Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen writes about wrongful death actions in the following post:
When an individual brings a claim in order to seek damages for a loved-one’s death, it is called a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are naturally a difficult subject on which to dwell. However, in the unfortunate event that the death of a loved-one occurs due to another’s negligent or intentional act, it will be imperative to know at least the basics of this particular area of Arizona law.
Arizona’s written laws covering wrongful death claims are located in Title 12 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The laws answer three of the most important questions a person must ask before he or she decides to bring a wrongful death claim. A brief summary of these answers is offered below:
- Can I bring a wrongful death claim?
Only certain individuals can bring a wrongful death claim in Arizona. These are “the surviving husband or wife, child, parent or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased person.”
Furthermore, only certain deaths can result in a wrongful death claim. The law limits wrongful death claims to deaths caused by “wrongful act, neglect or default” that would have entitled the person who died to bring a claim for damages if he or she had survived. As an example, if a married man with no children passes away in a car accident where the other person involved was driving negligently, his wife can bring a wrongful death claim against the other person. She can do so because the husband himself, had he survived the accident, could have brought a claim for damages based on the other person’s negligence.
- What will I have to do to win damages on the claim?
An individual who brings a wrongful death claim will have to prove exactly what the person who died would have to prove had he or she survived and brought a claim for damages. If such is proven, then “the person who or the corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages” in a wrongful death claim.
In every case, the person bringing the wrongful death claim will have to prove that the defendant did or did not do something that would warrant the award of damages if the deceased person had survived the incident. Exactly what will have to be proven will vary case by case.
Here is an example: imagine a woman is walking down the sidewalk. The driver of a passing car looks down at his phone, which causes him to lose control of his car and swerve into the woman. She dies from her injuries. Her husband brings a wrongful death claim against the driver. Had she survived her injuries, the woman herself could have brought a personal injury claim for damages against the driver. To win that claim, she would have had to prove that the driver acted negligently when he hit her. In his wrongful death claim, the husband must prove the same thing. To establish that the driver should be liable for the damages that ensued from his wife’s death, he must establish that the driver acted negligently when he hit her.
- Who will benefit if damages are awarded?
This depends on who survives the deceased person. One person can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of multiple people who survive the deceased, and each can benefit from the claim. However, the law explicitly limits the type of person that can receive a benefit from a wrongful death claim to the deceased person’s “surviving husband or wife, children or parents.” If no spouse, child, or parent survives the deceased person, the claim can be brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, but no other individual is entitled to receive a benefit from the claim. If a claim is won and damages are awarded, the damage amount will be divided among the deceased person’s surviving parents, spouse, and children “in proportion to their damages.” If it is a claim brought solely on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, the money from the damages becomes “ an asset of the estate.”
Here’s an example to illustrate how this works. Imagine a married father of three whose parents passed away 10 years ago. He gets into an accident and unfortunately passes away from his injuries. His wife can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of herself and each of their three children. If the claim is successful and damages are awarded, the award will be divided between the wife and each of the three children according to their separate damages. Nobody else – no cousin, friend, grandparent, etc. – is entitled to benefit from the damage award.
Hopefully this has been a helpful introduction to wrongful death claims. However, there is a lot more to know before you bring a wrongful death claim in Arizona. If you are considering such a claim, consultation with an experienced attorney will be imperative to your claim’s success.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, call Mesa AZ Personal Injury Attorney Brian Allen at (480) 461-5335 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options.