The emotional trauma and overwhelming grief that family members experience when a loved one passes away can be devastating. When the loss of a loved one is the result of a preventable accident or an intentional act of violence, these intense emotions can be especially painful. Families coping with these difficult emotional challenges also will face financial hardships, such as funeral and burial costs, medical expenses and/or the lost financial support of a parent or spouse.
Our Phoenix wrongful death attorneys at Friedl Richardson understand that when you are coping with the financial and emotional hardships of coping with the loss of someone close to you, the prospect of dealing with insurance company adjusters and legal hurdles is not likely to be your highest priority. Unfortunately, prompt action to preserve your legal rights and prevent the loss of critical evidence can be essential to preserving a claim for financial compensation after the loss of family member. Our Phoenix wrongful death lawyers have over 75 years of combined legal experience that we use when representing families of victims who suffer fatal injuries caused by the misconduct of another.
A wrongful death is a fatality caused by the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another which give rise to a legal claim for financial compensation for harm suffered by the decedent and certain surviving family members. Arizona law governing wrongful death cases is primarily embodied in Sections 12-611 through 12-613 along with court decisions interpreting these provisions.
There are two distinct types of legal claims that comprise the typical wrongful death lawsuit. While some damages have an economic value, other forms of less tangible damages like emotional anguish and loss of companionship require skilled advocacy to persuade the jury on an appropriate amount. One type of legal claim is brought on behalf of designated surviving family members for their own harm suffered from the loss of a loved one. These damages may include items like mental anguish and/or loss of companionship, care and comfort. This type of claim is sometimes referred to as the “wrongful death claim.”
The other type of claim in a wrongful death lawsuit is designed to provide compensation for losses and harm experienced by a decedent’s estate. This type of claim is often referred to as a survival action because the right to damages for suffering personal injury “survives” the death of a victim. The estate of the decedent may seek damages for expenses like funeral/burial expenses, medical bills and other economic losses.
A wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona can only be brought if the decedent would have had a legal claim for damages if the fatality victim had survived. In other words, the individual, public entity or company that causes the death must have been “at fault” to justify a wrongful death lawsuit. Negligent conduct is the most frequent basis of liability in a wrongful death action, but intentional acts including violent crimes can also constitute a basis for imposing liability for fatal injuries. Some of the common scenarios, hazards and/or misconduct involved in legal claims for wrongful death in Arizona include:
While fault in the form of negligent or reckless conduct will usually be the basis for a wrongful death action, sometimes liability in a wrongful death lawsuit can be based on strict liability. When individuals are exposed to fatal injury because a product is defective, any party in the production or distribution chain can be strictly liable for fatal injuries caused by their product. Examples might include vehicles prone to fire or explosion because of a faulty fuel tank or airbags that fail to deploy in a motor vehicle accident.
Arizona wrongful death claims can be filed by a child, parent, surviving spouse or personal representative of the estate. While there may be others who were extremely close to the decedent like siblings and live-in girlfriends/boyfriends, they do not have the right to pursue a wrongful death action under Arizona law. The party who brings the wrongful death action will bring it for the benefit of all of the “beneficiaries”. The estate may have an independent action for damages as described above.
While the specific damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death claim will depend on the specific facts and circumstances, some of the types of damages that may be recoverable include:
Most wrongful death settlements or judgments are paid by insurance companies for the defendants. While it can be difficult to focus on insurance issues when dealing with your grief, wrongful death claims are subject to specific deadlines like the statute of limitations. Failure to comply with the statute of limitations will typically be a complete bar to the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you are not represented by an Arizona wrongful death attorney, the insurance company for the at-fault party may drag its feet to allow the financial pressure from the lack of household income to mount and to increase the risk that you will violate legal timing requirements. Insurance company representatives may seem cooperative and amicable, but their objective is to reduce the amount of any payout on valid claims or to facilitate denial of the claim.
Whether you have lost a loved one to a semi-truck collision or some other negligent or intentional act in Phoenix or the surrounding areas of Arizona, we invite you to talk to one of our experienced Arizona wrongful death attorneys who can answer your questions and explain your rights. We invite you to hire a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer from our firm right away for 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.