Written by attorney Geoffrey Trachtenberg

The Full Scope of Arizona's Wrongful Death Statute is Still Uncertain

Arizona's wrongful death statute still has some ambiguity. For example, ARS 12-612 permits a wrongful death claim to be brought "on behalf of the surviving husband or wife, children or parents, or if none of these survive, on behalf of the decedent's estate." What does this last part mean?

What damages can the estate recover in a statutory wrongful death action (as opposed to a statutory survival action under ARS 14-3110) and where is that defined? Since Arizona's survival statute strictly limits the kinds of recovery an estate can obtain in a survival action (e.g., no "pain and suffering"), does theabsence of such a limitation in the wrongful death statute (beyond ARS 12-613) open the door to a broader action by the estate (e.g., pain and suffering of the descendents?).

Consider the scenario where an entire family is instantly killed and burned to death in a vehicle. There are no statutory survivors, no medical bills and even no bodies to bury. What's the remedy? Is it "cheaper" to kill the entire family than it is to injure them?

Believe it or not, these are still untested issues in Arizona.

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