April 28, 2011 by admin
Losing a loved one can be very difficult and heartbreaking, especially when it was due to someone else’s negligence or otherwise unlawful actions. Though nothing can replace a loved one, a wrongful death action provides legal recourse for victims’ families to recover damages in the event of a death caused by negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit asserts that the defendant was liable for the victim’s death, and as a result, the victim’s surviving spouse, children, beneficiaries and dependents are entitled to monetary compensation. There are many circumstances that may warrant a wrongful death suit, including:
- Auto accidents/motor vehicle accidents/boating accidents
- Workplace deaths
- Medical malpractice
- Construction site accidents and other accidents caused by dangerous circumstances
- Accidents caused by dangerous and defective products
- Accidents caused by government or public entities and/or employees
In Arizona, as in most U.S. states, there are strict statutes governing who can bring a wrongful death suit. Generally, surviving spouses and other family members bring wrongful death suits. However, a personal representative (the person appointed by the State of Arizona to represent the beneficiaries) may bring the action for the deceased on behalf of the survivors, or in cases where there are no surviving claimants, on behalf of the deceased’s estate. In a wrongful death case in which the decedent is a child, a parent or legal guardian may bring the action. The decedent’s debtors cannot bring a wrongful death claim to receive compensation from the decedent’s estate. Also, one family member cannot bring a wrongful death suit against another family member.
A defendant in a wrongful death action is liable to the same extent he would have been if the victim had simply been injured rather than died. Accordingly, liability is established in essentially the same way as in a personal injury case. A wrongful death claim can be brought even if the defendant is also facing criminal charges for the wrongful act. In Arizona, criminal charges do not protect defendants from any civil wrongful death actions.
In a wrongful death case, juries decide upon fair compensation for the victim’s survivors, considering any extenuating circumstances surrounding the wrongful act or neglect. This can include:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- The loss of financial support by the victim, including the victim’s potential earnings
- The loss of the victim’s benefits, including 401(k), medical insurance and pension
- Survivors’ pain, suffering and mental anguish
Damages may also include interest from the date of the victim’s death.
In Arizona, when compensation from wrongful death actions is rewarded directly to the victim’s survivors, it is not subject to the deceased’s liabilities or debt. However, when a personal representative brings about the case, damages go toward the victim’s estate and are subject to any debts and liabilities. The net amount of the estate is then distributed among the victim’s beneficiaries.
In the unfortunate event that you need to bring a wrongful death action, you will need an attorney who is experienced in Arizona wrongful death law. The Arizona wrongful death attorneys can advise you on the best course of action to help recover damages from the accountable party. To find out more, please contact us for a free initial legal consultation.