Serving clients in Fayetteville and all of NW Arkansas
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things in the world. Coping with the death of a loved one is especially difficult when their death has been caused by another person. This further complicates issues already associated with the death of a person, like planning a funeral or figuring out what to do with their estate.
If your loved one has passed away due to the negligent or intentional actions of another person, you should consider speaking with a lawyer. Sebastian County wrongful death lawyer Ken Kieklak understands the issues your family is going through and is available to aid you and your family in its time of need. For a free consultation on your case, contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today at (479) 251-7767.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A cause of action for wrongful death arises when a person dies because of the intentional or negligent conduct of another person. A wrongful death claim is typically brought by an individual who is close to the deceased person because the deceased individual cannot bring the cause of action on their own behalf.
Under Arkansas law, the only person who can file a wrongful death suit is the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate. If the deceased person has not appointed a personal representative in their will or there is no available personal representative, then the wrongful death claim can be filed by the deceased individual’s heirs at law. The category of heirs at law can include:
- Surviving spouses
- Adult or legal guardian of the deceased (in loco parentis)
- Individuals who had the deceased person as a legal guardian
A wrongful death claim in Arkansas can be filed even if a criminal law case for the same event is already underway, e.g. a murder investigation.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims?
A wrongful death claim can be thought of as a special type of personal injury claim. In most personal injury claims, the injured party must file the case for their own injuries. As mentioned above, a wrongful death claim is brought by another person on behalf of the deceased person.
Like personal injury claims, wrongful death claims also have a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations dictates the amount of time a party must file their case with a court before they are barred from doing so. The statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Arkansas is one year. The statute of limitations only applies to the amount of time you have to file your case in a court, not the amount of time in which you must adjudicate the entire case. Therefore, your wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within one year of the decedent’s death.
Arkansas has a “discovery rule” for personal injuries which states that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until you discover your injuries. This also applies to wrongful death claims, meaning it must be reasonably apparent that the decedent’s death was caused by another person’s intentional or negligent action before the clock starts ticking.
Damages Available for Wrongful Death Claims
Under Arkansas law, claims for wrongful death are divided into categories: the survival claim and the wrongful death claim.
A survival claim is a claim from the surviving family members of the decedent. The purpose of a survival claim is to recover compensation for losses the surviving family suffered because of their family member’s unexpected death. Damages that are typically recovered in a survival claim include:
- The loss of financial support from the decedent;
- The loss of care, comfort, and guidance; and
- The loss of household services.
A wrongful death claim is a claim from the estate of the decedent. A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for losses the decedent sustained leading up to their untimely death. Common damages awarded in a wrongful death claim include:
- Compensation for pain and suffering the decedent endured prior to their death;
- Medical bills accrued during the treatment of the decedent’s last illness or injury;
- Funeral and burial costs; and
- The loss of the value of the decedent’s remaining life, including wages he or she would have likely earned throughout their life.
The damages awarded to the estate and the family cannot become part of the decedent’s estate taxable assets. Additionally, damages awarded for a survival claim are paid directly to the decedent’s family members, not to the decedent’s estate. Family members are expected to decide how the damages are divided amongst themselves.
Sebastian County, Arkansas Wrongful Death Attorney Here to Fight for Your Family
If your loved one has died because of the negligent actions of another person, you should talk to an attorney about filing a wrongful death claim. Sebastian County wrongful death attorney Ken Kieklak is prepared to work with you to recover compensation for the heartache and hardship you have endured. To schedule a confidential, free consultation, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today at (479) 251-7767.