A loved one’s wrongful death can leave survivors facing unexpected emotional and financial losses. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can help eligible survivors secure the compensation they need to cope with certain expenses and other damages.
Pursuing a wrongful death claim in Arkansas can be complicated, however, because only the representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death case.
If a loved one died due to another’s negligence, the Little Rock wrongful death attorneys at the Minton Law Firm are here to help.
Our compassionate, experienced lawyers can take the lead on your case and guide you through the process so you and your family can focus on grieving and moving forward with your lives.
Arkansas Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit that is intended to compensate family members and other surviving loved ones of an individual whose death was caused by another’s negligence.
Each state has its own wrongful death laws that define who can file wrongful death claims and the types of damages that may be recovered. It’s important to note that wrongful death lawsuits are not criminal cases, and they do not require proof of intent or guilt by the defendant or defendants.
In Arkansas, a wrongful death lawsuit must establish the following points:
- A human being was killed
- The death was the direct result of another’s negligence
- Survivors suffered financial harm as a result of the death
- A representative has been appointed to handle the decedent’s estate
Arkansas law allows for two types of wrongful death cases: wrongful death claims and survival claims. The namesake “wrongful death” claim is meant to compensate surviving family members for their financial losses and related emotional damages.
The so-called “survival claim” is designed to compensate the decedent’s estate for losses suffered by the deceased (such as relevant medical expenses) before his or her death; compensation from survival claims is paid to the victim’s estate.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, a “personal representative” of the deceased’s estate is the only person who can file a wrongful death case. This personal representative may file a claim on behalf of surviving family members, including spouses, children and parents.
If the decedent did not appoint a personal representative to his or her estate, the court may appoint someone as a personal representative for the purpose of pursuing a wrongful death claim.
If there is no personal representative, or if the decedent is a child who had no estate, a wrongful death claim may be filed by an “heir at law.” Eligible heirs may include:
- The decedent’s spouse, children, parents or siblings
- Individuals standing “in loco parentis,” or in the place of a parent
- Individuals whom the decedent cared for in loco parentis
If you are unsure about the status of a loved one’s estate or have questions about the appointment of a personal representative, it’s a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer. An attorney can help you and your family ensure that the estate is in order and that a wrongful death claim and all corresponding documentation are properly filed.
Damages in Arkansas Wrongful Death Cases
As mentioned above, Arkansas has two types of wrongful death cases: wrongful death and survival claims. The damages—or compensation—that may be awarded in these cases are likewise separated into two categories: family claims and estate claims.
Family claims are meant to compensate surviving family members for financial and emotional losses suffered as the result of a loved one’s death. Damages in family claims may include compensation for:
- Loss of earned income or financial support
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of consortium (care, comfort, etc.)
- Loss of household services
- Emotional trauma
Estate claims are intended to pay the estate for financial losses sustained due to the decedent’s wrongful death. These damages may include money for:
- Medical costs incurred prior to the decedent’s death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages
- The decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death
Each party to an Arkansas wrongful death lawsuit is entitled only to the damages he or she faces. For example, most surviving family members may face emotional trauma after a loved one’s wrongful death, but damages for loss of income and/or benefits may be limited to a spouse or partner and any children.
Statute of Limitations in Arkansas Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases must be filed within a certain time period known as a statute of limitations. In Arkansas, wrongful death claims have to be filed within one year of the date of the decedent’s death, presuming it’s clear at the time of death that the victim’s fatality was the result of another’s carelessness.
The court may extend the statute of limitations in certain circumstances.
For example, if a wrongful death leaves a child without a parent, the child—depending on his or her age—may have additional time to seek damages through a wrongful death claim.
That said, if a wrongful death case is not filed in a timely fashion, surviving family members can lose out on much-needed financial security. It’s in your best interest to talk with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Contact an Arkansas Wrongful Death Lawyer
The Little Rock attorneys at the Minton Law Firm understand the emotional and financial challenges faced by survivors of wrongful death victims.
Our lawyers are here to support you in this difficult time and recover the financial peace of mind you need to restore your life. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to help you understand your options, and we don’t charge for our services unless we recover compensation on your behalf.