Like all other states, Arizona has laws allowing certain individuals to seek compensation for wrongful deaths through the civil court system. Wrongful death is a form of personal injury lawsuit in which the victim of the accident passes away, either through a motor vehicle accident or another type of accident. Designated family members then can seek damages from those persons or entities responsible for the wrongful death with the assistance of a Buckeye car accident attorney.
Wrongful death suits can be complex and require you to establish various elements to qualify for relief. However, an experienced wrongful death attorney from Garrison Law Firm can guide you and your family through the legal process of recovering compensation for the loss of your loved one. Contact us today by calling 623-887-5689 or reach out to us online to learn more about your options following a wrongful death.
Elements of an Arizona Wrongful Death Claim
A.R.S. Sec. 12-611 outlines the circumstances under which an individual can pursue a wrongful death claim. For example, if the deceased victim would have been eligible to pursue a personal injury suit had they survived their injuries, selected individuals can pursue a wrongful death suit on behalf of the victim.
To hold another individual or entity responsible in a wrongful death claim, you must be able to provide evidence that the party either unintentionally or intentionally engaged in some conduct that caused the death. In the case of unintentional behavior, you must prove that the party acted with negligence or with careless disregard for the safety of others. In other words, you must show that the other party:
- Owed some legal duty of care to the accident victim;
- Breached that duty of care;
- Exhibited negligence that directly led to the death of the victim; and
- Resulted in damages.
Wrongful Death Claims Arising from Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common fatal accidents leading to wrongful death claims. For example, a distracted or impaired driver may cause a fatal accident that leads to a wrongful death lawsuit. Likewise, a motor vehicle or vehicle part malfunctioning somehow could lead to a wrongful death claim in terms of a product liability suit.
As in any wrongful death case, if you want to hold a driver liable for causing a fatal car accident, you must prove that the driver is negligent. A Buckeye personal injury attorney can help you collect and provide sufficient evidence of all necessary elements of a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident.
All drivers have a legal duty of care to keep others safe on roadways by obeying traffic laws. If a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, distracted by a cell phone, or engaged in excessive speeding or reckless driving, they breach the duty of care owed to others. If their negligence, or breach of the duty of care, causes another’s death, they are liable for the resulting damages.
Individuals Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
A.R.S. Sec. 12-612 limits the individuals who can file a wrongful death claim. These individuals must have a specific relationship with the deceased and include the following:
- A surviving spouse
- A surviving child
- A surviving parent or guardian
- A personal representative of a deceased spouse, child, parent, or guardian
- A personal representative of the estate of the deceased
Arizona wrongful death laws do not permit other individuals to file wrongful death claims, even if they are siblings or long-time unmarried companions of the deceased. Additionally, personal representatives of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death claim only when no other eligible surviving relative is willing and able to do so.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
A.R.S. Sec. 12-613 permits surviving parties to recover damages due to their loved one’s death through the wrongful death claim process. Damages in a wrongful death case constitute monetary compensation for the surviving family members due to their loss.
Some damages are economic, meaning they are tied to a tangible monetary loss. A common example of economic damages is a medical bill for emergency treatment that the victim incurred before his death. Other damages are noneconomic, which are more difficult to calculate. These damages, such as pain and suffering from losing a loved one, are nontangible. Generally, personal representatives filing a wrongful death claim may seek only economic damages, whereas surviving family members may seek economic and noneconomic damages.
Damages Paid to Surviving Family Members
Other damages in a wrongful death case typically are paid directly to surviving family members. These damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering due to the loss of a loved one
- Loss of household services formerly provided by the deceased
- Loss of affection, care, guidance, and companionship for surviving family members
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of future income
Wrongful Death and the Statute of Limitations
Arizona law places strict guidelines on the ability to file a wrongful death claim. Generally, eligible surviving family members or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the date of the death.
However, in some circumstances, shorter deadlines may apply. For instance, if the negligence of a public entity, such as a municipality, school district, or other unit of government was involved in the wrongful death, special rules apply. In this situation, the eligible plaintiffs must file their “Notice of Claim” against the potentially liable government entities within 180 days of the death, and their lawsuit within one year of the death. Some exceptions also apply that may toll or suspend these deadlines, so getting legal advice about the statute of limitations applicable to your case is critical. Failing to file your wrongful death claim within the appropriate statute of limitations can result in an inability to pursue your claim.
Garrison Law Firm Can Help You Seek Compensation for a Wrongful Death
Filing a wrongful death claim can be a stressful and traumatic process, particularly as you struggle to cope with losing a loved one. However, a wrongful death lawyer from our office is prepared to assist you with that process. Contact us by calling 623-887-5689 or reaching out to us online. Schedule a free consultation today to discuss your situation and learn how we can help.