No matter how it occurs, the death of someone you know can be heartbreaking. Our hearts at Minton Law Firm go out to anyone experiencing such a loss.
We offer our support by providing helpful information for grieving family members. One question that often arises concerns accidental versus wrongful death is: How do they differ?
Understanding the difference is more important than you might expect. Because, in short, the surviving family members do not have a claim to wrongful death damages in the case of accidental death unrelated to any negligence.
Defining Accidental Death in Arkansas
You can commonly find the phrase “accidental death” on an insurance policy. What does this term mean?
Suppose there was a fatal head-on collision. If a distracted motorist caused the accident, the estate executor, or the lawful heirs of the deceased, could file a wrongful death claim against the responsible motorist, based on that person’s negligence.
Let’s look at another example. A person dies as a result of an unpredictable natural disaster. There were no liable parties involved. Thus, there is no basis for a wrongful death claim in such a scenario.
Determining for yourself whether there is an at-fault party involved can be difficult without legal training. For instance, what if the building where your loved one took shelter during the natural disaster wasn’t up to code? What if the city government failed to issue a warning?
The abovementioned factors could mean someone has a legal obligation to your loved one. If that is the case, then you could have the basis for a wrongful death claim. But how can you know for sure?
Consulting a wrongful death attorney is a wise step to take after any fatal accident, especially if you were financially dependent on the deceased.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
As one of the decedent’s surviving family members, you could arrange to seek compensation for your loss. A personal injury lawyer can tell you whether your situation fits the criteria for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death claims involve fatalities caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional acts of malice. Let’s consider two common types of wrongful death lawsuits: medical malpractice and traffic accidents.
Healthcare workers must deliver care that meets professional standards. Medical malpractice occurs either when someone fails to act when a reasonably competent peer with similar training would have, or when care is provided but fails to meet reasonable standards.
You can file a wrongful death claim if any professional, such as those listed below, commits medical malpractice:
Our law firm can help you with a wide range of medical malpractice cases, including:
- Delayed diagnosis:
- Incorrect treatment
- Prescription errors
- Botched surgeries
- Birth injuries
- Failure to obtain informed consent
Medical errors are the third-leading cause of accidental and wrongful deaths in the United States, accounting for an estimated 251,000 deaths yearly. Yet, under 10 percent sadly go unreported. You don’t have to suffer in silence if you suspect malpractice played into your loved one’s death.
Motor vehicle collisions
Did you know that traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States? One common factor among these collisions is negligence, which could qualify surviving estate executors to file wrongful death claims, which enable family members to seek economic and non-economic damages from the liable party.
Did the decedent’s death result from a reckless motorist’s actions? A wrongful death attorney can help you take legal action for preventable wrongful deaths involving negligent driving practices such as:
- Aggressive driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while fatigued
- Carrying unsecured cargo
A negligent driver could also face criminal charges and fines based on applicable traffic laws. Even if he wins the criminal trial and walks away cleared of all charges, though, it’s still possible to have a successful wrongful death case.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to address the emotional and financial blows of accidental deaths and wrongful actions.
Wrongful death case criteria
Arkansas wrongful death lawsuits must meet the following three criteria:
- At least one person died
- The death was due to negligence or intentional harm
- Surviving family members (or estate representatives) suffered the loss of financial support or other monetary loss as a result
Damages you could seek
Generally, the defendant is responsible for the personal injury damages. In many wrongful death cases, his or her motor vehicle or homeowner’s insurance covers the costs.
In addition to economic losses related to the personal injury, you can also recover damages for:
- Grief and sorrow
- Loss of current and future financial support
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement experienced by your loved one
If the incident happened on the job, workers’ compensation offers specific benefits, namely:
- Reimbursement for all reasonable medical expenses incurred before death (e.g. doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, prescription drugs, medical supplies)
- Lost wages starting after a 7-day waiting period
- Weekly payments to dependents of deceased workers
- Funeral expenses
The decedent’s surviving spouse can apply for these benefits. Other potential beneficiaries could include children, dependent minors, or relatives entitled to the deceased property.
How much time do you have to file
Arkansas imposes a statute of limitations on wrongful death cases. This deadline means you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit for your loved one after 3 years have passed.
A few exceptions exist, so taking advantage of Minton Law Firm’s free case review could be worth it. You may have more or less time on hand than you think. Make an appointment to learn what needs to be done before it’s too late.
Learn How Our Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Both filing a wrongful death claim and investigating a supposed accidental death case are complex tasks that require expertise. So why not hand off the hard legal work to an experienced attorney? When you are grieving, stress is the last thing you need, but you need help.
You can regain peace of mind by seeking legal assistance. When Minton Law Firm takes on your case, our experienced legal team can take the burden off your shoulders. We can handle all the tedious legal details so you can focus on rebuilding your life.
Schedule your free consultation by calling the Minton Law Firm at 501-794-0001 or contacting us online. You are welcome to a free case review no matter where you live in Arkansas, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today about your legal claim.