While not every fatality will results in the imposition of liability on another party, certain deaths are the result of preventable accidents or intentional violent acts. Deaths under these circumstances may justify a lawsuit for damages suffered by the decedent and the decedent’s family. At the Phoenix wrongful death law firm of Friedl Richardson, we recognize that no award of money damages can give you back the love, companionship or mentoring of a parent, spouse or child. Nonetheless, monetary recovery often provides the only way to hold a wrongdoer accountable for unsafe or violent conduct. A settlement or verdict that awards damages in a wrongful death lawsuit also may provide the means to replace lost household income for surviving family members, so they can pay the mortgage and other household expenses.
A wrongful death lawsuit may only be pursued under Arizona law if the decedent would have had a right to pursue a personal injury claim based on the conduct that caused the decedent’s death. In most though not all cases, negligence will constitute the legal standard for determining whether conduct that caused a death supports imposing financial liability. In general terms, negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid foreseeable injury to others. When a person violates a public safety law, this violation may be presumed to constitute negligent conduct under the doctrine of “negligence per se”.
If the conduct is egregious enough, such as driving at a high rate of speed while intoxicated or committing a violent assault that results in a death, the conduct may merit punitive damages. However, the legal standard for obtaining punitive damages for a wrongful death in Arizona is fairly demanding. To obtain “exemplary” or “punitive damages”, the plaintiff in an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the individual, public entity or company that caused the fatality acted with an “evil mind.” This does not necessarily mean that the party who caused the death must have intentionally caused the death. It is sufficient to show that the defendant consciously pursued a course of conduct knowing it created a substantial risk of harm to others.
Although the damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit will depend on the unique circumstances of the wrongful death case, the jury is instructed to award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate each survivor for the following types of damages:
If you have lost a loved one in a collision involving a drunk driver, fatigued semi-truck driver or any other type of accidental or intentional conduct, we invite you to talk to one of our experienced Phoenix wrongful death attorneys who can provide a more detailed wrongful death definition and answer your questions. We invite you to hire a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer from our firm 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.