Phoenix Wrongful Death Lawyer
Protect your family, ensure justice and honor your lost loved one’s legacy.
The death of a loved one is devastating whenever it occurs. It is always a painful situation when a loved one passes away, but when their death comes unexpectedly due to someone else’s negligence the loss is multiplied exponentially. The shock can be disabling; it can be difficult to navigate even just day-to-day events. Often, it’s several months later when the weight of the loss truly sets in, in the form of mounting debt and a crippled emotional state.
At the Kelly Law Team, we are a Phoenix based personal injury law firm and we can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person(s) or business(es) responsible for this tragic event. Whether their actions were intentional or not, people and businesses can be held financially responsible for their negligence. Even if there’s a criminal case pending, a civil case may be an option to help you recover compensation.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim filed by a family member (or authorized agent) against the person(s) or business(es) liable for a death. A wrongful death case is a civil claim, separate from a criminal case, where surviving family members can seek damages, in the form of compensation for expenses and personal trauma resulting from the death. Civil cases follow a different set of laws and guidelines and are brought about by the (one or more) surviving:
- Husband or wife
- Child or children
- Adoptive parent(s)
- Legal Guardian
- Authorized legal representative (the estate)
Arizona State Law prohibits siblings and common-law spouses from pursuing a wrongful death claim unless the person is the legal representative of the deceased or the estate.
It’s Not (Always) Personal
If your loved one lost their life due to the negligence of a person or business that you or a family member is acquainted with, you may be placed in a very difficult decision. You absolutely must recover your financial and emotional costs, but by doing so may damage or ruin your relationship. This can be made even more complicated in situations where the offender’s actions were unintentional. Mr. Kelly understands the difficultly in navigating around these details to best suit your needs. Suing someone doesn’t always mean you’re going after them personally. In many cases, your wrongful death case can be directed to a third-party such as the offender’s home or auto insurance agent. These situations often result in out-of-court settlements, avoiding additional conflict with your friend, neighbor, or acquaintance. The Kelly Law Team will work hard to find the best resolution on your behalf.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Claim in Arizona
There are two major types of damages we may pursue in a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the offending party accountable and to seek the maximum amount of compensation you may be entitled to.
1: Damages associated with the victim’s income:
- Loss of victim’s pension, insurance, and/or benefits
- Lost earnings, inheritance, or other income
- Medical, funeral, and other expenses connected with the death
2: Damages for the pain and anguish inflicted on the survivors:
- Loss of parental guidance, presence, and nurturing care
- The overwhelming grief, pain, and loss suffered
- Lost spousal consortium, love, and companionship
In some cases, the wrongful death may be caused by extreme negligence in which case, additional punitive damages may also be recovered.
Determining Wrongful Death Damages
When a tragedy occurs, it can be difficult to see beyond the present moment. Oftentimes, surviving family members are caught off guard by the loss of income once the initial shock has passed. Bereaved spouses and children dependent on the lost income must, in addition to everything else, find a new source of financial support immediately.
In a wrongful death case, the court will look for earnings both historical and future (had the incident not occurred), a record of financial dependency, and a list of expenses and costs associated with the incident and death. They will then use this information to determine a value amount.
How are Wrongful Death Damages Awarded?
As civil cases, not criminal, wrongful death cases require a lesser burden of proof on behalf of the plaintiff. Regardless of the number of individuals involved in a wrongful death suit, the court will group them together as a singular plaintiff entity.
Once the court reviews the evidence, it may decide to award compensation. The compensation would then be distributed amongst the parties in an amount proportionate to their damages either by court order or by mutual agreement.
Compassionate Attorneys on YOUR Side
The Kelly Law Team has helped surviving family members settle wrongful death lawsuits across the State of Arizona. You don’t have to do this alone! We have a tremendous track record helping Arizona’s wrongful death survivors, and we are here to help you navigate the challenges of this painful and difficult time.
For a free consultation about your wrongful death lawsuit call the Kelly Law Team, Avvo’s 2014 Client Choice Attorney, at 602-283-4122 today.
Wrongful Death FAQ’s
How can I find out if I have a wrongful death case after the death of a loved one?
If you believe that the victim’s death may have been caused by the wrongful act of another person or entity, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Call the Kelly Law Team for a free case evaluation.
Who can file a wrongful death case?
A wrongful death lawsuit can be started by the spouse, child(ren) or parent(s) of the deceased. A case can also be brought by the legal guardian of the person who died, or by his or her estate. For purposes of the wrongful death laws, an adoptive child or parent is treated the same as a biological child or parent.
What types of situations give rise to a possible wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death action arises through the death of a loved one by the “wrongful” action of another person, company or other organization or entity. That wrongful action, in many cases, is negligence. Car accidents are probably the most common causes of wrongful death actions. Additional causes include medical malpractice, product liability, workplace accidents (outside worker’s compensation claims), and intentional torts, among others. The underlying legal issue is usually negligence on the part of the alleged wrongdoer.
What types of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death case?
While every case is different, damages in a wrongful death case fall into two general categories: (1) those related to the victim’s income; and (2) those related to the pain and suffering of the survivors, including loss of consortium.
What is "loss of consortium" and who can obtain damages for it?
Loss of consortium covers a broad range of damages that may be suffered as the result of the loss of a loved one. It can, depending upon the circumstances and the relationship involved, cover damage to the relationship (for example, father and son, spouses, etc.), or the inability to provide financial or emotional support, guidance, and companionship, among others.
What would I have to prove in order to be successful in a wrongful death claim?
To win a wrongful death case, you must prove liability and damages. Liability requires causation, that is, showing that the victim died as the result of the wrongful act(s) of one or more of the defendants, and that you suffered damages as a result. Damages may include, but are not limited to, items such as loss of income/benefits, the pain and anguish of the loss, medical bills, and funeral expenses. In extreme cases (where the defendant’s conduct was reckless or intentional), it may be possible to seek punitive damages. Unlike a criminal case, a wrongful death case is a civil matter, and the standard of proof is lower than in criminal matters – it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
Can I bring a wrongful death action if my spouse was killed in a job-related accident?
While some losses may be covered by worker’s compensation, which will bar a separate lawsuit against the employer, there may be other people or companies that might have contributed to the death. If so, you may be free to pursue claims against those other entities, including subcontractors, suppliers, landlords, etc., and to seek damages from them.
Are there time limits for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit?
Yes. There are time limits for commencing a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona. In general, the limit is two years from the date of the death of the victim. This is the same as for personal injury claims. The wrongful death statute of limitations appears in A.R.S. 12-542. There may also be additional steps that you may have to take if you plan on suing certain defendants.
Is there anything I need to do before filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a public entity or public employee?
Yes. If you plan on filing a wrongful death action against the State of Arizona, or any of its political subdivisions, employees or agencies, including, but not limited to, public schools, municipalities and counties, you must follow the provisions of the Arizona Notice of Claim law, A.R.S. 12-821.01. The statute requires that you first file a notice of claim with the public entity, school or public employee within 180 days after the action accrues. In a wrongful death situation, the case generally accrues upon the death of the individual involved. Failure to file under the statute will in most cases bar a lawsuit against the public entity or employee.
Can I bring a wrongful death case if the victim is a young child, an elderly person or a person with no income?
Yes. There is no limitation on the age or income of the decedent, although these facts can affect the nature and amount of the monetary claim against the defendant.