Few things in life are as painful as unexpectedly losing a family member. When his or her death was preventable, it can be all the more devastating.
If your loved one died due to the negligence or wrongful act of someone else, you have the right to bring a legal case against the responsible party. Compensation in a wrongful death claim can help ease the financial burdens associated with your family’s loss.
But how long does it take to settle wrongful death claims? The time needed depends on the specific factors of the case at hand. Some claims will settle in just a few months, while others may take several years. The following will discuss the details of wrongful death claims and what is involved in settling them successfully.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Sadly, nearly 225,000 people die annually as a result of unintentional injury. A good amount of these fatalities may result in the filing of wrongful death claims.
Wrongful death claims may be filed by the deceased person’s estate representative. If there is no representative, then the heirs can file the claim against the person or entity who could be held liable for the death of their loved one. Through a wrongful death claim, surviving family members may recover monetary damages for their loss.
To file a successful wrongful death claim, you must prove that:
- A person died
- A person or entity was negligent, reckless, or intentionally caused harm
- That party’s negligent or intentional actions were the direct cause of your loved one’s death
- Surviving family members suffered damages related to the death
By establishing such facts, surviving relatives or the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death claim against the liable parties. Often, an out-of-court settlement agreement can be reached with those responsible. When this is not possible, compensation may be awarded for the untimely death in court.
Potential Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Claim
Each wrongful death claim is unique. The overall goal in each case, though, is to reach a settlement that will sufficiently provide for your family’s existing and future needs while also considering the legacy of the deceased person.
You may be able to seek justice in the form of compensation for such damages as:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills associated with the fatal accident
- Lost wages of the deceased
- Pain and suffering experienced by the accident victim prior to death
- Loss of household services the deceased provided
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of medical benefits
- Loss of the deceased’s pension or retirement benefits
- Loss of companionship, consortium, or moral support
- Grief, mental anguish, or PTSD experienced by the surviving family members
- Punitive damages
It’s essential to take plenty of time to fully assess all of your potential losses after the death of your family member. While you likely want to file your claim quickly, it is important not to rush through this process, as the full impact of your loss may not be immediately apparent.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer can assist you in assigning a monetary value to your damages. Carefully calculating your losses may add to the time it takes to settle your wrongful death claim, but doing so will ensure that you seek enough financial compensation to get your family back on their feet after the tragic death of your loved one.
Factors That May Impact the Amount of Compensation Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Claim
Apart from the damages mentioned above, additional details may impact how much compensation you are eligible to receive after your loss.
Factors that are taken into consideration when determining settlement amounts in a wrongful death claim include:
- The age of the deceased and his or her expected lifespan
- The deceased’s health prior to his or her death
- The deceased’s personal habits
- The deceased person’s earning capacity, income, education, and training
- The circumstances and age of the surviving family members
- The circumstances of the wrongful death; accidental, intentional, medical malpractice, etc.
While some of these particulars are easily established, others may require additional time to demonstrate. Your settlement amount could be significantly higher if you take time to gather all of the relevant documents and evidence to prove your case.
Wrongful death cases can be complicated and emotionally draining. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can help you sort out all the relevant details of your claim, thereby easing the legal process for you so that you can focus your time and energy on your family’s healing.
Factors That May Impact the Length of Time It Takes to Settle a Wrongful Death Claim
Some wrongful death cases are fairly straightforward, such as slip-and-fall accidents, and may be settled relatively quickly.
Other claims are more complicated, such as medical malpractice or a car accident involving multiple drivers. Such cases often involve lengthy and complex investigations, thus delaying your settlement.
Further, Arkansas is a comparative fault state. If your family member in some way contributed to the fatal incident, you may still be able to claim wrongful death damages. However, the insurance company or court involved will likely need additional time to determine the exact events that led to the accident and the degree of fault.
In most cases, shared negligence will add time to a claim, regardless of the circumstances of the accident.
Some factors that can complicate and prolong a wrongful death case are:
- When there is more than one at-fault party
- When your claim is against a corporation
- When there are multiple deceased or injured parties
- When the defendant is uncooperative
- When the insurance company acts in bad faith
An experienced attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your wrongful death case and give you an estimated time frame in which it can be resolved.
The Arkansas Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
If you believe your family member’s death was due to someone’s negligent, reckless, or intentional act, you must not lose time in initiating your claim.
Under the Arkansas wrongful death statute of limitations, you have only 3 years after the wrongful death occurred to file a claim or lawsuit in most situations. This may seem like plenty of time, but it often goes by faster than you would expect. Additionally, depending on your exact circumstances, other statutes of limitations could apply to your wrongful death case.
No matter the details, if you fail to file a wrongful death lawsuit or claim within the allotted time frame, you could forever lose your right to pursue damages for your losses. A wrongful death attorney can help you advance your claim, ensuring that no important deadlines are missed.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit or Claim
In order to file a successful wrongful death lawsuit or claim, you must be able to prove that the defendant breached a duty of care and as a direct result your loved one died.
In any wrongful death or personal injury claim, the plaintiff must be able to present persuasive evidence against the negligent party in order to win the settlement.
Convincing evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit or claim may include:
- The official police report from the fatal accident
- Eyewitness statements
- Security camera footage from the accident scene
- Accident reports, medical records, the coroner’s report, and the victim’s death certificate
- Photos of the injuries sustained by the deceased person
- The extent of vehicle or property damage
It is important to gather as much evidence as possible. In general, the more evidence you have, the stronger your wrongful death case will be, and the faster it will be resolved.
The very idea of collecting and reviewing such painful evidence of how your loved one died may be overwhelming. An empathetic wrongful death lawyer will support your family in this time of need. He or she knows how to go about gathering the evidence and reviewing it for you, thus shielding you from additional stress and trauma.
Resolving a Wrongful Death Case Through an Insurance Settlement
Often, the simplest and most efficient way to seek compensation in wrongful death cases is to file a claim with the insurance company representing the at-fault party. In amicable insurance negotiations, this can be a relatively quick process. Your claim may be resolved in as little as a few weeks to a few months.
If the defendant accepts responsibility for your loved one’s death, his or her insurance company will likely offer you a settlement agreement shortly after the claim is filed. In the immediate aftermath of your loss, when you are struggling emotionally and financially, you may be inclined to accept a quick settlement offer. Regrettably, it is rarely in your best interests to settle so soon and easily.
It is not unusual for insurance adjusters to attempt to pressure grieving families into a hasty wrongful death settlement agreement. Their goal is to close cases quickly and protect their own bottom line. The terms of a quick settlement will likely not fully compensate you for the long-term impact your relative’s death will have on your family.
Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. He or she will help you to evaluate all settlement offers and make any counteroffers as necessary. If a reasonable wrongful death settlement agreement cannot be reached in a timely manner, you can then choose to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If an acceptable out-of-court settlement agreement cannot be reached, you may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity who caused your loved one’s death.
Plaintiffs often choose to pursue a wrongful death suit in the following circumstances:
- The defendant denies causing your family member’s death
- The defendant’s insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer
- The insurance company denies your claim with no valid reason
- The extent of your damages exceeds the amount of the defendant’s insurance policy
- Settlement negotiations have stalled indefinitely
Wrongful death lawsuits are separate from any criminal charges associated with the death. Wrongful death suits are argued in civil court and decided by a judge or jury after all relative evidence has been presented.
Some wrongful death lawsuits are resolved within just a few months, while others may take years. After becoming thoroughly familiar with the case, your lawyer will be able to give you an idea of how long it will likely take to successfully recover compensation you are owed.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You
Wrongful death cases can be emotional, complicated, and time-sensitive. The last thing a grieving family needs is to face a lengthy legal claim on their own.
A well-practiced wrongful death lawyer can:
- Help you fully understand the legal process
- Investigate the circumstances of the fatal incident and the events that led up to it
- Interview eyewitnesses, as well as professional and legal experts
- Establish the liability of all at-fault parties
- Gather evidence to support your claim
- Calculate the monetary value of your damages
- Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf
- File your wrongful death lawsuit, and represent you in trial, if necessary
Preparing and filing a wrongful death claim without professional assistance is an extremely demanding experience. After all your family has gone through, you owe it to yourselves to explore your legal options and get the support and empathy you need. Hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer can bring you peace of mind so that you can confidently proceed with your claim.
Settle Your Claim as Quickly as Possible With Our Help
The untimely death of a loved one is truly heartbreaking. We recognize that you likely want to put this painful episode of your life behind you as quickly as possible. We also understand that, in your grief, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of lengthy settlement negotiations or even pursuing a lawsuit.
At Minton Law Firm, we stand ready to support your family throughout this difficult process. Wrongful death claims often settle faster when you have a seasoned lawyer on your side.
Our compassionate wrongful death attorneys have dedicated their legal careers to defending the rights of Arkansas accident and injury victims and their families. Justin Minton and his colleagues have considerable experience in successfully settling wrongful death claims.
At Minton Law, we will use our resources to keep your wrongful death lawsuit or claim well-organized and on-schedule. This will help to ensure that all unnecessary delays are avoided and that you receive your settlement in the most expedient way possible.
Whether your wrongful death case is straightforward and quickly reaches a settlement agreement, or it is complex and requires a considerable amount of time to resolve, the Minton Law team will be with you every step of the way.
Please don’t wait to get the help you deserve. Call us today at 855-Xadjuster or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We want to hear your story and empower you with options.