It goes without saying that the unexpected death of a loved one is extremely difficult for any family. That loss will undoubtedly take an emotional toll and, most likely, result in a financial burden as well. Deaths caused by the negligence of someone else can be more devastating. The legal claims associated with this situation are referred to as “wrongful death” claims. If your loved one dies as a result of the negligence of another, you may be wondering what your family may be entitled to in terms of compensation. Here is what you need to know.
What do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Involve?
Wrongful death is a complicated area of law involving both the legal elements of a typical personal injury claim, along with certain state-specific limitations and requirements. For that reason, it is crucial that you consult an attorney with experience and knowledge in this area of the law. It is also important 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 chances of a successful recovery will likely increase.
Are the Survivors Entitled to Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?
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” (i.e., 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 are Survivors Entitled to 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 commonly 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 these types of personal injury 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 Questions Should I Ask My Personal Injury Lawyer?
There are basically two questions you should discuss with your 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 matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (800) 364-8305.
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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