Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kansas

Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Kansas

In the state of Kansas, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is not a random privilege. Rather, it is a legal entitlement to individuals with standing. The initiation of a lawsuit requires careful consideration of the party’s legal standing. Ensuring that only those with a legitimate connection to the dispute are permitted to bring their grievances before the court. Whether it be a personal injury case or a contractual dispute, understanding who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kansas is paramount.

Kansas’s outlines plaintiff’s rights for wrongful death in K.S.A. 60-1902:

KSA 60-1902

The action may be commenced by any one of the heirs at law of the deceased who has sustained a loss by reason of the death. Any heir who does not join as a party plaintiff in the original action but who claims to have been damaged by reason of the death shall be permitted to intervene therein. The action shall be for the exclusive benefit of all of the heirs who has sustained a loss regardless or whether they all join or intervene therein, but the amounts of their respective recoveries shall be in accordance with the subsequent provisions of this article.

Kansas’ Definition of “Heir”

Although the Kansas statute seems less restrictive than Missouri’s, the use of the term “heir” shows that it is not. “Heir” refers to “one who takes by intestate succession (someone who dies without a will) under the Kansas statutes.” When a Kansas decedent leaves a surviving spouse and/or child, Kansas rules exclude parents or siblings as heirs. These rules are called intestate succession and are how an estate is divided when a person dies without a will. Somewhat unfairly, if the decedent leaves behind either a spouse or a child, parents have no rights for the wrongful death of a child. Whether the child was a minor or adult.

The intestate succession laws in Kansas do not give parents and children the same priority and rights in wrongful death actions as they would receive in Missouri. In Kansas, if parental rights are severed, neither the parent of a decedent child nor the child of a decedent parent has the standing to initiate a wrongful death action.

This is unlike the law in Missouri where a biological relationship allows a parent to bring the wrongful death action of a decedent child and vice versa.  Regardless of parental rights and custody. In Kansas, the statute is supported by the argument that the wrongful death action aims to compensate those who have been harmed by the wrongful death of a decedent. If the only relationship that exists is biological, then there cannot be any real harm.

Who Has the Right to File a Claim in Kansas?

If you die with: here’s what happens:
Children but no spouse, children inherit everything.
A spouse but no descendants, the spouse inherits everything.
Spouse and descendants, spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property and

descendants inherit 1/2 of your intestate property.

Parents but no spouse or descendants, parents inherit everything.
Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, siblings inherit everything.

 

Any of those falling in line of succession have the legal standing to bring a lawsuit. Even if there is more than one person in a given class; e.g., children.  However, the limitation on filing a wrongful death lawsuit extends to a single claim. Anyone belonging to the eligible classes is entitled to inclusion in any settlement or judgement. Even if that person did not actively participate in the lawsuit.  Absent an agreement by surviving heirs, the judge will divide the proceeds based on a host of considerations. Such as the relationship each heir enjoyed with the decedent, the support each heir was likely to receive, the age of the survivor, and other considerations.

What is a Survival Action vs Wrongful Death Claim?

Survival actions are closely linked to wrongful death cases. They focus on the period between the initial injury and the demise of the individual. In essence, survival actions allow for the continuation of a legal claim that the deceased person would have had the right to pursue if they had survived their injuries. When a person sustains an injury and survives for a certain period before succumbing to it, the legal standing to file a survival action rests solely with the estate of the deceased. This means that only the appointed representative of the decedent’s estate has the authority to initiate and pursue such a claim. It is crucial to recognize that survival actions often become intertwined with wrongful death lawsuits. Both legal avenues are pursued concurrently.

In the pursuit of a survival action, the representative essentially steps into the shoes of the deceased. They seek damages that the decedent would have been entitled to claim had they lived. These damages typically encompass a range of losses. Including but not limited to pain and suffering endured by the deceased between the injury and death, and medical expenses incurred during this period. As well as lost income and other relevant financial and non-economic losses. It is not uncommon for the representative to consolidate the survival action with the wrongful death matter within a single lawsuit. This streamlined approach enables a comprehensive presentation of the case. It allows the representative to address the full spectrum of damages suffered by the decedent. By alleging the damages the deceased could have articulated had they survived, the representative aims to secure just compensation for the estate. Including the surviving beneficiaries, by extension.

Read our blog, Survival Damages: Understanding Their Significance in Wrongful Death Litigation, for more information on survival damages.

Help From a Wrongful Death Attorney

Both wrongful death cases and the accompanying survival actions are complex legal proceedings. They demand the expertise and experience of seasoned wrongful death attorneys. These legal professionals serve as compassionate advocates, adeptly navigating the complexities of the legal system on behalf of grieving families. A skilled wrongful death attorney can provide invaluable support by thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death, building a compelling case, and negotiating with insurance companies or opposing parties. Moreover, their expertise in understanding who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kansas ensures that families can pursue compensation for their losses. By entrusting the legal aspects to a dedicated attorney, grieving families can focus on healing and remembrance, knowing that their case is in capable hands. Contact our office to speak with a wrongful death attorney today.