Is there any benefit to underinsured motorist coverage for wrongful death claims? Arizona has long recognized the right of the parent, spouse or child of someone killed by the negligence (unreasonable actions) of another person to bring a wrongful death claim against the negligent actor. See A.R.S. §§12-611, 12-612, 12-613. A wrongful death claim is designed to compensate the surviving family members for the “loss of love, affection, companionship, care protection, and guidance” experienced from the death of the loved one as well as for any medical or funeral expenses or lost income resulting from the death. Revised Arizona Jury Instructions (Civil) 5th, Personal Injury Damages 3 (Damages for Wrongful Death of a Spouse, Parent, or Child). Because of the broad range of recovery available to the survivors, the amount of potential compensation in a wrongful death claim is usually significant, often reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, few people in Arizona carry automobile insurance policies with liability coverage limits in excess of $100,000 and many have only the minimum amount required by Arizona law ($15,000). This means that most wrongful death claimants do not receive full compensation.
One way a wrongful death claimant can obtain additional recovery is by making a claim against the decedent’s (the deceased family member’s) automobile underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Under most UIM policies, the surviving family members qualify as an insured person under the decedent’s policy, even though the survivor is not actually named on the policy. This is because an Arizona UIM coverage insurance policy typically defines an insured or covered person as follows:
- you or any relative.
- any other person occupying your covered auto.
- any person for damages that person is entitled to recover because of bodily injury or death to which this coverage applies sustained by a person in 1. or 2. above.
In other words, under definition number 3, “any person” who qualifies as an Arizona wrongful death claimant (surviving parent, spouse, or child), also qualifies as an insured under the decedent’s policy and can make a wrongful death claim against the decedent’s UIM coverage, even though the survivor did not purchase the insurance coverage. This available coverage is important because access to the UIM coverage can often double or triple the amount of available insurance coverage for a survivor’s wrongful death claim. This additional compensation can make a significant difference in the life of a surviving family member who has just suffered a catastrophic loss of a parent or spouse.
As described above, it is important that a wrongful death claimant retain an attorney that has the knowledge and experience to maximize the potential recovery for their claim. If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of a family member because of the fault of another person, call 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.
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 need legal advice regarding Underinsured Motorist Coverage for Wrongful Death Claims, or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at 480.461.5335, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.