When someone you love is taken from you prematurely in a fatal car accident involving a reckless driver, the emotional recovery process can make it difficult to focus on legal requirements and procedures. Many families of wrongful death victims have little or no experience with the legal system, so unfamiliar terminology, complicated legal standards and unfamiliar procedural requirements can easily result in an individual compromising his or her legal rights and remedies.
At Friedl Richardson, our wrongful death attorneys have represented many families who have lost a loved one in incidents ranging from fatal car accidents to violent criminal assaults. We are committed to explaining the wrongful death legal process in an understandable way, providing reasonable updates and zealously advocating for the best interest of our clients. Since our Arizona wrongful death lawyers understand that the legal standards and requirements for bringing a wrongful death claim can be confusing, we have provided a summary of the Arizona Wrongful Death Statute.
The spouse, child, parent or estate of a decedent may bring a wrongful death action if an act or omission that would justify a personal injury lawsuit causes the death of a family member. In most situations, this generally means that the individual, corporation or government entity will have engaged in negligent conduct. Negligence essentially is the failure to exercise ordinary care to prevent foreseeable injury to others. This might include causing a motor vehicle collision by driving too fast or failing to repair a broken step that causes a fatal fall.
There are some situations where a wrongful death claim might be based on strict liability (i.e. liability without fault). When a party disregards a public safety statute, this violation may justify the application of the doctrine of “negligence per se.” This doctrine provides that when a party causes injury or death by violating a statute or ordinance designed to protect the public, the party may be strictly liable depending on the circumstances.
Another scenario where strict liability may apply to a wrongful death action under the Arizona Wrongful Death Statute involves deaths caused by defective products. An entity in the production or distribution chain for a product may be liable if a person is involved in a fatal collision because of a defective vehicle or suffers fatal injuries caused by other types of poorly designed or manufactured products. When products do not have sufficient warnings or labeling, this also might constitute a basis for strict liability in a wrongful death action.
A wrongful death action may be brought by designated family members including a spouse, parent or guardian, child or the personal representative of the estate. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of the family members above who are the beneficiaries entitled to receive compensation according to the damages they suffer from the death of the decedent. When a decedent does not have any of these surviving family members, the lawsuit may be brought on behalf of the estate of the decedent. If the wrongful death lawsuit is brought on behalf of a designated family members, the funds received in a judgment or settlement are not subject to the enforcement for the debts of the decedent.
The statute of limitations is the deadline to commence a legal action to avoid having the lawsuit barred. Generally, the statute of limitation for commencing an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. However, the best option is to seek legal advice promptly because evidence can be lost and other deadlines may apply.
If the negligence of a public entity, such as a school district, municipality or the State of Arizona contributed to a wrongful death, then special timing requirements and procedures must be satisfied. A “Notice of Claim” must be filed within 180 days, and a lawsuit must be initiated within one year after the cause of action accrues. However, there can be factors that toll (suspend) these deadlines so it is important to speak with an experienced Phoenix wrongful death lawyer.
We invite you to schedule a free consultation so that we can answer your questions and evaluate your legal claim. When you retain a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer from our firm, you can expect the compassionate, caring representation that you need from a team of experienced trial lawyers. We are always prepared for trial if it becomes necessary to obtain the case result our client needs. Our lawyers are highly recognized for their experience. Attorney Bill Friedl is on the Arizona State Bar Advocates’ Panel, and Attorney Tommy Richardson is on the Maricopa County Judicial Selection Committee. Contact our firm today to retain an attorney who can maximize your wrongful death compensation!
Read our Wrongful Death blog for additional information.