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.
No amount of money will bring a loved one back. However, when you unexpectedly lose a family member due to another’s negligence, you are entitled to seek compensation. Depending on your situation, you could have lost one source of household income or your most trusted confidant. Surviving family members deserve to be compensated for their suffering.
If your loved one has passed away due to the negligent or intentional actions of another person, you should consider speaking with a lawyer. Our Sebastian County wrongful death lawyers understand the issues your family is going through and are available to aid you and your family in their time of need. For a free consultation on your case, contact GKD Law today at (479) 316-0438.
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 Are The Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Sebastian County, AR
While wrongful death cases are separate entities, they arise from the same incidents and accidents that serve as grounds for personal injury claims. Our Sebastian County attorneys have the expertise and resources to handle all types of cases.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
People throughout Sebastian County are injured in accidents involving cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and buses. Others are hurt when a vehicle strikes their bicycle or when a car hits a pedestrian. Unfortunately, some injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents are fatal, especially when large commercial trucks or motorcycles are involved.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Nearly everyone is familiar with slip and fall accidents. Losing your balance because of uneven pavement, broken stairs, or a spill on the floor often results in a bruise or two. More serious falls could fracture bones or result in a head injury. Some traumatic head injuries could cause death. Some falls are from significant heights that result in fatal injuries.
Workplace and Construction Accidents
Many jobs are dangerous and some injureries suffered on the job are fatal. The surviving family will usually pursue benefits under Arkansas’ workers’ compensation laws. However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, grounds could exist to file a wrongful death claim. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident while driving from one workspace to another, the driver could be held liable for your damages. If you lost a loved one due to a work-related injury, contact our Sebastian County, AR wrongful death attorneys so you understand your available options.
We expect our doctors and other healthcare professionals to treat our medical conditions and symptoms with care and professionalism. While no medical outcome is guaranteed, there are times when someone suffers complications or life-threatening situations because of an unjustifiable error or deliberate decision. For example, a misdiagnosis could result in a treatable condition becoming terminal or a surgical error could turn a routine procedure fatal. Wrongful death claims arising from medical malpractice are complicated and challenging, requiring a law firm with the resources and expertise to rise to the occasion.
We rely on many products and tools to make our lives easier. However, sometimes the products we depend on are defective and cause unforeseen injuries. In some cases, these injuries could be fatal. For example, a driver could be killed if their airbag deploys while they are traveling along a highway. When a product or part has a design flaw, a party in the chain of distribution, including the designer or manufacturer, could be held liable for any injuries or deaths. Products liability cases arise from a number of problems, including design flaws, manufacturing errors, or insufficient warning labels or instructions. Unlike other wrongful death claims based on negligence, a product liability claim might be based on the legal theory of strict liability.
Some deaths in Sebastian are due to criminal conduct or intentional behavior. Surviving family members are still entitled to hold a defendant civilly liable even if the defendant is facing criminal charges. Because the burden of proof in a criminal case is significantly higher than in a wrongful death claim, you could still prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit if the defendant is not convicted.
The above list of the type of cases our Sebastian County wrongful death lawyers handle is not exhaustive – unfortunately, people are killed in other ways. No matter how an accident occurred, our firm has the staff and resources your family requires to seek justice and restitution.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Sebastian County?
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.
What Are Some Elements of a Sebastian County, AR Wrongful Death Claim
In legal terms, an element is a part of a claim that must be proven for that party to prevail. In a wrongful death lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish four elements.
The Defendant Owed the Deceased a Duty of Care
Duty of care is the legal obligation one party has not to cause harm to another. For example, if you drive in Sebastian County, you have a duty to drive safely and not injure other motorists or pedestrians. The relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff is critical in proving that a duty of care existed.
The Defendant Violated Their Duty of Care
The defendant’s conduct must have deviated from their duty of care. Once again, what is required to prove this element will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death. In most cases, our Sebastian County wrongful death attorneys will have to show that defendant’s behavior differed from what a reasonable person would have done given the same circumstances. For example, someone driving at 110 mph is not operating their vehicle safely.
The Defendant’s Violation of Duty caused the Death
A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused their loved one’s death. In some cases, this might not appear difficult. Proving causation if a truck ignored a red light and struck a car stopped at a red light, killing its driver, might not be difficult. However, if a person survives the initial accident and dies while receiving emergency care or in surgery, then there could be intervening events that caused the death. By using medical records and expert testimony, our Sebastian County wrongful death attorneys will work to link your loved one’s death to the defendant’s conduct.
The Surviving Family Members Suffered Damages
The final element that a plaintiff must establish is damages. Damages are a financial representation of the harm and loss the surviving family members suffered. If a family loses the breadwinner, then the loss of income is an economic damage that they could recover. Damages also include medical bills and funereal and burial costs. Your losses are not limited to monetary losses. Surviving family members could also seek compensation for non-economic damages, including the loss of companionship, guidance, and advice.
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. Our Sebastian County wrongful death attorneys are prepared to work with you to recover compensation for the heartache and hardship you have endured. To schedule a confidential, free consultation, call our law offices today at (479) 316-0438.