How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim?
Following the death of a loved one, it’s entirely natural and understandable for you to be in a state of grief and mourning for some time. These feelings are no doubt magnified if the passing of a family member was due to the negligence of another person. If this is the case, you should contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Missouri who can help you recover damages and hopefully get a measure of closure.
However, for some people their grief and related personal apprehension keeps them from filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri. A top St. Louis wrongful death law firm, like Combs Law Group, can help you throughout the wrongful death lawsuit process. We know that while the pain and grief of the sudden loss of a close family member can linger for years, the opportunity to file a wrongful death suit in Missouri is finite.
About Statutes of Limitations
Every state in America has a statutory limit on how long after an act occurred that a person can bring a case to court to potentially recoup damages. Statutes of limitations apply to both criminal cases (murders, robberies, etc.) as well as civil cases like personal injury lawsuits or a contract dispute. The statute of limitations has been a legal principle going back all the way to Ancient Greece: in the city-state of Athens, all cases except murder had to be brought to a court within five years of when it initially took place. Then as now, these statutes are put in place in order to decrease fraudulent cases being brought before courts.
The length of a statute of limitations depends not only on whether the case involved is tried in civil or criminal court, but also the type of case being litigated. Furthermore, each state sets its own laws regarding statutes of limitations, so it is smart to research your state’s statute of limitation laws. There are also exceptions or extentions of the statute clock that could apply to a case. A common extention, called tolling the clock, often occurs when a plaintiff is a minor and thus cannot bring a case to trial until they reach the age of majority. Another exception, the discovery rule, allows the statute of limitations to be extended if certain causes or factors of the case were not immediately known or were hidden from a plaintiff.
Missouri’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
In Missouri, MO Revised Statute 537.100 governs wrongful death lawsuits. Missouri wrongful death lawsuits must “be commenced within three years after the cause of action shall accrue”, with the “cause of action” defined as the date of the death of the plaintiff. Missouri does not offer a tolling clause for minor plaintiffs such as children: indeed, our firm has often filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of a minor. Neither does Missouri offer a discovery exception–the recent Missouri Supreme Court case Boland vs. St. Luke’s Health System affirmed this precedent, even if (like in this case) important evidence that proved a wrongful death was concealed from plaintiffs.
Act Fast On Your Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuit
As you can see, Missouri’s statute of limitations for wrongful death cases leaves you very little leeway if you have delayed in filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Even if you are still emotionally scarred from losing someone near and dear to you, if their death was due to the negligence of another person it is best to talk to a Missouri wrongful death lawyer as soon as you are able to do so. If your case is one where you are uncertain as to the cause of death but suspect that someone else could be at fault, an experienced St. Louis wrongful death attorney can help you investigate the circumstances that led to your loved one’s passing.
Combs Law Group has helped many people across St. Louis with their wrongful death lawsuit claims. We understand the range of emotions you are going through after a sudden loss and place communication and honesty at the heart of everything we do. Call us today or contact them online for a free, discreet case review.