What qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit will vary from state to state, but generally, these legal actions allow surviving family members of those who pass away in personal injury accidents to recover damages.
Like other types of negligence accidents, wrongful death claims usually settle without going to trial. However, it is sometimes necessary to sue the liable party. This does not mean the case cannot settle. In fact, it may increase the chances of a fair financial recovery.
When does a Case Qualify as a Wrongful Death Claim?
If a victim would have qualified to pursue damages through a personal injury claim but died before taking action, the family can generally recover compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. All wrongful death actions are based on negligence, just like personal injuries.
To recover compensation in a wrongful death case, you must prove negligence and liability. This is the same standard required in personal injury cases. The only differences are that the claimant must show:
- The victim died from their injuries or complications
- The claimant qualifies to take legal action based on the state’s wrongful death laws
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The damages recoverable depend on where the accident occurred and where the claimants file the action. Most states allow you to recover damages suffered by surviving family members such as:
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of income and benefits
- Loss of services
- Non-economic losses experienced by surviving family members
However, laws can differ dramatically from state to state. In Alabama, for example, no compensable damages are available. Instead, families can only recover punitive damages. This means they must show that the liable party acted intentionally or in a particularly egregious way. The court will determine what a fair payout is in these cases.
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Each State Sets Its Own Wrongful Death Statutes
Each state has unique wrongful death laws which outline:
- Who can file
- Who can recover damages
- When you have to act
- What damages survivors can recover
If you are considering a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, you will want to work with an attorney familiar with these laws and how they affect these cases. Across the Gulf South, wrongful death laws include:
- Arkansas: Ark. Code Ann. § 16-62-102
- Alabama: Ala. Code § 6-5-410
- Louisiana: La. Civ. Code Art. 2315.2
- Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 11-7-13
Who Can Recover Compensation in a Wrongful Death Action?
Who qualifies to file a wrongful death action and who will receive the financial recovery varies by state. In some cases, these are not the same parties, either.
Some states, such as Arkansas, ask that the claim be filed by the deceased’s personal representative on behalf of the family. This is generally the estate administrator or the executor of the will. The courts might need to assign this duty if no estate plan was in place.
The personal representative is often a close family member who will also benefit from the legal action proceeds. However, this is not always true. The beneficiaries of a wrongful death action are generally immediate family members. This includes:
- A surviving spouse and any children
- The surviving spouse or any children, if only one or the other
- Any surviving parents of the deceased
- Brothers or sisters of the deceased
- Other parents standing “in loco parentis” to the deceased, often grandparents
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How Long do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Every state has a deadline for filing a lawsuit based on wrongful death. Across the Gulf South states, these are the same as suing in a personal injury case. However, there is one important caveat. The clock begins ticking the day the victim passes away. From this date, your deadline may be:
- Two years in Alabama under Ala. Code § 6-2-38
- Three years in Arkansas per Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105
- One year in Louisiana per La. Civ. Code Art. 3492
- Three years in Mississippi under Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49
There are exceptions to these rules. For example, if your loved one passed away because of an intentional act in Mississippi, you likely only have up to one year to sue the liable parties. Therefore, discussing your case timelines with an attorney is a crucial step in protecting your right to sue.
If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, you may want to consider working with an attorney who knows how these laws work in your state. Most provide free case reviews and handle these cases based on contingency. So you can learn more about your potential claim today at no cost.
Learn More About Your Right to Compensation By Contacting a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
You can speak with a lawyer from the Morris Bart law firm about your rights and legal options today. The areas we serve include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We are a contingency fee law firm and provide complimentary consultations.
Call (800) 537-8185 today to learn more.
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