What Is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death in Missouri?
Updated: Feb 24
As with most lawsuits, there is a statute of limitations on wrongful death. The Statute of Limitations refers to how long after an event takes place you are eligible by law to submit a claim. In the case of wrongful death in Missouri, it is the length of time since the day of death.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Missouri?
According to Missouri law, the deceased’s loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit within three years of the day they died. If a case is not submitted within this time, no legal action can be taken against the defendant (unless there is cause for a criminal case, but this only applies to limited circumstances).
It is worth noting that the State of Missouri sets a statute of limitations on medical malpractice suits of two years. Medical malpractice is common causation in wrongful deaths, so there is more than one pursuable route.
The three-year limitation of wrongful death supersedes medical malpractice. This means that if medical malpractice leads to death, loved ones have three years to make a St Louis injury claim. If death did not occur, but charges are pressed, two years is the limit.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Missouri
Laws surrounding wrongful death vary from state to state. Across the board, a case can only be made where there is evidence to prove that a duty of care was owed and subsequently breached, resulting directly in a death. It must be proven that the deceased would not have died had the defendant not acted in the way they did.
Many circumstances may qualify for this type of lawsuit. In Missouri, some of the most common causes for filing a wrongful death case include:
● Fatal car accidents (reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, etc.)
● Workplace incidents where employer negligence is evident (improper safety proceedings, failure to comply with regulations, etc.)
● Medical malpractice (in a hospital, nursing home, psychiatric office, or any other licensed medical professional)
● Defective or malfunctioning products (where the fault was evident and not corrected by manufacturers)
Whenever a person acts in a way that directly violates their obligation to keep others safe and someone dies as a consequence, there are grounds for a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death VS Manslaughter or Criminal Murder
The first thing to note is that these types of cases are not mutually exclusive. A court can charge a defendant with both wrongful death and manslaughter.
To summarize, the key difference between the two is:
● Wrongful death is a civil action raised by the relatives of the deceased, which aims to compensate financially for a death that should not have occurred.
● Manslaughter is a criminal action raised by the State of Missouri, which aims to prosecute and punish the defendant for their actions.
Both civil and criminal actions can be taken against a person if the circumstances dictate. Under Missouri law, that is often what happens.
Does a Criminal Action Effect the Statute of Limitation?
Regardless of any criminal action against the defendant, the statute of limitations for wrongful death remains three years. In Missouri, manslaughter also has a three-year limit, but there is no limit on criminal murder or other class-A felonies that could have influenced a wrongful death.
The aftermath of a loved one’s death is a trying and often confusing time. When sudden and unexpected death occurs, it can take time to mourn. Understandably, the relatives may not feel ready to pursue charges immediately following the incident, but it is essential to know the legal timeframes.
Missouri allows up to three years to file a wrongful death claim. It is considered sufficient time to handle immediate proceedings following death and contact some wrongful death lawyers. Gathering evidence and building a case also takes time, which is why the bereaved should discuss the lawsuit with a trusted lawyer as soon as possible.
Powell Law is an established and highly experienced trial team, ready to fight for the justice owed. Wrongful death is an area where the lawyer at Powell Law excels. In Missouri, it is essential to understand the ins and outs of state law to ensure the best possible outcome in every case- something the Powell Law team prides itself on.