Scottsdale Wrongful Death Attorney
Nothing is more devastating than the death of a loved one. This loss is multiplied when the death is caused by the wrongdoing or negligence of another. Most states, including Arizona, have specific laws that control wrongful death claims. Simply put, a wrongful death claim is a claim for the loss of a loved one.
A wrongful death claim can arise from a variety of situations. These situations may include, but are not limited to: negligent medical care, car accidents, trip/slip and falls, the failure of a product, a dangerous condition on property, a police shooting, an assault, negligent security, heavy equipment failure, the failure to install safety equipment in automobiles, dangerous roadway designs, the failure to perform regular safety inspections, etc. Any type of circumstance or incident whereby someone dies as a result of his or her injuries may result in a wrongful death claim.
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, one must prove that a death was caused by a wrongful act or omission of another and that it resulted in loss to the person bringing the lawsuit. Under Arizona law, with few exceptions, only a limited group of people may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This group includes the surviving spouse, children and parents of the person who was killed. Arizona Revised Statutes 12-611 sets forth: “An action for wrongful death shall be brought by and in the name of the surviving husband or wife, child, parent or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased person for and on behalf of the surviving husband or wife, children or parents, or if none of these survive, on behalf of the decedent’s estate.” In legal terminology, the group of individuals who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit are called “statutory beneficiaries.”
In Arizona, a wrongful death lawsuit must typically include all family members or heirs that have an interest in the outcome. In other words, multiple wrongful death lawsuits may not be filed by different family members and heirs. If multiple lawsuits are filed, then the lawsuits may be joined or the later lawsuit may be dismissed with the family member who brought it being added to the wrongful death lawsuit that was filed first. When bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, the best practice is to have all interested family members working together and on the same page. Often times that is not possible. Under those circumstances, it may be beneficial for a family member to be the first to file as his or her attorney may have a preference in controlling the lawsuit.
The damages and compensation that can be claimed by family members, in a wrongful death lawsuit, are different for each. Typically, each family member or heir may claim his or her own individual and particular loss. This may include compensation for the loss of: love, affection, companionship, care, protection and guidance since the death and in the future. This may also include compensation for the pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock and mental suffering already experienced, and that will be experienced in the future. The reasonable expenses of the funeral and burial are also recoverable.
Sometimes, a family member that is killed does not die from his or her injuries right away. The family member may have survived the injury and received medical care and treatment only to eventually succumb to his or her injury and pass away later. In this situation, compensation for the medical expenses of the deceased family member may not be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, these medical expenses may be recovered in a lawsuit commonly called a “survival action.” Similarly, any amount recovered by the family members and heirs in a wrongful death lawsuit is not subject to the debts or liabilities of the person that passed away.
A survival action is not the same thing as a wrongful death lawsuit. A survival action involves advancing claims that a deceased would have been able to bring if he or she was still alive. Survival actions are brought by the estate of the deceased and may advance claims for the medical expenses and lost earnings of the deceased among other things. If certain family members stand to inherit from the deceased, a survival action may benefit them as well. A survival action is different from a wrongful death lawsuit and both may be brought at the same time. Click here for more information on Arizona survival actions.
The compensation one can expect from a wrongful death lawsuit depends on a variety of factors. As a general rule, the closer the person was to the deceased, and the more that person relied upon the deceased for support (both financial and emotional), the greater his or her claim for compensation. For example, a minor child who was actively being raised by the deceased should be entitled to receive a larger amount than an estranged parent who did not maintain a close relationship with the deceased. At the same time, an elderly parent, who was being supported by the deceased, may be entitled to a larger recovery than an adult child who was no longer close to his or her deceased parent.
Sadly, in many wrongful death lawsuits, conflicts arise between family members as to who should receive the greatest compensation. It is important that the attorney handling a wrongful death lawsuit be sensitive to the unique dynamic between the family members and the potential conflict that exists between them. If the family members are unable to reach an agreement as to how to divide a wrongful death settlement, more than one attorney may be needed. An attorney who represents more than one family member in a wrongful death lawsuit, owes each family member the same duty of loyalty and may not choose sides or push for one family member to receive more than another.
Losing a loved one is a tragic and life-changing event. When the individual who passed away is the main source of support for his or her family, those family members are instantly thrust into a dark place of grief, anxiety, panic and fear. Where will financial support come from? Who will make the house and car payments? How will we put food on the table? May we apply for assistance and benefits? Was there a life insurance policy and do we qualify to receive it?
When you are faced with the weight of the world, contact the attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers. Our attorneys have experience handling wrongful death claims and are here to support and guide you through this difficult time. We will take on the legal obligations and seek out the compensation you will need to prepare for a life without someone you held dear. If you have a wrongful death case, we will aggressively advance it so that you receive full compensation and at the same time be mindful that you need the space and peace of mind to grieve your loss. Contact Scottsdale Injury Lawyers today if you would like to discuss the death of a loved one and bringing a wrongful death lawsuit.