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Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death

What is a wrongful death claim? 

As is the case with any lawsuit dealing with the death of an individual, it can be difficult to determine the appropriate claim to bring. Unlike a murder charge filed in a criminal case, a wrongful death claim is made when negligence or a wrongful act causes the death of another. A wrongful death claim is a civil suit and not a criminal matter. The legal elements required by Arkansas law for a wrongful death claim are satisfied when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the wrongful act, neglect, or default would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof if death had not ensued. In short, a wrongful death claim is one alleging that an individual’s death, although not intentional, was caused by at the fault of another party. For example, a common situation leading to a wrongful death claim is a fatal car accident caused by drunk driving or negligent driver error in general. It is also common that deaths due to medical malpractice fall in this category as well. 

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Arkansas? 

Under Arkansas law this claim can be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of the deceased individual. If there is no personal representative, the “heirs at law” can bring the wrongful death claim. Heirs at law pursuant to Arkansas statutes are the surviving spouse, children, father, mother, brothers, and sisters of the deceased person as well as any persons, regardless of age, standing in loco parentis (someone standing in the place of a parent) to the deceased person and any person to whom the deceased person stood in loco parentis to at any time during their life. 

Essentially, the heirs at law are:

  • the parents, biological, adoptive, or standing in loco parentis, 
  • the children, biological, adoptive, or as a result of the deceased standing in loco parentis to a child
  • the siblings of the deceased
  • the spouse of the deceased.

It is important to note that if the heirs at law choose to bring a wrongful death claim, it must be brought by all of the surviving heirs at law under Arkansas case law. 

It might seem callous to put a price tag on an individual’s life. However, damages are available and must be calculated when dealing with wrongful death claims. Damages can include the surviving spouse’s loss of services and companionship of the deceased, as well as any mental anguish resulting from the death. The deceased’s lost earnings can be considered in damages as well, and even funeral expenses or medical expenses can be granted to the deceased’s estate.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is inherently difficult. When dealing with the death of a loved one, the last thing on your mind is a lawsuit. However, knowing your options, which could include a wrongful death suit, can sometimes bring much needed closure and necessary financial assistance. If you or someone you know is dealing with a potential wrongful death issue, please allow the attorneys at Danielson Law Firm guide you through this difficult process.

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Fayetteville Law Office

(479) 935-8313

909 Rolling Hills Dr.
Fayetteville, AR 72703

Booneville Law Office

(479) 935-8060

4 Village Loop
Booneville, AR 72927

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