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Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, but losing someone due to the negligence of another party can feel even more traumatic. In legal terms, this is known as a wrongful death accident. A wrongful death accident occurs when someone's negligent or intentional actions cause the death of another person. The sobering truth is that this tragedy can affect anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
Unfortunately, Kansas wrongful death accidents leave families to face dire consequences of someone else's actions. The sudden loss of a loved one can leave families struggling to cope with grief and loss. Additionally, losing a loved one due to someone else's negligence can leave surviving members with financial burdens, including medical bills, funeral expenses, and loss of income.
At Martin & Wallentine, we understand that losing a loved one due to someone else's negligence is a traumatic experience that can impact every aspect of your life. We understand the importance of providing compassionate support to families during this difficult time.
Our skilled team is committed to helping bereaved families secure the compensation they need to cover their expenses and start the healing process. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you find closure and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Accidents in Kansas
Wrongful death accidents are a heartbreaking reality that can strike any time and profoundly impact the lives of the surviving family members and loved ones. Unfortunately, such accidents are not uncommon in Kansas, and various factors can cause them. These causes include:
Car Accidents - According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, 381 fatal crashes in 2021 resulted in 424 deaths. Many of these accidents were caused by distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. When a driver's reckless behavior causes a fatal accident, they can be held responsible for the victim's wrongful death.
Medical Malpractice - When a healthcare professional fails to provide a standard level of care, resulting in the death of a patient, they can be held responsible for the victim's wrongful death. According to the Kansas City Business Journal, medical malpractice payments in Kansas and Missouri totaled over $70M in 2018.
Workplace Accidents - If an employer fails to provide a safe work environment, resulting in the death of an employee, they can be held responsible for the victim's wrongful death. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 63 workplace fatalities in 2021.
Product Liability - When a defective product causes a fatal accident, the manufacturer can be held responsible for the victim's wrongful death. This scenario can include defective car parts, medical devices, and other consumer products.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Kansas
Under Kansas law, only certain relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These individuals include the surviving spouse only, children, parents, or the personal representative of the deceased's estate. If the deceased person did not have any of these family members, the court may appoint a representative to file the claim.
Remember that in Kansas, you have a two-year window from the date of the deceased's passing to file a wrongful death claim. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations. After this time has passed, filing a claim may not be possible. It is important to note that if you're filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a minor child, the court may extend the statute of limitations.
The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action
While a wrongful death claim and a survival action both involve seeking compensation for the death of a loved one, they are two different types of claims.
An example of a wrongful death lawsuit is if a loved one is killed in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence. Suppose it can be proven that the other driver was at fault for the accident and that the accident directly caused the individual's death.
In that case, the surviving relatives may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and loss of companionship. The claim must be filed within two years of the date of the person's death, as dictated by the statute of limitations for Kansas wrongful death claims.
On the other hand, a survival action is filed by the deceased person's estate. It seeks compensation for damages that the person would have been entitled to if they had survived, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.
A survival action claim is filed when a person had suffered injuries or damages before their death but did not die instantly. For example, a survival action claim can arise from medical malpractice, such as when a surgical towel is left inside a person's body, causing pain and suffering for several months before death. The decedent's estate can file a claim to recover damages for the suffering and to cover expenses.
Damages You Can Recover in a Kansas City Wrongful Death Case
If you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be wondering what damages you can recover. Damages are the monetary compensation paid to grieving relatives for their losses. Here are the types of damages that can be recovered in a Kansas City wrongful death case:
Economic damages are the financial losses the family has suffered due to their loved one's death. This monetary support can include medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
Non-economic damages are reserved for things that don’t have an obvious dollar amount assigned to them, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and mental anguish. These damages can be difficult to quantify but are just as important as economic damages. The court will consider factors such as the deceased's age, earning capacity, and relationship with the next of kin when determining non-economic damages.
In some cases, the court may award punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the party responsible for the wrongful death and deter similar behavior in the future. These damages are not awarded in all cases, and the court will consider the circumstances of the case before deciding whether to award punitive damages.
Factors Considered When Determining Damages
When determining the amount of damages to be awarded in a Kansas wrongful death claim, the court will consider various factors, including:
- The age, health, and earning capacity of the deceased
- The nature and extent of the deceased's injuries
- The degree of fault of the party responsible for the death
- The surviving relatives' financial and emotional needs
- The impact of the death on the remaining family members' quality of life
What to Expect During a Kansas Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Filing a wrongful death claim in Kansas requires a thorough understanding of the legal process. Below is a breakdown of the stages you can expect.
The first stage of a wrongful death lawsuit involves conducting a thorough investigation. Plaintiffs bear the burden of proof, requiring adequate evidence such as eyewitness accounts, medical records, and expert testimony. Insufficient evidence can lead to a denied claim or much lower settlement.
Filing the Claim
Once the investigation is complete, the next stage involves filing the claim. This is when you will submit a formal complaint to the court. The complaint should include the details of the accident and how it led to the death of your loved one. This stage can be complex, and it's best to have an experienced Kansas wrongful death lawyer to handle this for you.
Discovery in a wrongful death lawsuit is a legal process where both sides request evidence to support or refute claims. It includes document requests, written questions, and sworn testimonies, and this information helps to determine liability and understand the cause of the wrongful death.
Often, the parties may negotiate a settlement before going to trial. This option can save time and money and help avoid the stress of a trial. Your Kansas wrongful death attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement covering all your damages.
The case will go to trial if a settlement cannot be reached. Both parties will present evidence and arguments to the judge or jury during the trial. The judge or jury will then decide the outcome of the case. This stage of a civil case can be stressful and emotional, but an experienced lawyer can help guide you through the process.
Settlements and Trials in Kansas Wrongful Death Cases
The pain and emotional distress of losing a loved one can be compounded by the financial burden that often follows a fatal accident. Wrongful death claims in Kansas can be resolved through settlements or trials. While both options can provide compensation for the deceased's family, it's important to understand their differences. Settlements offer a quicker resolution, but trials can result in a higher payout. The best option for your family will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
Settlements in Kansas Wrongful Death Cases
A settlement is an agreement between the parties involved in a wrongful death case, which resolves the matter without going to trial. In most cases, a settlement involves the responsible party or their insurance company offering a sum of money to the deceased's next of kin.
Advantages of Settlements:
- Certainty: Settling a wrongful death case out of court provides assurance for both parties. The deceased's relatives can receive financial compensation for their loss without the uncertainty and emotional toll of a trial.
- Privacy: Settlements are usually confidential, meaning the case details will not be publicized. This can benefit both parties, especially if the responsible party wants to avoid negative publicity.
- Control: In a settlement, the deceased's family members have more control over the outcome of the case. They can negotiate the terms of the settlement and choose whether or not to accept the offer.
Disadvantages of Settlements:
- Lower Compensation: Settlements may result in lower compensation for the deceased's closest living relatives than they could receive if the case went to trial.
- No Admission of Guilt: In a settlement, the responsible party may not admit guilt, which can be frustrating for the surviving family members who want acknowledgment and accountability for the loss of their loved one.
- Limited Recourse: Once a settlement has been accepted, the deceased's family cannot seek additional compensation, even if unexpected expenses or damages arise later.
Trials in Kansas Wrongful Death Claims
A trial is a legal proceeding where a judge or jury hears the evidence and decides on the case's outcome. Trials can be lengthy, emotional, and expensive, but they can also provide the opportunity for the next of kin to obtain justice and the maximum compensation for their loss.
Advantages of Trials:
- Justice: A trial allows the deceased's family members to seek justice for their loss and hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
- Maximum Compensation: Trials can result in larger financial compensation for the deceased's immediate blood relatives than they might receive in a settlement.
- Public Acknowledgement: Trials allow the responsible party to acknowledge their guilt publicly and apologize for their actions.
Disadvantages of Trials:
- Lengthy Process: Trials can be lengthy and take months or even years to conclude, causing additional emotional and financial stress for the surviving family members.
- Higher Expenses: Trials can be expensive, as legal fees, expert witness fees, and court costs can add up quickly.
- Unpredictable Outcome: Trials are unpredictable, which can be difficult for the surviving family members to deal with emotionally and financially.
Liable Parties in Kansas Wrongful Death Cases
Determining who can be held liable in a Kansas wrongful death case can be complex, as it often depends on the incident's specific circumstances. Generally, any party whose negligence or intentional actions caused the death of another person can be held liable in a wrongful death case.
Individuals who may be held liable include:
Individuals: Any individual whose actions caused the death of another person can be held liable. For instance, a driver who caused a fatal car accident due to reckless driving or a doctor whose negligence led to a patient's death may be held responsible.
Businesses: Businesses can also be held liable for wrongful death if they act negligently or fail to ensure the safety of their customers or employees. For example, a construction company that fails to follow safety regulations, leading to a worker's death, may be held accountable.
Government entities: Government entities can be held liable in cases where they fail to maintain safe conditions in public places. For instance, a government entity responsible for maintaining a public park may be held accountable if a visitor dies due to a dangerous condition on the premises.
Product manufacturers: The manufacturer or seller may be liable if a faulty product causes someone's death. Common consumer products leading to fatal accidents include faulty brakes, malfunctioning peacemakers, flawed toys, glitchy heaters, and defective drugs.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Kansas Wrongful Death Accident Lawyer
Pursuing a wrongful death claim in Kansas can be a complex and emotionally taxing process. That's why choosing the right Kansas wrongful death attorney to represent you and your loved ones during this difficult time is essential. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a lawyer:
- Experience: When a loved one has been wrongfully taken from you, the last thing you want to worry about is navigating the legal system. By enlisting the help of a lawyer with a successful track record of handling wrongful death claims, you can rest assured that your case is in capable hands. They will work to fight for your rights and secure the monetary compensation that your family needs.
- Specialized Knowledge: Choose a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of fatal accident cases. A lawyer specializing in wrongful death claims will deeply understand the laws and regulations governing these cases. A lawyer with only a general knowledge of personal injury law may not have the same knowledge as a lawyer who has experience focusing on wrongful death cases.
- Resources: Pursuing a wrongful death claim in Kansas can require considerable time, money, and resources. You want to choose a lawyer with the resources and staff to handle your case, such as a network of expert witnesses, access to legal databases, and administrative staff to help them manage paperwork.
- Communication: Your wrongful death attorney should be someone you can trust to guide you through the complex legal system with transparency and clear communication. They should be proactive in keeping you updated on the progress of your case and be readily available to answer any questions you may have. By choosing a lawyer who values open communication, you can feel assured that your case is in good hands.
- Empathy: Losing a loved one to another party's negligence is a tragic event that can cause immense emotional pain and suffering. At this challenging time, it's crucial to have a lawyer on your side who can provide you with the empathy and support you need to cope with this devastating loss.
- Negotiating Skills: Insurance companies can be difficult to deal with in wrongful death cases. A lawyer with experience in these types of cases will know how to negotiate with insurance companies to get the best possible settlement for your case.
FAQs About Kansas Wrongful Death Cases
How long does it take to resolve a wrongful death case?
When resolving a wrongful death case, there is no one-size-fits-all timeline. The length of time it takes to resolve can depend on various factors, including the complexity of the case and the parties involved. Sometimes, a wrongful death personal injury claim may be resolved in months, while others may take years to settle.
What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a criminal case?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by the surviving family members of the deceased against the person or entity whose negligent or intentional actions caused the death. A wrongful death claim aims to seek compensation for the damages caused by the death, such as funeral expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
In contrast, a criminal case is brought by the state or federal government against the person or entity responsible for the wrongful death actions. The purpose of a criminal proceeding is to punish the offender for their actions and to protect society from the criminal as well as deter future criminal behavior. While a criminal trial may result in the offender being incarcerated, a successful wrongful death claim can result in the family receiving maximum compensation for their losses.
Can I file a Kansas City wrongful death claim if my loved one died with a pre-existing condition?
It depends on the specific circumstances of the case. If the pre-existing condition was unrelated to the cause of death, a wrongful death claim may still be possible. However, if the pre-existing condition contributed to the cause of death, it may be more difficult to prove that the defendant's actions were the sole cause. A wrongful death claim may be possible if the defendant's actions significantly contributed to the death. An experienced wrongful death attorney can review the case details and advise you on whether or not a claim for wrongful death action is viable.
Call Martin & Wallentine Today for Help With Your Kansas Wrongful Death Claim
At Martin & Wallentine, we know that no amount of money can bring back your loved one, but we can help ease the financial burden you face by making a claim for compensation against the responsible party and their insurance company. Our law firm has a team of experienced and empathetic lawyers specializing in wrongful death cases. Contact us now at 913-754-9700 for a consultation, and let us fight for justice on your behalf. The consultation is free, and you won’t pay us any fees until we succeed in obtaining compensation for you.
Read What Our Former Clients Have Said
"Professional, informative, and vital in working with the prosecutor to secure the most favorable outcome possible".Barb
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