Personal injury and wrongful death claims are similar in Missouri, but they have key distinctions. Let’s explore them in depth.
Personal Injury Defined
Personal injury refers to a type of legal claim that arises when a person suffers bodily or emotional harm because of something another party did or didn’t do. A personal injury claim may entitle an injured victim to pursue compensation from that other party for financial and personal losses, such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Common examples of incidents that give rise to personal injury claims include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip/trip and fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Defective product accidents
- Construction accidents
Wrongful Death Defined
A wrongful death claim arises when a person’s death occurs because of the actions or inaction of another party. These acts may include negligence, recklessness, and intentional behavior. Wrongful death claims can but do not have to arise from criminal activity. Wrongful deaths often occur because of the same kinds of accidents or incidents that would lead to personal injury claims; the difference is the ultimate effect on the victim.
Differences Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
Although personal injury and wrongful death claims can arise from the same types of incidents, the claims have several significant differences. First, wrongful death claims involve different parties than personal injury cases. While an injured victim typically files their own personal injury claim, death obviously renders them unable to do so. In acknowledgment of this unfortunate reality and its consequences, Missouri law allows certain of the decedent’s survivors to pursue compensation for what they’ve suffered as a result of the decedent’s death.
A decedent’s surviving spouse, children (or the surviving decedents of any deceased children), or parents have the first opportunity to file a wrongful death claim. If a decedent has no surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, the decedent’s siblings or their descendants may bring the claim. If a decedent has no surviving siblings or nieces/nephews, the court can appoint a person requested by the decedent’s heirs to serve as the plaintiff ad litem.
Wrongful death claims also differ in the compensation recovered in such claims.