When someone is hurt because of another party’s carelessness or recklessness, they could file a personal injury lawsuit to seek monetary compensation for their injuries and damages. Unfortunately, many injuries are fatal. In some cases, a victim will be killed immediately and, in others, they will succumb to their injuries over time. Wrongful death lawsuits arise from many of the same instances that result in personal injury cases, such as automotive vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, construction injuries, and slip and falls.
Unexpectedly losing a loved one leaves an emotional hole. Unfortunately, a family’s grief is often coupled with a harsh economic reality if they were financially dependent on the deceased. When a loved one’s death resulted from another party’s negligence, surviving family members have options.
When a family loses a loved member, they could be facing a financial crisis in addition to their emotional suffering. A grieving family member is entitled to seek monetary compensation if another’s negligence caused an unexpected death. Our Rogers, AR wrongful death attorneys advocate for the rights of surviving family members. Call our law offices at (479) 316-0438 to schedule a free and confidential appointment.
What is Considered a Wrongful Death in Rogers, Arkansas
A wrongful death claim arises in Rogers, AR when a person is killed due to the negligent or intentional conduct of another party. Depending on the circumstances, such as a car accident, it could be relatively easy to trace the death back to the injury. However, in some cases, the connections are not as clear. This is especially the case in medical malpractice cases where, even if there are no mistakes made, a favorable outcome is never guaranteed.
While similar to personal injury cases, in a wrongful death claim, the injured party is not bringing the case to court. When someone dies, the deceased’s heirs or a personal representative of the person’s estate will file a lawsuit in court.
Wrongful death claims can arise out of criminal cases – even if the criminal case is ongoing. Additionally, a conviction is not required to succeed in a wrongful death action because the burden of proof is significantly less. However, a guilty verdict could be helpful. Nonetheless, a wrongful death claim is civil in nature. This means that the family member or estate representative is seeking financial compensation and not punishment.
Wrongful death claims arise from the same incidents and accidents that serve as grounds for personal injury cases.
Automotive Vehicle Accidents
Automotive travel is often a necessity. People drive to work, drive their children to school, run errands, and hit the road for pleasure. Motorcyclists enjoy long stretches of scenic highways while trucks transport goods across the state. Accidents are an unfortunate consequence of automotive travel. Because of the size of many vehicles and the speed at which others travel, some accidents in Rogers, AR are fatal.
Slip and Fall Accidents
There are probably more slip and fall accident personal injury cases filed than any other type of claim. In most cases, these accidents result in twisted ankles or broken bones. However, there are times when a fall could prove fatal. Head injuries could be serious and deadly. Furthermore, some people fall from significant heights, sustaining life-threatening injuries.
The outcome of any medical procedure is not guaranteed. There are circumstances out of the control of surgeons, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. However, medical malpractice occurs when an adverse outcome is the result of an unjustifiable error or an intentional act. If that outcome is fatal, the surviving family members are entitled to seek financial compensation. Medical malpractice claims are challenging because of the many variables involved. Our Rogers, AR wrongful death lawyers have the skill and resources to pursue complex medical malpractice claims.
Construction or Work-Related Accidents
Workers’ compensation is generally available for someone if they are injured in a work-related injury. If someone is killed in a workplace incident, their surviving family members are entitled to file a claim under Arkansas’ workers’ compensation survival benefits. However, there are situations where a wrongful death claim is also an option. When a third party causes a work-related injury, the surviving family members could have grounds for a wrongful death case. If you have lost someone in a work-related or construction, contact our Rogers wrongful death attorneys to discuss your options.
Not every wrongful death is an accident or caused by the carelessness of another. Unfortunately, people lose their lives due to the intentional and criminal conduct of others. If someone is killed in a crime, the defendant should be prosecuted. However, the victim’s survivors still have the right to file a wrongful death claim in civil court.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Rogers, Arkansas
Arkansas’ statute of limitations governs every criminal and civil claim. The statute of limitations sets the timeline in which a claim is filed in court. If a family member of the deceased’s estate fails to file a lawsuit in time, they could lose their right to pursue compensation.
In Rogers, AR, a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the death. It is critical to remember that this is not the date of the injury. It is also not impacted if a person failed to file a timely personal injury claim. For example, a motor vehicle accident victim could suffer a catastrophic injury and fail to file a timely personal injury lawsuit. If the injuries result in wrongful death, a claim could still be filed within the one-year time limit. Wrongful death claims are often complicated, so it is crucial to contact an experienced Rogers wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions in Rogers, AR
Two specific actions could arise from a wrongful death. A wrongful death claim is filed by eligible surviving family members and is intended to provide financial compensation for their loss and the impact of the death. In a wrongful death claim, any awards are paid directly to the surviving family member.
Survival claims are typically filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate. The estate is seeking compensation for the injuries and damages the deceased suffered between their injuries and death. These damages could include lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Unlike a wrongful death claim, and compensation awarded is paid directly into the deceased’s estate.
Who Has the Right to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Rogers?
As stated above, a survival action is brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. If there is no representative appointed, perhaps the person died without a will, then the claim could be filed by any legal heir.
An eligible surviving family member must file a wrongful death claim. Surviving relatives who may file a claim include the deceased person’s spouse, parents, children, or siblings. This extends to any person standing “in loco parentis,” or in the capacity of a parent.
The Four Elements of a Rogers, AR Wrongful Death Claim
In a wrongful death claim, our Rogers attorneys will have to prove four elements for the claim to be successful.
The required element is demonstrating that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. Duty of care is the legal obligation someone has not to harm another person. For example, a driver in Rogers, AR has a duty to safely operate their vehicle. Additionally, a surgeon is required to provide the applicable standard of medical care. Duty is often determined by the relationship between the deceased and the defendant.
Once establishing that a duty of care existed, the next step is proving that the defendant breached the duty. Proving this depends on the circumstances and facts of the case. If someone is drinking and driving, they are clearly violating their obligation to safely operate their vehicle. However, in many cases, proving a breach is more challenging – especially in medical malpractice cases where our Rogers wrongful death attorneys turn to expert medical opinions.
The next task is proving that the defendant’s conduct caused the death. The immediate cause of death is not always obvious. A victim in a truck accident could be killed because of their injuries or a mistake that occurred while they were receiving emergency room treatment. Even though the accident caused the injuries, if an intervening event occurred that caused the death, the negligent driving might not be liable in a wrongful death claim.
The final element requires showing that the surviving family members suffered quantifiable harm due to the death of their loved one. Harm could be economic, for instance, losing the primary source of income in the household. It could also be more subjective in nature, for example, a child losing the guidance of their parent’s wisdom. Every person who loses a loved one suffers. Our Rogers wrongful death attorneys are committed to helping those who suffered receive the just compensation they deserve.
Damages Available in a Rogers, Arkansas Wrongful Death Claim
The type of damages available in a wrongful death claim depends on whether it was a survivor claim or a wrongful death action.
When the estate files the claim, it is seeking compensation for the losses the deceased suffered because of their injuries and death. These are paid to the estate and include funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, pain and suffering, and any wages the deceased would have earned during their lifetime.
When an eligible family member files a wrongful death claim, they are seeking monetary compensation for their losses because of the death of their loved one. These damages include financial support, loss of household services, and the loss of companionship and guidance.
While any damages awarded under a survival action are paid to the estate, wrongful death awards are paid to the surviving family members. If an amicable agreement cannot be reached in dividing the award, the court could intercede. Another important note, under Arkansas law, damages awarded to either the family or estate are not part of the estates’ taxable assets.
Why You Should Not Delay When Filing a Rogers, AR Wrongful Death Claim
The sudden loss of a loved one is shocking. In many cases, the surviving family members are confused or unclear regarding what steps to take. They are dealing with their grief and practical matters. Even though their loved one died due to another’s negligence, the surviving family might not understand their legal rights or know how to proceed. Grief is a paralyzing emotion. Nonetheless, it is important to protect your rights. This means contacting our Rogers, Arkansas wrongful death attorneys and opening an estate.
The 30-Day Rule
Under the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney is prohibited from contacting or soliciting a wrongful death claim within 30 days of the death. Only lawyers who have family or close personal ties with the deceased’s family are permitted to even discuss a wrongful death claim during those first 30 days.
These rules were put into place to protect families from unwanted contact during their time of grief. However, these rules do not necessarily work to protect the surviving family’s legal rights. While the rules prohibit solicitation, the family is permitted to contact an attorney on their own accord.
Evidence and memory begin to fade immediately following a fatal accident or incident. Crashed cars are scrapped and witnesses disappear into their lives. Insurance companies will have investigators on the scene without delay, working to build a defense. If you want to hold a negligent party accountable, it is crucial to start gathering evidence to prove what occurred before a false narrative takes hold. For you and your family, a wrongful death is a tragic event. To an insurance company, it is just business – and its business is to limit its liability. You do not want to wait until attorneys begin contacting you to start gathering evidence. It is crucial to speak with competent counsel as soon as possible if you want to protect your family’s rights.
There is a 30-Day Preference for Heirs to Open an Estate
Under Arkansas probate law, any qualified person is eligible to open an estate after 30 days. To be qualified, a person needs to be over 21 years of age and with a felony conviction. Because of this law, after 30 days, an estranged family member or another person who does not have the best interest of the surviving family in mind could open an estate. If you are a close relative of the deceased and there was no executor named in a will, you need to act quickly.
While Arkansas had nothing but good intentions with the 30-day non-solicitation rule, it does not always benefit a grieving family. The time to start a wrongful death claim is immediately following the death, not a month or two after the death. If a family waits until a qualified attorney reaches out to them, it could be 60 or 90 days before any meaningful work is done on the case. This puts surviving family members at a marked disadvantage in a wrongful death claim.
Mistakes People in Rogers, AR When Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
As discussed above, you should consult with our experienced Rogers wrongful death lawyers as soon as possible if you believe your loved one was killed due to another’s negligence. However, while you are waiting for an appointment, or before you make that phone call, there are some common mistakes you should avoid.
Thanks to the internet, there are many resources available for people to research their case. Once they have determined they have a valid claim, they might believe they have the tools to file a lawsuit. However, wrongful death claims are very complicated. The court will expect you to understand the procedure, terminology, and meet all requirements and deadlines. There is no comprehensive online guide that will prepare you for all the hurdles and legal nuances you will face. The best decision you could make at this point is to hire an experienced Rogers wrongful death attorney.
Filing a Claim Against the Wrong Party
This error logically flows from representing yourself. While it might not seem difficult, knowing what parties to sue is not always obvious to someone without legal experience. For example, if your loved one was killed in a truck accident, you could potentially file a claim against the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, or the manufacturer of your loved one’s car if a defect contributed to their death. It is vital to include all liable parties in your claim. By hiring our Rogers, AR wrongful death lawyers, you could ensure that is the case.
Ignoring Deadlines or Other Requirements
In any legal proceeding, there are critical deadlines and requirements. For example, we discussed the statute of limitations and the 30-day preference rule. If you ignore these deadlines, your claim could be permanently jeopardized.
Do Not Accept Any Insurance Settlement Without Speaking With an Attorney
When you are grieving and feeling helpless, a settlement offer from an insurance company could appear to be a financial windfall. Even if it is not as generous as you believe it should be, the insurance adjuster is telling you it is the final offer your family will receive. These are tactics insurance companies use in hopes that you will accept a low offer. Once you accept an insurance settlement, you release that particular defendant from any further liability. Our Rogers wrongful death lawyers are available to negotiate a higher settlement or take your case to court if required.
Hiring the Wrong Attorney
When you need an attorney, all your friends will “have a guy.” You might also have a family friend or associate who practices law. However, it is important to remember that not all lawyers practice in all fields. You do not want a bankruptcy attorney handling your wrongful death claim. Make sure that you are consulting with an attorney who focuses on wrongful death lawsuits.
Rogers, AR Wrongful Death Claims and Criminal Cases
When you file a wrongful death claim or the deceased’s estate brings a survival action, the purpose is to recover financial compensation from the defendant. If successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the surviving family members or the estate. While most wrongful death claims are based on the defendant’s negligent conduct, some people are wrongfully killed through the intentional or criminal actions of another. The purpose and outcome of a civil suit is different from a criminal case where the prosecution is seeking to have the defendant sentenced.
A criminal case does not preclude a civil wrongful death claim. In many situations, a conviction provides compelling evidence in a wrongful death case. However, a conviction is not required to be successful in your civil claim. The burden of proof is significantly higher in a criminal proceeding. Finding a person guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a more challenging legal hurdle than proving that a person’s actions caused the death by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Our Rogers, AR wrongful death attorneys will have to demonstrate to the jury that it was more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct caused the death.
Call Our Experienced Rogers, AR Wrongful Death Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you lost a loved one because of another’s negligence behavior, contact our Rogers, AR wrongful death attorneys to review your legal options. Survivors have rights and, in many cases, the estate of the deceased is entitled to compensation. GDK Law provides compassionate and professional representation to grieving people and their families. Call (479) 316-0438 to discuss your case.