personal injury lawyerThere is no question that the unexpected death of a loved one is devastating. The loss will take both an emotional and financial toll on every family. When a death is unexpectedly caused by the negligence of someone else, it may be difficult to know where to begin. Your personal injury lawyer can tell you where to start.

You may need help with your wrongful death claim

Although there is nothing that can replace your loved one, or make up for the sense of loss felt by family and friends of the victim, there may be some compensation available for the financial losses. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be the first step to obtaining that recovery. However, wrongful death can be a complicated area of the law to navigate, so knowing how to choose a wrongful death attorney can be very helpful, when that time comes.

What is involved in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death is a complex area of law that involves both the legal elements of typical personal injury claim, as well as, certain state-specific limitations and requirements. Therefore, it is critical that you select a lawyer with sufficient experience and expertise in this area of the law. It is also vital that you act quickly because all wrongful death lawsuits are subject to statutes of limitations, which is the time limit for filing your claims in court.

Common types of wrongful death cases

Wrongful death claims, that is claims that arise due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, are most often brought to court when a person is killed in an auto accident, been exposed to toxic poisoning, defective drugs or defective products. If you can find a wrongful death attorney that has substantial experience in the area of personal injury that is involved, your changes of a successful recovery will likely increase.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim in court?

The personal representative appointed to handle the estate of the deceased person is required to file the wrongful death claim in Arkansas. If no such person has been appointed, then the claim can be filed by the deceased’s legal heirs, which would typically include the “surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings; individuals standing “in loco parentis,”(in place of the parent) and individuals to whom the deceased stood in loco parentis.”
In Missouri, on the other hand, the surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren have first priority to bring a wrongful death claim. The parents of the deceased would be next in line.  Usually, when the claim involves the death of a child (minor), the parents will file the wrongful death suit.  If none of those individuals have survived the deceased, then a surviving sibling can bring the claim.

What can you recover in wrongful death cases?

In both Arkansas and Missouri, the survivors of the deceased are allowed to seek damages on behalf of the deceased, as well as compensation for their own personal losses, as a result of their loved one’s untimely death. This compensation received can help to alleviate medical bills and other expenses that may have been incurred, such as funeral expenses. This is not true in every state.  For example, in Alabama damages in wrongful death cases are purely punitive in nature.

Deadlines for filing wrongful death claims

Like all other legal claims, there is a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which differs from state to state.  This deadline or time limit is common referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In both Missouri and Arkansas, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is three (3) years.
Because wrongful death actions can be rather complicated claims to litigate, often more complex than basic personal injury cases, and typically result in a large damage award, it would be a good idea to consult with your personal injury lawyer.

What should I ask my personal injury lawyer?

There are basically two questions you should discuss with any wrongful death attorney you may be considering retaining to assist with your wrongful death lawsuit. First, what is the extent of their negotiation and litigation experience in wrongful death cases? Many cases can settle out of court, when both sides can successfully negotiate a settlement. This saves you both time and money. Second, what is their history of success in wrongful death litigation? Ask about the wrongful death cases they had that have settled, as well as those that went to trial. Your attorney should have a history of success with litigating wrongful death claims.
If you have questions regarding wrongful death claims, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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