Are you dealing with the unexpected loss of a loved one? Such a death can be especially difficult to handle if it was caused by someone else’s negligence. Fortunately, all states recognize the right to file wrongful death lawsuits. These are civil lawsuits that allow certain survivors to pursue compensation from the negligent party who caused their loved one’s death. An experienced lawyer at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can talk to you about your loved one’s case and explain the legal rights that you may have.
A wrongful death claim is a civil case and not a criminal matter. If the defendant is found to be liable, they will not be sent to prison. Instead, they will have to pay monetary damages to the plaintiff. These types of cases can be filed when a person’s death is caused by the negligent actions of another person, a company, or a governmental entity.
Many different types of negligent acts can form the basis of a claim. For example, wrongful death claims are often filed after fatal car accidents, motorcycle accidents, sporting accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and others. When the defendants do not agree to settle the claims, a lawsuit may be filed against the at-fault parties. In many cases, insurance companies are involved. They will represent the defendants in the lawsuits and will ultimately be responsible for paying awarded damages.
To qualify for a civil tort claim, the victim’s death must have resulted from the negligent or wrongful actions of another person or entity. Many of these types of claims are filed after accidents. However, not all accidental deaths qualify for civil lawsuits. The death must have been caused by the wrongful, reckless, or careless actions of someone else.
Each state has its own rules about who can file a lawsuit following the death of a loved one. While some states specify these parties by their relationships to the deceased victims, other states only allow the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file a claim.
In Arkansas, under Ark. Code § 16-62-102, only the personal representative of the estate is allowed to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant who caused the deceased person’s death. Similarly, under 12 OK Stat. § 12-1053, Oklahoma limits the ability to file a wrongful death claim to the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
In many cases, the personal representative will be the deceased person’s spouse or an adult child. In others, the personal representative might be someone who is appointed by the court or who is named in the deceased person’s will. Once the personal representative files a lawsuit, any damages that are recovered will go to the estate to be distributed to the person’s heirs. The personal representative of an estate has a fiduciary duty to pursue a claim if it is legally merited for the benefit of the deceased person’s heirs.
It’s often difficult to determine whether a loved one’s death qualifies for a claim.