Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, especially when that loss results from someone else’s negligence. But does your case qualify as wrongful death?
Arkansas Code § 16-62-102 defines a wrongful death as a death caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another party. Therefore, in Arkansas, as in many other jurisdictions, pursuing justice in such cases depends on proving the other party’s fault.
This blog post will help you understand how negligence affects the outcome of wrongful death claims in Arkansas.
Defining Wrongful Death in Arkansas
As mentioned, wrongful death may be caused by negligence. This legal concept thus holds individuals, businesses, and entities responsible for actions that lead to the death of another person.
If a life is lost due to someone else’s negligence, representatives of the deceased can seek compensation. A family member or personal representative can initiate a lawsuit if the deceased would have had grounds for a personal injury claim had he survived.
Negligence in Different Scenarios
Several criminal actions can lead to wrongful death. These criminal acts range from medical malpractice to defective products and workplace incidents. Listed below are a few scenarios that can lead to wrongful death.
Did you know that car accidents are a leading cause of wrongful deaths? Negligent drivers can get distracted or disobey traffic laws, causing fatal accidents. These traffic accidents may involve other cars, motorcycles, or large trucks. Pedestrians and bicyclists are often victims of traffic accidents as well.
A fatal accident could be the result of careless actions, including:
It is unfortunate that the people responsible for treating injured or sick individuals may also cause harm. In some cases, healthcare providers may be held legally responsible for wrongful deaths.
Some instances of negligence by medical professionals include:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Medication mistakes
- Birth injuries
- Abandonment of the patient
Negligence by employers can lead to fatal accidents in the workplace. As a result, they may be found liable for wrongful death. For instance, if a construction project is approved after a safety check fails, the employer may be responsible for a resulting wrongful death case.
Other examples of negligence are failure to provide proper training or allowing employees to use defective equipment.
Another cause of sudden death can be defective products. Defective products can pose serious health risks to consumers. Sadly, products with defects can lead to fatalities.
Examples of defective products include the following:
- Faulty machinery
- Dangerous pharmaceuticals
- Defective automotive parts
- Defective power tools
- Defective cosmetics
- Unsafe children’s toys
If a defective product causes a person’s death, several parties may be held accountable. The manufacturer or distributor can be held responsible for negligence in the design, manufacture, or marketing of the product.
Premises liability is defined as the legal responsibility that property owners have for injuries or damages that occur on their property. Unsafe or hazardous conditions are often the cause of such harm.
Property owners are legally obligated to maintain safe conditions on all premises they control. Thus, ignoring hazards on a property can lead to fatal accidents for which the property owner may be held responsible.
Examples of negligence in premises liability cases include:
- Slippery floors
- Faulty infrastructure
- Defective escalators
- Neglected pool safety
- Unsecured construction sites
The specific circumstances that led to the death may only add to the complexity of the wrongful death lawsuit. So it is always best to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer about your specific case when you need advice on your legal options.
When you schedule a consultation with Minton Law’s wrongful death attorneys, we can review your case and discuss how we can best assist you with your personal injury lawsuit.
Key Elements of Wrongful Death Claims
Negligence serves as the foundation for establishing liability in personal injury lawsuits. It is the failure to exercise reasonable care which results in injury to others. Before pursuing an Arkansas wrongful death lawsuit, several key factors must be established.
To prove negligence, the plaintiff and his or her lawyer must prove the following elements.
Duty of care
The first element involves establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. The duty of care is the legal responsibility to prevent harm and protect others’ safety.
Duty of care is based on the relationship between the parties or the circumstances of the incident. For example, a doctor owes a duty of care to his patients, and a driver owes a duty of care to others on the road.
Breach of duty
Once the duty of care is established, the next step in legal action is to show that the at-fault party breached that duty. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached this duty through negligence or intentional misconduct.
This involves proving that the defendant’s actions, or inaction, deviated from what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances.
A breach of duty could be:
- Reckless driving
- Medical errors
- Manufacturing a defective product
- Ignoring a hazard on a property
Causation is another crucial element when proving negligence in a wrongful death case. The plaintiff must prove that there is a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the fatal injuries of the deceased.
Proving the cause of death can be difficult for the bereaved, which is why it is essential to hire a wrongful death attorney. Wrongful death attorneys can help you establish causation to strengthen your wrongful death lawsuit.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Finally, to pursue a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must show the family suffered actual damages because of the death. Arkansas law allows surviving family members to seek damages in wrongful death cases.
This includes both economic damages and non-economic compensatory damages. The plaintiff must prove that the victim’s death resulted in quantifiable losses.
Some damages may include:
- Medical expenses: Costs associated with the deceased person’s medical treatment before his or her death
- Loss of income and financial support: Compensation for the income the deceased would have earned had he survived
- Funeral and burial expenses: Costs incurred for the funeral and burial of the deceased
- Loss of consortium: Damages for the loss of companionship, guidance, and support the deceased provided to the surviving family
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for the emotional pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members
Arkansas Wrongful Death Statute and Laws
If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, there are a few laws to note. As an Arkansas resident, you should know about the statute of limitations and comparative fault laws.
Arkansas wrongful death statute of limitations
How does the statute of limitations affect a wrongful death lawsuit? You have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim. In general, the wrongful death statute in Arkansas is 3 years from the date of the person’s death, with only a few rare exceptions.
Taking too long to file your personal injury claim could prevent you from receiving a wrongful death settlement, even if you can prove negligence. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney, though, can help ensure compliance with the relevant laws limiting the time you have.
Arkansas comparative fault
Arkansas follows a modified comparative fault system. This means that if the deceased individual shares some responsibility for the death, the surviving family members can still recover damages.
However, the wrongful death settlement may be adjusted based on the percentage of fault assigned to the deceased. For example, if a car accident occurred because of the negligence of both drivers and the deceased was 20 percent at fault, the family may receive 80 percent of the damages awarded. However, the surviving family might be barred from seeking compensation if the deceased person shared more than 50 percent of the fault.
This comparative negligence aspect adds a layer of complexity to wrongful death cases in Arkansas. Each party’s attorney must carefully examine and provide evidence regarding their client’s respective percentages of fault. In the end, this will determine how much compensation the surviving family members should receive.
How an Attorney Can Help You Prove Negligence
Navigating wrongful death cases can be complex and emotionally distressing. It can be difficult for family members to think straight through the legal process. Seeking the help of an experienced attorney is essential for understanding the nuances of Arkansas law and building a successful claim.
Handling a wrongful death lawsuit is no easy feat, but personal injury lawyers have the necessary experience to do so. Some duties of a personal injury lawyer include proving negligence to help clients secure wrongful death settlements, as well as ensuring that all paperwork is filed within the legal time limit.
A personal injury lawyer can help you avoid losing case evidence and missing out on the compensation you deserve. A skilled attorney can also help negotiate with insurance companies and represent your family in a wrongful death suit.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
While no amount of financial compensation can replace a lost loved one, pursuing a wrongful death claim can hold those responsible accountable. You deserve to be compensated for your losses and bring some peace to your family after such a sudden and tragic loss.
At Minton Law, we are prepared to take on your wrongful death claim and fight for you and your family. Our Arkansas lawyers can advocate for you, to relieve your burden and get you your fair compensation.
You can schedule a free wrongful death case review with an experienced wrongful death attorney today by filling out our online contact form or calling (501) 794-0001.