Wrong-Way Crash in AZ Caused Wrongful Death

Mary Ann Boysman probably had no idea an early Sunday morning ride on Arizona's State Route 51 would be her last. The vibrant New York state native, 55, was the passenger in an SUV that was hit head-on by a vehicle going the wrong direction on the freeway, according to AP and KPHO news. The driver of the SUV sustained serious injuries and spent four days in the hospital, but survived.

The driver of the wrong-way vehicle, Benjamin Charles Kuzelka, also survived, yet was arrested soon after his hospital stay. Phoenix man Kuzelka, 27, faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, endangerment, criminal damage and aggravated DUI.

The police report indicated Kuzelka had a blood alcohol content of .281 when initially tested after the Oct. 6 head-on collision. That amount is more than triple the legal limit in Arizona. Officials also discovered Kuzelka’s driving record showed two past drunken driving convictions, both in 2007 in California.

The fact that Kuzelka was arrested and is facing a number of charges related to the death of Boysman may serve as some solace for Boysman’s family and friends. But criminal charges are frequently nowhere near enough to compensate for the tremendous suffering that stems from a loss caused by another person’s negligent and reckless behavior. That’s where a wrongful death lawsuit can help.

Wrongful Death Explained

Arizona statue defines a wrongful death as a death caused by negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another person, actions that can result in a lawsuit demanding financial compensation. The compensation can be set in relation to the amount of harm suffered by the person who died as well as certain surviving family members.

Wrongful death is further broken down into two types of legal claims that usually makeup the wrongful death lawsuit. The first type is often called the “wrongful death claim.” It pinpoints the damages suffered by the surviving family members, damages that can include things like emotional anguish and loss of companionship.

The other seeks compensation for things like funeral costs and medical bills, items that must still be paid by the person’s estate even after his or her death. This type is often referred to as the “survival action,” since the right to compensate the person’s losses survive even after the person’s own death.

How an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Could Help

Boysman’s sudden, unexpected and likely avoidable death can certainly fall into the wrongful death category. The charges of aggravated DUI, Kuzelka’s blood alcohol content and the fact he was heading the wrong way on the highway all point to behavior that could be interpreted as negligent and reckless.

A wrongful death lawsuit in Boysman’s case could involve both types of claims. The wrongful death claim would focus on the emotional damages and loss of companionship suffered by family members. Because this claim is typically based on damages that less tangible, it’s imperative to have attorneys with solid experience persuading a jury. A jury is the deciding factor in such cases, and a strong, skillful presentation can make all the difference in their decision.

Boysman’s survival action claim may include her funeral and burial costs, as well as any medical costs related to the fatal crash. Although she was in Phoenix at the time of her death, she was originally from Oswego, NY. Transportation costs could very well be part of the survival action claim, depending on where her burial took place.

Wrongful death cases have a strict statute of limitations, and taking action after the statute of limitations expires automatically renders the lawsuit inadmissible. Wrongful death compensation is generally paid by the at-fault person’s insurance company, and many companies can stall proceedings in an attempt to wait out the statute of limitations.

It’s much tougher for companies to delay movement when they have to answer to a law firm that’s acutely aware of how wrongful death suits work and the potential issues they’ll be up against when representing their clients. Prompt action is required not only to protect legal rights, but to also prevent critical evidence from being lost long after the incident took place.

As with all Arizona wrongful death cases, the claims in Boysman’s case would have to be filed by a child, parent, surviving spouse or a personal representative of her estate.

Other Wrongful Death Scenarios

Wrongful death is not limited to DUI fatalities, but extends to cover a wide range of scenarios where death may have been avoided if it weren’t for negligent or reckless behavior. Tractor-trailer collisions, motorcycle crashes and distracted driving incidents can fall into the wrongful death category, as can rollovers involving large-capacity passenger vans and SUVs.

Other scenarios include dangerous drugs, medical malpractice and defective or unreasonably unsafe products. Death caused by slip and fall or trip and fall accidents may be included in the wrongful death category, as may construction accidents and swimming pool drowning or entrapments. Homicides due to negligent security measures and nursing home negligence or abuse can also be the basis for wrongful death claims.

Wrongful death can stem from negligence from an individual as well as defects or unsafe functioning of a product. This may include things like airbags that don’t deploy or vehicles prone to explosion or fire due to a faulty fuel tank.

The Importance of Taking Prompt Action

Those who think they may have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit need to act immediately. Although contacting an attorney and launching a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from people’s minds when they’re grieving a loved one’s death, timing can be the greatest hurdle if action is taken after the statute of limitations. Arizona trial law firm Friedl Richardson is here to answer any questions, address any concerns and help surviving family members receive the compensation they deserve.