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Kansas Wrongful Death Laws

The Kansas Wrongful Death Statute can be found in K.S.A. § 60-1901.  Pursuant to the Act, if the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, an action may be maintained for the damages, if the former might have maintained the action had he or she lived, in accordance with the provisions of this article, against the wrongdoer, or his or her personal representative if he or she is deceased[i].

An action for wrongful death 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 have sustained a loss regardless or whether they all join or intervene[ii].

The amount of damages for a wrongful death shall be as follows:

(a) In any wrongful death action, the court or jury may award such damages as are found to be fair and just under all the facts and circumstances, but the damages, other than pecuniary loss sustained by an heir at law, cannot exceed in the aggregate the sum of $ 250,000 and costs.

(b) If a wrongful death action is to a jury, the court shall not instruct the jury on the monetary limitation imposed by subsection (a) upon recovery of damages for non-pecuniary loss. If the jury verdict results in an award of damages for non-pecuniary loss which, after deduction of any amounts pursuant to K.S.A. 60-258a and amendments thereto, exceeds the limitation of subsection (a), the court shall enter judgment for damages of $ 250,000 for non-pecuniary loss.

(c) In any wrongful death action, the verdict shall be itemized by the trier of fact to reflect the amounts, if any, awarded for:

(1) Non-pecuniary damages;

(2) Expenses for the care of the deceased caused by the injury; and

(3) Pecuniary damages other than those itemized under subsection (c)(2).

(d) Where applicable, the amounts required to be itemized pursuant to subsections (c)(1) and (c)(3) shall be further itemized by the trier of fact to reflect those amounts awarded for injuries and losses sustained to date and those awarded for injuries and losses reasonably expected to be sustained in the future.

(e) In any wrongful death action, the trial court shall instruct the jury only on those items of damage upon which there is some evidence to base an award[iii].

Damages may be recovered for the following, but are not limited to:

(1) Mental anguish, suffering or bereavement;

(2) loss of society, companionship, comfort or protection;

(3) loss of marital care, attention, advice or counsel;

(4) loss of filial care or attention;

(5) loss of parental care, training, guidance or education; and

(6) reasonable funeral expenses for the deceased.

If no probate administration has been commenced for the estate of the deceased, expenses for the care of the deceased which resulted from the wrongful act may also be recovered by any one of the heirs who paid or became liable for them. Those expenses and any amount recovered for funeral expenses shall not be included in the limitation of K.S.A. 60-1903 and amendments thereto[iv].

The net amount recovered in any such action, after the allowance by the judge of costs and reasonable attorneys fees to the attorneys for the plaintiffs, in accordance with the services performed by each if there be more than one, shall be apportioned by the judge upon a hearing, with reasonable notice to all of the known heirs having an interest therein, such notice to be given in such manner as the judge shall direct.  The apportionment shall be in proportion to the loss sustained by each of the heirs and all heirs known to have sustained a loss shall share in such apportionment regardless of whether they joined or intervened in the action; but in the absence of fraud, no person who failed to join or intervene in the action may claim any error in such apportionment after the order shall have been entered and the funds distributed pursuant thereto[v].

[i] K.S.A. § 60-1901

[ii] K.S.A. § 60-1902

[iii] K.S.A. § 60-1903

[iv] K.S.A. § 60-1904

[v] K.S.A. § 60-1905

Inside Kansas Wrongful Death Laws