When a person dies as a result of another party's accidental or intentional action, the deceased person's family or estate could be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Mississippi, like every other state, has a set of laws that apply to wrongful death claims. In this article, we'll look at several key aspects of Mississippi's wrongful death law, including who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, what types of damages are available, and the time limits for filing this type of lawsuit in the state's civil courts.
In Mississippi, a wrongful death a wrongful death occurs when one person (or a viable fetus) dies due to the legal fault of another party, including as a result of:
Mississippi law specifies that a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in any situation where the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had he or she lived. As with personal injury lawsuits in general, the defendant's liability in a successful wrongful death case is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation ("damages"), which the court orders the defendant to pay to the decedent's survivors. This is one big difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and criminal homicide cases, where a conviction will be penalized with jail or prison time, probation, and other sanctions.
Another difference to note between criminal prosecutions for homicide and civil lawsuits for wrongful death: In a criminal case, the accused's guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a very high bar for the prosecution to clear. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant's liability need only be shown "by a preponderance of the evidence," meaning it's more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the decedent's death. It is possible, though, for a single act to result in criminal charges and a wrongful death claim: A defendant can be sued for wrongful death in civil court while facing criminal charges related to the same death.
Learn more about proving liability in a wrongful death case.
According to the state's wrongful death statute, the following people are permitted bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Mississippi:
Mississippi law states that there can be only one wrongful death lawsuit for the death, but all eligible people in the groups listed above can join in the lawsuit. (Miss. Code § 11-7-13 (2021).)
Learn more about who has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In a successful Mississippi wrongful death lawsuit, the court orders the defendant to pay "damages"—or the plaintiff's claimed losses—to the deceased person's survivors. Under Mississippi law, damages in a wrongful death case can include compensation for many different categories of losses, including:
Like many other states, Mississippi has placed limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in wrongful death cases. State law caps noneconomic damages, intended to cover intangible losses like pain, suffering, and loss of companionship, in most wrongful death cases at $1,000,000. If the death was the result of medical malpractice, however, the cap is $500,000. Note that these caps do not apply to economic damages like medical bills, lost wages, or funeral and burial expenses. (Miss. Code § 11-1-60 (2021).)
Get more details on damages that might be available in a wrongful death case.
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time, set by a law called a "statute of limitations." The statute of limitations for bringing most wrongful death lawsuits in Mississippi is three years from the date of the death. However, if the death was the result of an intentional act, such as an assault or battery, the wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the date of the death.
If you're considering a wrongful death lawsuit in Mississippi, it's a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney. Wrongful death claims can be complicated, and an experienced lawyer can explain how the state's laws apply to the circumstances of your case.