How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

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How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

When someone else is responsible for the death of your loved one, they should be held accountable. Filing a wrongful death claim allows you to recover compensation to help you cope emotionally and financially with your loss. But in Arizona, not everyone has the legal right to sue for wrongful death. Below, we explain more about wrongful death claims and who can file them. 

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim, and How Does It Work?

A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit that a person’s surviving loved ones can file if that person died due to someone else’s negligence. 

Many types of accidents can be grounds for a wrongful death claim, such as dog bites, workplace accidents, exposure to toxic chemicals, slip and fall accidents, defective products, and medical malpractice

But wrongful death claims can also arise from circumstances of intentional harm, like homicide or assault

In a wrongful death claim, the defendant can only be held legally responsible for the victim’s death if you can prove the following factors:

  1. That the defendant owed the victim a duty of reasonable care (like providing medical care or driving safely)
  2. That they breached that duty of care (for instance, a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or someone texts while driving)
  3. That the victim’s death was a direct result of the breach of duty (such as an incorrectly prescribed medication that caused a deadly reaction, or death from injuries sustained in a car accident caused by another driver)
  4. You are owed damages because you suffered financial or other significant losses caused by the death  

So, before you pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney. You also need to gather all the documentation related to the death of your loved one (bills, pictures, witness statements, medical care, etc.) and avoid sharing any information about the case online. 

Keep in mind that in Arizona, you typically have two years from the date your loved one passed away to file a wrongful death claim.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

The legal right to sue for wrongful death varies from state to state. According to Arizona Revised Statute 12-612, only the victim’s surviving spouse, children, parents, or guardians can file a wrongful death suit. 

Any of these surviving loved ones can also appoint a personal representative on their behalf. If the victim doesn’t have any surviving loved ones that fit the criteria, a personal representative can be appointed on behalf of their estate. 

That means the victim’s surviving siblings, unmarried domestic partner, or other family members cannot file a wrongful death claim. 

What Is the Penalty for Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit does not punish the defendant with prison time or any other type of criminal penalty. Because wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, they can only result in your financial compensation. 

The types of damages you can recover from a wrongful death case include:

  • Economic damages (loss of financial support, funeral and burial expenses, the victim’s medical bills, etc.)
  • Non-economic damages (loss of companionship or “consortium,” emotional pain and suffering)
  • Punitive damages (intended to punish the defendant in cases of intentional or reckless harm)

But, depending on the circumstances of the death, the defendant could be charged with a crime. If drunk driving, assault, homicide, or another crime led to the wrongful death, they will face harsher penalties. 

Wrongful Death Attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona

If you’re dealing with emotional and financial stress due to a wrongful death, you should consider consulting an experienced attorney. Although recovering damages won’t turn back time, it can help ease some of the burdens you’re facing. The Van Norman Law team is here to help you during this difficult time. Call us at 480-481-0616 to set up a free consultation.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/23/2022). Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels