WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION?
A wrongful death action is brought against a negligent person, business, or government agency that caused an accident that led to a person’s death. The wrongful death claim provides compensation to the survivors of a loved one who lost their life because someone else was negligent.
Wrongful death claims can result from motor vehicle or boating accidents, medical malpractice, accidents on the construction site or at work, defective products, and other accidents which result in death of a person.
The person bringing the wrongful death claim takes the place of the deceased and brings an action against the negligent party, just as the deceased would have done had they lived.
The law recognizes that the negligent person’s (or entity’s) liability extends past the death of the deceased. This is the principle that allows a survivor to make a claim for wrongful death when a loved one has died because of the negligence of another.
When bringing a wrongful death claim in Arizona, consideration must be given to three factors:
Who can bring a wrongful death claim
The time available (the “statute of limitations") to bring the action
The kinds of damages that can be compensated
WHO CAN BRING A WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION?
Claims for wrongful death are controlled by statute in Arizona.A surviving spouse, a child, the parent or guardian, or a representative for the deceased (someone appointed by the state of Arizona) may bring an action. Even though a brother or sister may have suffered emotionally or financially because of the death of a loved one, under Arizona law a sibling may not file a wrongful death action.
Only one person is allowed to bring a wrongful death action. If there is more than one claim, the claims are consolidated and the person bringing the claim must act in good faith and distribute any settlement between the other beneficiaries.
HOW MUCH TIME IS AVAILABLE TO FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
In most cases, a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the date of death.
Keep in mind that it takes time to prepare and file paperwork properly. Waiting until the last day before the statute of limitations expires to contact an attorney is a sure way to forfeit your right to ever bring a claim!
In other cases, such as where a government entity has caused the accident or workman’s compensation is involved, a wrongful death claim must be brought within one year. If the person bringing the claim is a minor or is mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations may run longer.
The best thing to do is to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you file your claim within the time allowed by law.
TYPES OF DAMAGES THAT CAN RECEIVE COMPENSATION
The loss of care, protection, guidance, companionship, love, and affection now and in the future, caused by the loss of the loved one.
The pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, mental suffering, shock, and stress experienced now and likely to be experienced in the future.
The income and services lost now and in the future, because of the death of the loved one.
Reasonable expenses for funeral and burial, if the beneficiaries have already paid these expenses or are likely to in the future.
Reasonable expenses for medical care related to the fatal injuries.
OTHER FACTORS IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM
1. Jury awards are made based on what the jury thinks is fair under the circumstances.
Juries are allowed to consider the character of the deceased, the quality of their relationships with the beneficiaries, how the deceased spent his or her money, their sex, age, and life expectancy, and any other factors the jury deems relevant.
For example, a husband who abused or mistreated his wife was found to have suffered no economic loss because of her death. He was also denied any compensation for pain and suffering due to her loss.
A father’s drug abuse problem was taken as evidence that the beneficiaries suffered no real loss because of his death. The jury awarded zero dollars for compensation.
2. If the deceased had started a personal injury claim which was not resolved before his death, then the personal injury claim survives the deceased.
The personal injury suit and the wrongful death claim are two distinctly separate claims.
Compensation may be awarded for both individually. The personal injury compensation will cover only the injury to the deceased. The wrongful death award is compensation to the beneficiaries for their loss.
3. Even if there is a charge of first or second degree murder, or manslaughter, the survivors of the deceased can still bring a wrongful death claim. A criminal charge does not cancel any civil wrongful death action brought by the family of the deceased.
4. If a spouse remarries, this has no effect on the compensation awarded for wrongful death. The court has decided that the negligent party has no right to benefit from a spouse’s remarriage.
Kevin Garrison is a wrongful death attorney in Glendale, Arizona. He has helped many families receive just compensation for the loss of a loved one due to negligence. Wrongful death actions can involve complex legal issues. Contact a wrongful death attorney to protect your rights.
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