Thousands of Arkansans are injured each year as a direct result of someone else’s actions, whether negligent or intentional. When this happens, the law offers victims and their families compensation for losses caused by the incident.
What happens if the injuries are fatal? Is wrongful death a personal injury? When someone’s actions result in death, compensation may be possible by means of a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death cases fall under the general category of personal injury law but are subject to specific rules according to Arkansas wrongful death law.
Let’s take a look at some key similarities and differences between wrongful death claims and personal injury claims, as well as the difference between the civil and criminal laws that may be involved.
The Similarities Between Personal Injury Claims and Wrongful Death Claims
There are two major similarities between personal injury and wrongful death cases: the other person or entity was negligent, and there were damages caused by this negligence.
The first step of any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit involves establishing liability, or fault. A personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is not possible in every incident or accident that results in personal injury or death.
For example, Person A gets into an accident while he is turning left in an intersection. In order for Person A to recover compensation for the collision, it must be proven that Person B’s action or inaction contributed to or caused the accident.
The second step of both personal injury and wrongful death claims is to prove both the extent of the damages and that they were directly the result of the incident.
In the example above, let’s imagine that Person A suffered a back injury that required surgery. However, he had a pre-existing back condition before the accident. It would need to be proven that the injuries suffered were the direct cause of Person B’s actions.
The same principle would apply if the collision resulted in a fatality. The family of Person A would need to prove that the death was a direct result of the accident in order to recover compensation in a wrongful death claim.
The Differences Between Personal Injury Claims and Wrongful Death Claims
There are a few key differences between a wrongful death suit and a personal injury claim. These include: the severity of the injuries, the person who makes the claim, and the compensation available.
The severity of the injuries
Both personal injury and wrongful death claims involve an incident where a person was injured. However, in wrongful death cases, the incident proved fatal.
At times, the death happens immediately after the incident. However, at times, complications due to the injuries can result in death some weeks or months later.
The person who makes the claim
Another major difference is who is able to make the claim. In personal injury cases, it is almost always the injured person who would make the claim. Except in the case of minor children, family members are generally not able to file a personal injury lawsuit for another person.
However, in wrongful death cases, the victim is obviously unable to make a claim himself. State laws determine who is able to file a wrongful death case on behalf of the victim and his family. In Arkansas, this can only be done by the personal representative of the victim’s estate. If there is no personal representative, the claim can be filed by an heir.
The available compensation
Compensation in a wrongful death case falls under two categories, sometimes referred to as the “family claim” and the “estate claim.”
The family claim includes compensation for the losses of surviving family members. This compensation can include:
- Loss of financial support
- Emotional suffering
- Loss of care and companionship to a spouse
- Loss of training and education for children
In addition, the estate claim seeks to compensate for the losses of the victim. These damages are paid directly to the surviving family members.
Estate claim damages can include:
- Medical bills for treatment before death
- Pain and suffering before death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost wages and value of life
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Most types of personal injury cases could also become a wrongful death case when the injuries proved fatal.
The wrongful death lawyers at Minton Law Firm have experience with a variety of wrongful death cases in Arkansas.
Car and truck accidents
Car accidents are one of the most common types of wrongful death lawsuits. Often, they are caused by negligent driving practices such as:
Premises liability covers scenarios that could happen on public or private property. These cases can include:
- Dog or animal attacks
- Elevator and escalator accidents
To successfully establish negligence in a premises liability case, a wrongful death attorney would need to prove that the property owner or management had a responsibility to keep the premises safe, that they knew or reasonably should have known about the dangerous condition, and that they failed to correct the issue or warn the victim of the danger.
Defective product or medication
At times, a defective product or medication can result in fatal injuries. Common causes of a defective product include:
- Poor planning or design
- Defects in the manufacturing process
- Insufficient quality assurance testing
- Unclear or insufficient instructions
- Lack of warnings of potential hazards
Although medical professionals are there to help, at times medical negligence results in more harm than good. In cases of medical malpractice that results in a fatality, a wrongful death lawsuit is possible.
Cases of medical negligence that can result in a wrongful death include:
- Mistakes during surgery
- Missed or delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors
There are strict laws relating to wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits involving medical malpractice. If you believe that you may have a potential medical malpractice case on your hands, a consultation with a lawyer who is experienced with personal injury and wrongful death claims can inform you of your rights and options.
A person may be found liable for wrongful death due to negligent action or inaction. However, there are situations where a death is caused by an intentional act, such as in the case of an assault or homicide.
At times, there can be more than one liable party involved. For example, if a person is the victim of an assault at a public venue, it is clear that the person who committed the assault is primarily at fault. However, in some cases, event organizers or property management may also be found liable when there were insufficient security measures in place to prevent such attacks.
When There Are Criminal Charges Related to the Case
A wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit falls under civil law, but sometimes there can be a criminal case related to the incident. What happens when death happens as the result of a crime?
Here are some important things to remember about wrongful death lawsuits when a crime has been committed:
- Personal injury or wrongful death claims can be filed regardless of whether or not criminal charges have been laid. You do not need to wait for criminal procedures to begin to start the process of a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.
- A conviction (or lack of one) has no effect on the outcome of a civil case. Civil matters are handled separately from criminal matters even when both actions are related to the same incident.
- The burden of proof for civil cases is lower than for criminal cases. Criminal cases must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which makes conviction more difficult. Civil liability must only be proved “by a preponderance of evidence,” which is a lower burden of proof.
- The statute of limitations, or time limit for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, is shorter than for some criminal charges. It might take time to build up a solid criminal case before charges are made. However, most civil wrongful death lawsuits in Arkansas must be filed within 3 years of the death. Some cases have an even shorter time limit to file.
The Team at Minton Law Firm Can Help You After a Wrongful Death
Losing a loved one after an unexpected or traumatic death can cause immense grief. The immediate feelings of sadness, anger, and pain associated with a wrongful death can be compounded by the stress of necessary legal procedures and financial strain.
At Minton Law Firm, we understand that navigating the sometimes complex and stressful legal requirements of a wrongful death lawsuit can be overwhelming and confusing; that’s why we are here to help and support families during this difficult time.
A free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer at our firm can help answer any questions you have and provide guidance on the legal options available to you based on your specific circumstances.
Our team has experience helping Arkansans with their personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Call us at 855-Xadjuster or fill out our online form to set up your free consultation today.