Arizona Wrongful Death Actions
In Arizona, wrongful deaths actions are governed by Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 12-611 to 12-613. These statutes explain when a lawsuit can occur, who can file suit and what damages may be awarded.
Arizona Wrongful Death LiabilityA.R.S. 12-611 states that a wrongful death suit can be filed if the deceased would not have died during the act and instead could have filed a personal injury suit. This means that the death must have occurred due to a "wrongful act, neglect or default" for the liable party to be held responsible for the damages. If this is the case, the statutory beneficiaries (explained below) may pursue a wrongful death suit.
Who Are the Statutory Beneficiaries of a Arizona Wrongful Death ActionThe beneficiaries to a wrongful death action are set forth in A.R.S. 12-612. It states that an action for wrongful death can only be brought by specific survivors, which include the surviving spouse, children and parent of the deceased. If none of the above applies, then the estate of the deceased could bring a wrongful death claim. This statute also lists the surviving relatives that cannot file a wrongful death suit under Arizona law. Excluded survivors include siblings or other relatives, same-sex partners, and common law spouses.
How Arizona Wrongful Death Damages are DeterminedA.R.S. 12-613 governs how damages are awarded in a wrongful death action. It requires that the jury must award damages that are "fair and just with reference to the injury." When evaluating damages the court considers:
1. The loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance since the death of the decedent and in the future.
2. The pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock, and mental suffering already experienced, and reasonably probably to be experienced in the future.
3. The income and services that have already been lost as a result of the death and that are reasonably probably to be lost in the future.
4. The reasonable expenses of funeral and burial.
5. The reasonable expenses of necessary medical care and services for the injuries that resulted in the death.
Using these and other variables, the court will decide an appropriate level of compensation and distribute the recovery to the statutory survivors as seen fit.
This section of the statutes also states the damages awarded cannot be in any way subject to the debts and liabilities of the deceased, unless the compensation is going to the estate of the deceased.
How Wrongful Death Recovery Is Distributed in ArizonaThere is only one plaintiff in a wrongful death suit, even if there are multiple survivors that are able to file the action. The plaintiff pursues the wrongful death action on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries. Any recovery is then held for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries. A.R.S. 12-612 states that the compensation will be allocated according to the survivors in proportion to their damages, which is decided by the court.
Wrongful death damages are assessed based on many factors, including the survivors financial dependence on the deceased person. This and other factors will determine the courts allocation of damages.
If the estate of the deceased receives the compensation, it will be considered an asset of the estate.