The pain of unexpectedly losing a loved one in death, perhaps a beloved spouse or parent, can leave families searching for answers. If they relied on their deceased family member for financial support, one burning question may be, “How are we going to make ends meet?”
Thankfully, wrongful death claims enable surviving family members to pursue financial support through damages and compensation.
In this article, we will explore the compensation family members may be entitled to receive in wrongful death cases. We will examine the difference between damages and compensation as well as the steps a wrongful death attorney can take to pursue justice on your behalf.
Damages and Compensation: Understanding the Differences
While we may often use the words “damages” and “compensation” interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between these two legal terms.
Damages specifically refer to monetary awards for losses suffered. Nevertheless, not all damages are compensatory.
Compensatory damages seek to restore what a person has lost. These damages cover financial losses. They may also include non-economic compensation for lost companionship, lost guidance, and emotional distress.
On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish the party responsible for causing your loved one’s death.
Under Arkansas state law, punitive damages are only awarded in the following situations:
- As part of civil trials, not as part of negotiated financial settlements
- The plaintiff should have realized that his or her actions were likely to cause harm and yet continued regardless
- The plaintiff intentionally caused injury or damage
Many Arkansas wrongful death cases do not go to trial. Instead, the surviving family members, usually through a wrongful death attorney, choose to negotiate a settlement with the plaintiff out of court. In this case, the financial settlement the family members receive may be more accurately referred to as compensation, which seeks to redress the injustice done.
During out-of-court negotiations, both sides will consider your family’s economic and non-economic losses. A tenacious wrongful death attorney will fight just as hard at the negotiating table for fair compensation as he or she would in the courtroom to win damages.
Out-of-court negotiations can be a faster and less stressful way to secure a fair settlement and provide the financial support families need. An experienced Arkansas wrongful death lawyer can talk you through the legal process and advise you on the best course for your situation.
Family Claims and Estate Claims in Arkansas Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In most Arkansas wrongful death cases, the personal representative of the deceased has the right to pursue compensation on behalf of both the deceased person’s estate and the surviving family members. These cover different losses and allow the family to seek compensation for the full impact of their loved one’s death.
An estate claim seeks compensation for the financial losses the deceased person incurred before his or her death or immediately after.
This may include compensation for:
- Lost wages or business opportunities
- Medical bills from the deceased person’s last illness
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Any pain and suffering endured by the victim prior to death
Under the Arkansas wrongful death statute, although such damages are considered part of the estate claim, they are not paid to the decedent’s estate. All wrongful death damages in Arkansas are awarded to the deceased’s family members.
A family claim seeks compensation for the losses each family member has incurred due to their loved one’s death.
Under the Arkansas wrongful death statute, family members who can benefit from wrongful death settlements include:
- Immediate family members, including the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and children
- Anyone person standing in-loco-parentis to the decedent
- Anyone who has ever stood in loco parentis to the decedent
The family claim may seek damages or compensation for the following economic and non-economic losses:
- Loss of financial support
- Emotional suffering, including grief, due to the loss of a loved one
- Loss of companionship, support, and services
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of guidance, training, and education the decedent would have provided his or her children
If your wrongful death case goes to trial, your attorney will fight your case tenaciously to give you the best chance of achieving fair damages from the judge or jury. And even if your case is settled at the negotiating table, your attorney will apply the same level of diligence in pursuing compensation that will provide you with ongoing financial support.
Additional Factors That Affect Wrongful Death Compensation
When calculating wrongful death settlements, these factors may also be taken into consideration:
- Age of the deceased: This will impact the projected earnings and returns on the deceased’s investments. The surviving family members of younger people – who died with more years of earnings ahead of them – may receive higher payouts.
- Life expectancy: The health and age of the individual will be taken into consideration when making this calculation
- Age of dependents: If the decedent had young children who would be financially dependent for many years to come, the wrongful death settlement may be greater
These are just three of many considerations a wrongful death attorney can talk you through during a case evaluation.
How Wrongful Death Settlements Are Divided in Arkansas
In some states, wrongful death settlements become part of the deceased person’s estate. Then, they are distributed according to the terms of his or her will. However, in Arkansas, the decedent’s estate does not receive the settlement. Instead, it is divided among the surviving family members.
When the court awards damages, the judge or jury will decide how much each family member receives. Their decision will be based on how much the person’s death affected them.
For example, an estranged child or parent who was financially independent may receive a relatively low settlement. By contrast, a surviving spouse or child who relied on the deceased for financial support may be awarded a larger portion of the settlement.
In cases resolved out of court, the deceased person’s representative who filed the wrongful death claim is usually responsible for dividing the settlement. The advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney can prove invaluable in this delicate situation.
Statute of Limitations and Damages Caps in Arkansas
In Arkansas, the personal representative of the deceased must file a wrongful death lawsuit within 3 years of the person’s death. However, the good news is that Arkansas does not impose a cap on the damages family members can pursue in wrongful death cases.
Since there is no cap on recoverable damages, your attorney can calculate the full impact of your losses. Your legal team can fight with all their available resources to secure the best possible result on your behalf.
Let Minton Law Firm Wrongful Death Lawyers Fight for Your Rights
Wrongful death settlements can be confusing, but they can make the difference between struggling financially and facing the future with greater certainty. To fully understand what your family may be entitled to, talk to a Minton Law Firm Arkansas wrongful death attorney.
Our wrongful death lawyers understand the pain and anguish you are going through. Our team members will patiently listen as you tell your story. If we take on your case, you can be sure we will leave no stone unturned in seeking compensation to help you rebuild your life.
Book a free consultation by calling us 24/7 at 855-Xadjuster or completing our online contact form. We proudly serve the following areas: Little Rock – Pulaski County – Arkansas, Benton – Saline County – Arkansas, and Conway – Faulkner County – Arkansas.