How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works in Arizona

Losing a loved one is hard in any scenario. It’s even more painful if someone else causes the death through negligence or misconduct. That’s why Arizona and all other states have legislation that offers legal protection in the event of a wrongful death and provides recourse to family members through the civil court system.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident that you can prove was caused by another party, you are within your rights to file a wrongful death case. But before you file a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona, you should know the most common questions asked. Here are the answers to the most common questions about Arizona wrongful death claims. 

Question #1: What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death in Arizona?

Section 12-611 of the Arizona Revised Statutes defines wrongful death as a situation where, if the injured party had not died, there would be enough evidence to file for a personal injury suit.

The party liable for the death can be held for damages if death is a result of a “wrongful act, neglect or default.” In other words, if you could have filed a personal injury suit against the person or corporate entity who committed the wrongdoing, but you’ve died as a result instead, your family would be eligible to file a wrongful death suit on behalf of you or your estate.

Question #2: What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Murder?

A wrongful death scenario could be either intentional or unintentional misconduct. If a person intentionally hurts another person and that person dies, it could be treated as a wrongful death. Similarly, if you fail to fence off your swimming pool and a child wanders in and drowns, that would also be considered a wrongful death as a result of negligence. 

If the misconduct is intentional, then wouldn’t the person be charged with murder instead? The big difference between wrongful death and murder is that murder is a criminal charge, while wrongful death is a civil charge. The two cases are handled independently by two different court systems. 

Question #3: Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Arizona?

Each state has its own limitations on who can sue for a wrongful death lawsuit. Most people who file this type of claim are grieving family members or friends who lost a loved one after a sudden and unexpected means of death that would have been avoided had the defendant not been negligent. In Arizona, the parties who can file a wrongful death claim are limited to:

  • The surviving spouse of the deceased
  • Any surviving child of the deceased
  • Any surviving parent or legal guardian of the deceased, regardless of the age of the deceased
  • A personal representative of a deceased spouse, child, parent or guardian
  • A personal representative of the deceased’s estate

Question #4: Do You Have an Unlimited Amount of Time to File?

Arizona has a statute of limitations (Arizona Revised Statute 12-542) for filing personal injury or wrongful death claims. This means you have a certain amount of time after the death to file your lawsuit. Pursuant to Arizona’s statute of limitations, a beneficiary who wishes to pursue a wrongful death claim must file the claim within two years of the loved one’s death in most cases. There are certain exceptions, like the death of a minor or some government entities. The best option is to consult an attorney as soon as possible to determine the statute of limitations on a given case. 

Question #5: What Types of Damages Can You Include in a Wrongful Death Suit?

In personal injury or wrongful death cases in Arizona, “damages” refer to any compensation that the person filing the lawsuit is seeking. Damages in an Arizona wrongful death case fall into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages in Arizona include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills
  • The value of lost wages and benefits the deceased person would have earned if she or he had lived
  • The repair or replacement of any property damaged in the event. 

Non-economic losses are not measurable and are hard to quantify when it comes to compensation. These include:

  • The loss of the deceased person’s love, affection, comfort, companionship, and guidance,
  • Loss of household services the deceased provided, and
  • Survivors’ emotional pain and suffering.

Question #6: What Should I Do If I Have a Wrongful Death Case?

Hiring an attorney is not legally required when filing a personal injury lawsuit. But Arizona wrongful death law is extremely complicated and it’s never wise to try to pursue compensation alone. A lawyer who is experienced in this area can explain how the law might apply to your specific situation.

If your loved one has died as a result of negligence or misconduct and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.