Every lawsuit has a time limit for filing, called the “statute of limitations.” Even for something as serious and irreversible as the death of a loved one, you may only have a limited time to sue. Because of the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Arkansas, you should talk to an attorney as soon as you can. After the death of a loved one, you have other things on your mind – but starting the legal process early may be the difference between getting compensation to keep your family going and missing the opportunity. For a free consultation on your wrongful death case, contact Fayetteville wrongful death lawyer Ken Kieklak today.
Time Limit to Sue for the Death of a Loved One in Arkansas
In most cases, Arkansas has a relatively lenient statute of limitations. For most injuries, such as car accident injuries or medical malpractice injuries, the victim has up to 3 years to file their lawsuit. If the accident ends in death, the deceased’s survivors have the same 3-year limit to file their case.
This statute of limitations may not take into account the reality of losing a loved one. Our lawyers understand the effects that loss has on a family, because we have helped other families in your situation. It can take nearly a month in some cases before the funeral and other immediate effects of a loved one’s death are finished. It takes far longer for most people to return to work or return to their daily tasks or a sense of “normalcy,” especially after the loss of a spouse or a parent.
To get your case taken care of in time, you merely need to file your case within three years of the death. You do not need to completely research your case, present evidence at trial, and close your case within that time; you merely need to file the paperwork with the court. An attorney may be able to handle much of the preliminary stages of your case without you being heavily involved. You may be needed later, especially if your case goes to court, but the initial filing is something your attorney may be able to do behind the scenes while you take the time you need to adjust.
What Happens if I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
The statute of limitations is an arbitrary cutoff that lawmakers created to make things fair to both sides. If the case takes too long before going to court, witnesses’ memories may decay, evidence may be lost to time, and the damages may seem unimportant if you could go so long without them. Additionally, the defendant, the one responsible for the death, could spend years checking over their shoulder, wondering if that old case will come back to haunt them. These are the primary reasons the government sets a statute of limitations in the first place.
Because the statute of limitations says your case must be brought within three years, you may immediately lose any lawsuit filed too late. The defendant will be able to raise the statute of limitations as a full defense that blocks your case against them.
There are some situations where the statute of limitations may be extended or delayed. In cases where the plaintiff is “disabled,” they get an extension. Disabled, under Arkansas law, includes when anyone is “under twenty-one years of age or [is] insane at the time of the accrual of the cause of action.” That means that if you are a minor left without parents in an accident, or you were confined in a mental healthcare facility when your spouse or child died, you may be entitled to an extension. The extension runs until 3 years after the disability is cured. This means you have 3 years to file your case from the date you turn 21 or are declared mentally “sane.”
You may also be entitled to an extension in a very rare set of circumstances. You can only sue for wrongful death if you know that the death was indeed wrongful. In some cases, you may understand that your loved one died, but may not know the full circumstances of their death. Especially in cases of workplace injury, medical malpractice, or injury because of pharmaceutical errors or medical device malfunction, those responsible may intentionally hide the true cause of death. If your case involved “fraudulent concealment,” you may be entitled to file your case within a limited time after discovering the right to sue. Note, though, that the circumstances that lead to this extension are very rare, and in most cases require willful acts to hide the true cause of death, not mere silence.
Fayetteville Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you have lost a parent, child, or spouse in an accident, talk to an attorney about your ability to sue. Filing a lawsuit for their death may entitle you to compensation for their lost wages, the grief of their death, burial and funeral expenses, and their end-of-life medical care. For a free consultation on your case, contact Fayetteville personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak today at (479) 439-1843.