Can the Victim’s Family Sue for Vehicular Homicide in Arkansas?

If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you and your family could be entitled to compensation.  Whether or not the driver who caused the crash was charged with a crime for the death, you could be entitled to file civil lawsuits as well to help your family recover.

Generally, after someone is killed by vehicular homicide in Arkansas, their family can file two lawsuits: a survival claim and a wrongful death claim.  These lawsuits are usually filed together by the “personal representative” of the deceased, and they can help the surviving family members recover a wide range of damages.  These lawsuits might even be allowed if the death did not result in criminal charges.

For help with a wrongful death lawsuit, call our Fayetteville wrongful death lawyers today at (479) 316-0438.

Can You Sue for Vehicular Homicide in Arkansas?

Under Arkansas law, what many people call “vehicular homicide” is criminalized under Ark. Code § 5-10-105.  This covers any driving that kills someone because the driver was “intoxicated” or “fatigued.”  Deaths caused by reckless driving might be criminalized under other statutes as well.

Regardless of whether or not the conduct that caused your loved one’s death qualifies as a criminal act or not, you could still be entitled to sue the at-fault driver for your loved one’s death.  Civil lawsuits have a much lower threshold for when you can sue and only require any “negligence” that caused death or injury to allow a lawsuit.  This means that even if the driver did not commit any explicit criminal law violation, you could still be entitled to sue them.

To meet this “negligence” standard for civil lawsuits, your Arkansas personal injury lawyers will have to prove that the driver violated some legal duty that they owed your loved one.  This can typically be supplied by other traffic laws and signs (e.g., speed limits and stop signs).  Other duties involve the various reasonable safe-driving practices we are all expected to follow on the road.  If a violation of any of these duties caused your loved one’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit could be available.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Deadly Car Crash in Arkansas

A wrongful death lawsuit is authorized under Ark. Code § 16-62-102.  Under this statute, the family of a deceased victim can recover compensation for their losses related to the death.

A wrongful death case must be filed by the deceased victim’s “personal representative.”  This person is typically named in their will or assigned by the court and might be a family member, a lawyer, or another trusted person.  They will file the case, but the family will be the ones to benefit from the lawsuit.

The close family of the deceased victim can recover damages in this lawsuit for any financial harm they suffered as well as “mental anguish” for the death of their loved one.  Typically, families sue for ongoing financial harm, such as lost services and companionship of the deceased, as well as lost wages and other expenses.  They can also claim damages for their grief at the loss.

The spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the deceased can benefit from this lawsuit.  Talk to our Bella Vista wrongful death lawyers to learn more about what damages you could be entitled to and how these damages are divided.  Note that these damages are typically distributed only to married partners, meaning that long-term dating partners cannot recover damages in this particular lawsuit if they were not legally married to the deceased victim.  However, there may still be ways for them to recover damages, as discussed below.

Filing a Survival Action for a Deadly Car Crash in Arkansas

If your loved one had survived the accident, they would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit for the damages they faced.  If they did indeed pass away from their injuries, this lawsuit does not go away.  Instead, their personal representative can file this lawsuit under Ark. Code § 16-62-101.

Instead of paying for the damages that the family faces after the loss of a loved one, this lawsuit pays the victim’s estate for the damages the victim faced before death.  This means that you can claim damages for the victim’s end-of-life medical care, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.  If they were killed instantly, they might not have faced much by way of pain and suffering, but for those who lingered after a serious car accident, these damages can be very high.

Subsection (b) of the survival action statute also allows the estate to recover damages for the death itself.  These damages are separate from the other damages for medical bills, lost wages, etc.

Talk to our Fort Smith wrongful death lawyers about what damages could come under this lawsuit and how they are distributed.  Rather than being paid directly to the family members, these damages are paid into the deceased victim’s estate and distributed with the rest of their assets and belongings.  This means that you could be entitled to shares of these damages even if you are not a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, as distribution often follows the instructions in the victim’s will.  Many people will their assets to close friends, family beyond the immediate family, or long-term dating partners they are not married to.  This lawsuit could allow you to receive damages for an unmarried partner’s death that you would not receive in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Call Our Arkansas Wrongful Death Lawyers Today

For a free case review after a loved one was killed by vehicular homicide or a deadly car accident, call our Springdale wrongful death lawyers right away.  Our phone number is (479) 316-0438.