Arkansas Wrongful Death Laws
The Arkansas Wrongful Death Statute can be found at A.C.A. § 16-62-102. Pursuant to the Act, when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, the person, company or corporation responsible may be liable in an action for damages, provided that if death had not ensued, the party injured could have commenced an action for damages for such wrongful act, neglect, or default. The cause of action shall survive the death of the person wrongfully causing the death of another and can be brought, maintained or revived against the personal representatives of the defendant. According to the Act, no person shall be liable when the death of a fetus results from a legal abortion or from the fault of the pregnant woman carrying the fetus.
A wrongful death action shall be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person. If there is no personal representative, then the action shall be brought by the heirs at law of the deceased person. The action shall be commenced within three years after the death of the person alleged to have been wrongfully killed[i]. If a nonsuit is suffered, the action shall be brought within one year from the date of the nonsuit without regard to the date of the death of the person alleged to have been wrongfully killed.
The beneficiaries of the wrongful death action are:
1) The surviving spouse, children, father, mother, brothers, and sisters of the deceased person;
2) Persons, regardless of age, standing in loco parentis to the deceased; and
3) Persons, regardless of age, to whom the deceased stood in loco parentis at any time during the life of the deceased[ii].
Pursuant to the Act, it is not the responsibility of the personal representative of a deceased person to locate anyone in loco parentis who is not known to the personal representative to be in loco parentis to the deceased person.
The amount recovered shall not be subject to the debts and liabilities of the deceased or become, in any way, a part of the assets of the estate of the deceased person[iii]. Damages shall be the amount that the jury or the court may consider just and fair for pecuniary injuries, including a spouse’s loss of the services and companionship of a deceased spouse and any mental anguish resulting from the death to the surviving spouse and beneficiaries of the deceased. According to the Act, mental anguish will include grief normally associated with the loss of a loved one.
The judge of the court in which the claim for wrongful death is tried or is submitted for approval of a compromise settlement, by judgment or order and upon the evidence presented during trial or in connection with any submission for approval of a compromise settlement, shall fix the share of each beneficiary, and distribution shall be made accordingly. However, in any action for wrongful death submitted to a jury, the jury shall make the apportionment at the request of any beneficiary or party[iv].
[i] A.C.A. § 16-62-102.