How Are Wrongful Death Proceeds Divided in Arkansas?

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The law in Arkansas limits who can receive benefits from a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the Arkansas Wrongful Death Statute, only the surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings of the deceased can receive damages for a wrongful death lawsuit. There are also rules that dictate specifically how these damages are divided. Fayetteville, AR wrongful death lawyer Ken Kieklak explains.

Who Gets Which Damages for a Loved One’s Death?

When you make a claim under workers’ compensation, an injury insurance policy, or a life insurance policy, those policies may have specific rules about who gets what damages and what portions are distributed to each person. The wrongful death statute provides only some rules for dividing damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, leaving the rest of the division of compensation up to traditional court rules for damages.

The wrongful death statute states that the spouse, the children, the parents, or the siblings are direct beneficiaries of these kinds of lawsuits. Some wrongful death laws in other states put damages from a wrongful death lawsuit into the deceased’s estate, which is divided according to the terms in the deceased’s will. Instead, Arkansas gives the damages directly to the surviving family members and, under subsection e, specifically bars the compensation from becoming part of the estate.

Under typical court rules and the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure, each party to the lawsuit is entitled only to the damages that they face. In an injury case, one victim might sue for a broken arm and medical expenses while another may sue for a head injury, medical damages, and lost wages.

The surviving family members in wrongful death cases are each similarly entitled only to the damages they personally faced. For example, while most surviving family members would face emotional trauma, lost companionship, and other damages, these damages might be diminished for a family member who was estranged or lived far away from the decedent. Additionally, a spouse or child who depends on the deceased for financial support may face more harm than a sibling or parent who is financially independent of the deceased.

Courts allow victims to each claim whichever damages they are personally entitled to and consider the entirety of the claim together. Juries and judges decide what the case is worth as a whole by taking these specific requests for damages, deciding each one’s value individually, and totaling the damages. The proceeds are then divided either by the court or by the deceased’s personal representative (the person who files the lawsuit in their name).

What Damages are Surviving Family Members Entitled to?

Some examples of damages from a wrongful death lawsuit were listed in the previous section. These damages – damages for emotional trauma, lost companionship, and lost support – are only some of the damages claimed in wrongful death lawsuits. These and other damages are quite common, but it is important to understand what they cover and which family members might be entitled to which damages.

Lost Wages

Any family member who relied upon the deceased’s income may be able to claim damages for that lost income. Financial experts can project the amount of money that the deceased would have continued to receive had they survived the accident. This money is distributed only to the individuals who relied upon the deceased’s income, which can include spouses, young children, elderly parents, disabled siblings, and others under their care. However, parents, siblings, and adult children who support themselves financially may not be entitled to a share of this income.

Lost Companionship and Related Damages

The companionship that comes from a spouse, a parent, a child, and a sibling are each vastly different. There is certainly a level of love between each of these people, but there are other related benefits to these relationships that the surviving family may be able to claim damages for:

  • A child can sue for the lost guidance and counsel from a parent
  • A spouse can sue for the lost romantic benefits from the death of a spouse
  • A family member can sue for lost advice and friendship from the death of a loved one
  • A household member can sue for the value of lost chores and housework after a loved one’s death

Some of these damages may be more important than others, and each has its own value that can be calculated.

Lost Investments

When someone dies before their time, they die without having received money that they would have from their lifetime investments. Children may be able to claim damages for the money their parent would have passed on to them had they died naturally later in life. Anyone who benefits from the deceased’s investments, such as a spouse or children, may be able to claim compensation for the un-matured value of the investments.

There are dozens of other potential damages for your wrongful death claim that you should also discuss with your lawyer.

Fayetteville Wrongful Death Lawyer Offering Free Legal Consultations

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a loved one, contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, today. Our Fayetteville personal injury lawyer handles cases involving wrongful death from car accidents, medical malpractice, and other catastrophic injury cases. To schedule your free consultation, call (479) 251-7767 today.

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