When someone you love has died in an accident due to the fault of another person or company, you may have the ability to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against those at fault. The damages you may seek include compensation for the loss of your loved one, including lost wages and funeral expenses. You may also seek compensation for loss of consortium – the loss of the enjoyment, security, companionship, and intimacy that you’ve suffered due to the death of your loved one. In this article, we’ll discuss what wrongful death claims are, who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, who is liable in a wrongful death case, and the types of damages you can recover.
In Arizona, wrongful death is defined as a death that is caused “by wrongful act, neglect or default.” When a death is caused by the negligence of another person or company, a wrongful death claim can be filed. But this wasn’t always the case. The laws that were brought over to the United States from England (called “common law”) didn’t allow for wrongful death claims. But state and federal courts have evolved, and have created the right to wrongful death claims over the last century. Currently, every state in the United States has a variation of wrongful death law.
A wrongful death claim includes all fatal accidents, whether it is a car crash, a case brought on by faulty manufacture, or a medical malpractice suit. Those involved in a wrongful death lawsuit may include individual people, companies, or government agencies, and can all be considered legally at fault for negligence.
In Arizona, the persons or entities that can file a wrongful death lawsuit are defined as follows:
If the decedent was a child, either of that child’s parents or the legal guardian of the child may file the wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against an at-fault individual, a company, government agency, and employees. Certain people or agencies may not be able to be held liable due to Arizona law. It is wise decision to contact an attorney experienced in Arizona wrongful death law to discuss the circumstances surrounding your unique case.
There simply isn’t an easy way to determine damages when you file a wrongful death lawsuit, though Arizona does have very broad legislation compared to the rest of the country regarding compensation. In some states, there are set limits to how much a victim of wrongful death is entitled to. In Arizona, these limits do not exist.
To attempt to calculate the damages, it is best to simply start from the beginning. From the time of the accident forward, note the expenses that have occurred starting with the loss of immediate income, and ending with the funeral and burial expenses. The survivor may also request compensation for the decedent’s lifetime of lost income, including reasonably estimated raises or promotions, etc.
Compensation for a decedent’s pain and suffering is not recoverable a wrongful death action. However, the decedent’s survivors are entitled to be compensated for the pain and anguish that they endured as a result of the decedent’s death. Likewise, the spouse and children of a decedent can recover for the loss of the decedent’s love, affection, consortium, protection, comfort, and guidance.
Obviously, every wrongful death case is different. To obtain a reasonable estimate of the value of your case, it is best to consult with an Arizona personal injury attorney who is experienced in wrongful death claims and litigation.
There are three main types of damages you can claim as a survivor in a wrongful death lawsuit. They are economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are the financial contributions the decedent would have made to the survivors had they not perished. These damages include such things as medical and funeral expenses, loss of expected earnings and benefits (medical insurance coverage and retirement or pension plans), loss of any inheritance, and the financial value of any goods or services the decedent may have provided for the survivor. Economic damages are tangible financial damages that are easily calculable.
Non-economic damages are less tangible, but usually hold more value than economic damages. This type of damage includes such things as the survivors’ pain, suffering, and mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of care, protection and nurturing of the decedent, and loss of love and companionship of the decedent. These damages stem from the impact losing your loved one has on your everyday life.
Punitive damages are those damages awarded to the survivors to punish the defendant for especially bad conduct. In Arizona, to obtain punitive damages, one must prove with clear, convincing evidence that the negligent party that caused the death has acted with an “evil mind.” It must be determined that the negligent party consciously persisted in the course of action aware of the substantial risk of harm to other.
In Arizona, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. If you do not file a case within two years, it is very likely that the courts will simply refuse to hear your case. This makes this deadline of great importance when it comes to preserving your legal rights.
If you have suffered the painful death of a loved one, we encourage you to contact one of the attorneys here at Parker & Lazarra. We’ll be there to listen, commiserate, and help you secure your financial future in the wake of your loved one’s death. We can help you navigate the legalities and complexities of bringing a wrongful death claim, and help alleviate your stress so that you may focus on taking care of you and yours, and the healing that lies ahead.
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