri has specific rules about the order in which relatives can claim:

Surviving Spouse

The first in line to pursue damages is the living spouse of the deceased. Although some states allow unmarried significant others to make a claim, Missouri does not. Because there is a strict system to determine who is first in line to make a claim, a long-term significant other is unlikely to make the list.

However, if a person is named in the will, it is possible to pursue the compensation you may be entitled to through that channel.

Children or Parents

If there is no living spouse, direct linear relatives are the next in line. Depending on the age and circumstances, the parents of children of the deceased can make a claim. Missouri law does not discriminate between natural, adoptive, legitimate, or illegitimate children when it comes to wrongful death claims- all are equally entitled, and any settlement is divided as such.

In case of an unmarried person with no dependents, the claim falls to the deceased’s parents.

Other Linear Descendants

If the deceased’s children and parents are not alive, the grandchildren can sue for wrongful death. This is the last group that is considered a “class one” relative.


Only when there are no living spouses, parents, or descendants can siblings file a wrongful death lawsuit. Because they are not class one relatives under Missouri law, they must prove financial dependence or damages to qualify for compensation.

The children of the deceased’s siblings are also eligible if none of the previous relatives are alive.

Plaintiff Ad Litem

If the first eligible claimant is a minor (under 18 years of age), incapacitated, or otherwise unable to file the case themselves, a plaintiff ad litem is appointed. They stand in place of the relative for the purpose of pursuing the claim, but all funds awarded go to the person they are representing.


To summarize, only a direct relative- spousal or blood- can claim for wrongful death in Missouri. If there is no eligible relative, there can be no claim. The tiered system is in place to control and regulate the pursuit of claims. It also makes it easier to determine just financial compensation.

Whoever the responsibility falls on to pursue justice for their deceased loved one, they should contact St Louis injury lawyers as soon as possible to ensure proceedings run smoothly and successfully. At Powell Law, every client and case gets nothing less than the very best in both expertise and dedication from each St Louis wrongful death lawyer.


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