Losing a family member to someone else’s negligence is a difficult blow that can be both financially and emotionally devastating. While a wrongful death claim cannot right the wrong your family has suffered or bring your loved one back to you, it may afford you the compensation you need to recover as fully as possible.
If you find yourself in this difficult position, seek the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Arkansas wrongful death attorney at Denton & Zachary today.
Wrongful Death Claims in Arkansas
Some states specifically require that the compensation awarded in wrongful death claims flow to the estate of the person who lost their life (the decedent). From here, the compensation is distributed according to that decedent’s will (or according to the state’s laws of intestacy if the decedent has no will).
Arkansas, however, does things a bit differently and bars the compensation generated by wrongful death claims from becoming part of the decedent’s estate. Instead, it flows directly to family members (in accordance with the specific losses each one experiences).
Wrongful Death Settlement Distribution in Arkansas
In Arkansas, any of the following survivors can initiate the filing of a wrongful death claim in response to a family member who lost their life due to someone else’s negligence, wrongful act, or lack of care:
- A personal representative of the decedent’s estate
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s surviving children
- The decedent’s surviving parents
- The decedent’s surviving siblings
Although the compensation in wrongful death claims is distributed to the surviving family members in accordance with the law, the claim itself must be filed by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. If there is no such personal representative — called an executor in many states — one of the decedent’s heirs at law (as listed above) can file instead.
How Wrongful Death Settlements Are Paid Out in Arkansas
Arkansas awards wrongful death compensation — or legal damages — on behalf of the estate specifically (the estate claim) and on behalf of the decedent’s survivors specifically (the family claim). The losses that survivors can seek compensation for include:
- The loss of financial support
- The loss of companionship, care, and services the decedent’s spouse would have continued to receive
- The loss of training, education, and guidance the decedent’s children would have continued to receive
- The emotional pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members in relation to the loss
Those losses awarded in the estate claim, on the other hand, are meant to address the following:
- The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses
- The medical costs associated with the decedent’s injuries that ultimately proved fatal
- The pain and suffering the decedent endured as a result of the fatal accident in question
- The lost financial value of the decedent’s remaining life, including lost wages
Regardless of whether the compensation is awarded in response to the family claim or to the estate claim, the amount goes directly to the surviving family members (in relation to the degree of loss experienced by each).
Although the losses experienced in an Arkansas wrongful death claim are divided into two primary categories, the answer to who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit is always the surviving family members (in accordance with the law).
How to Divide a Wrongful Death Settlement
While some states proceed to divide wrongful death settlements between the surviving family members evenly, Arkansas does not take this approach. In Arkansas, each family member is entitled only to compensation for the losses they actually experienced.
For example, a child who is financially dependent upon the decedent may be entitled to more compensation than a child who has achieved financial independence. In addition to financial dependence, factors that can play a role in how the compensation is distributed among family members include:
- Physical distance: A loved one who lives close by and spent more time with the decedent might be entitled to more compensation than one who lives across the country and rarely visited
- Emotional closeness: Similarly, a relative who had a very close relationship with the decedent will likely have more claim to compensation than one who was estranged from them.
In other words, it is difficult to know how any given wrongful death claim will be resolved, and having careful legal guidance on your side is the best way to help ensure that your rights as a survivor are well protected.
Considering Lost Companionship
While any party to the wrongful death claim who relied upon the decedent for financial support can seek compensation for that loss, lost companionship refers to the specific companionship enjoyed between the survivor and the decedent. Our relationships with one another, after all, vary considerably depending upon the kind of connection that is shared. Some of these losses are more significant than others and are compensated accordingly.
Consider the following:
- A child can seek compensation for the closeness, guidance, and care lost as a result of their parent’s death.
- The decedent’s spouse can seek compensation for the lost romantic love experienced.
- A family member of the decedent can seek compensation for the lost friendship and advice experienced.
- A member of the decedent’s household can seek compensation for the help around the house that the decedent would have provided had they lived.
Discuss Your Wrongful Death Claim With Denton & Zachary
Losing a loved one to someone else’s lack of concern is a tragic loss that can make moving forward feel insurmountable. The compassionate Arkansas wrongful death attorneys at Denton & Zachary – proudly serving Little Rock, Conway, and Cordova – recognize the gravity of your case and have the impressive experience and legal insight to skillfully advocate for the compensation to which you are entitled, and that you need to heal.
For more information about how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 501-521-1353 today.