Wrongful Death Law

Detailed Information: Arizona Wrongful Death Law

We at Bache & Lynch are experienced Arizona wrongful death attorneys practicing in Tucson. Arizona wrongful death law statutes allow the families of loved ones killed due the actions of another to bring a lawsuit against the person, company, or third party causing the death.

The following paragraphs provide information about Arizona’s wrongful death law. This information is general in nature. Arizona wrongful death attorneys should be consulted for case-specific information regarding the death of any loved one caused by another. At Bache & Lynch, our wrongful death attorneys and can answer any questions that you might have about the death of a loved one. Call us for a free consultation. We can explain the process for recovery, and provide an assessment of your case.

According to Arizona wrongful death law statute (law passed by the legislature), an action for wrongful death can be brought on behalf of the surviving spouse, adult or minor children, and parents of the decedent (person who died). An action can be brought by any of those individuals, or by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate on behalf of those individuals, or if none survive, on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Only the specific family members listed in the statute (“beneficiaries”) may bring a wrongful death action. Brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts, fiancés, or live-in boyfriends or girlfriends cannot bring a wrongful death lawsuit or recover damages for the death of their loved one, no matter how close their relationship to the deceased or how much they have been damaged. Only one action for wrongful death may be brought for the death of a person, and that action will be on behalf of all beneficiaries.

A surviving beneficiary is entitled to sue for wrongful death only if a cause of action for personal injury against the defendant (wrongdoer) would have existed if the victim had not died. A defendant in a wrongful death action is liable to the same extent he would have been liable if the victim had been injured rather than died. Thus, liability is established in essentially the same way as in a personal injury case.

If there is liability, a jury may award an amount to compensate each of the decedent’s beneficiaries for the following:

1. The loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance since the death of the decedent, and in the future.

2. The pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock, and mental suffering already experienced and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future.

3. The income and services that have already been lost as a result of the death and that are reasonably probable to be lost in the future.

4. The reasonable expenses of funeral and burial.

5. The reasonable expenses of necessary medical care and services for the injuries that resulted in the death.

Wrongful death cases often grow out of motor vehicle accidents caused by the negligence of one or more of the drivers involved, but there are many other activities and situations causing death that could give rise to a wrongful death case against a person or entity involved. If a motor vehicle collision causing death occurs due to the intoxication of one of the drivers, a wrongful death action may be brought against the intoxicated driver. However, other entities may also bear responsibility for such a death. For example, if a bar or restaurant serves an individual alcohol when they know or should know that the person is intoxicated, that establishment may bear some responsibility for a death caused by their intoxicated patron.

Shopping malls, stores, nightclubs, pizza parlors, concert venues and sports arenas have a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of people invited to their property. For example, if a mall has reason to know of gang activity at the mall and fails to provide reasonable security to prevent violence, the shopping mall may be liable for a death that occurs due to that violence. Another example of an entity that may bear responsibility for a death, is a governmental entity (city, county, state) for negligent road maintenance or design. All persons and entities that are at all responsible for a death should be held accountable for their actions

If a person or entity is found liable for the wrongful death of another and damages are assessed, the beneficiaries may enforce their judgment against the assets and income of the party found liable. However, for many reasons, insurance coverage may be the only practicable source for recovery. Again, since most wrongful death actions arise out of motor vehicle accidents, the auto policy of a negligent driver is often the first source that is looked to for compensation.

In Arizona, all vehicles must be insured by liability insurance in a sum not less than $15,000 per person, and $30,000 per occurrence. In addition, insurance companies are required to offer their insureds uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage up to the amount of the liability insurance. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage provides coverage in the event that the third party who caused the motor vehicle accident either has no insurance or has inadequate insurance to pay for the damages that he has caused.

Homeowners insurance sometimes provides liability coverage for members of the household who injure or kill people. Homeowners’ liability insurance often covers the actions of their insured regardless of whether the acts take place in the home or off the property. (Homeowners policies generally exclude coverage for deaths or injuries arising out of the use of a motor vehicle. However, these are often covered by automobile insurance.)

However, if an adult intentionally kills another person, homeowners insurance will generally not cover this act, since most homeowners’ insurance policies contain an ‘intentional act exclusion’ for adults. Under the intentional act exclusion, insurance coverage will not cover harm caused by an insured if the insured acted with a specific intent to injure the victim.

These are some of the potential sources of recovery for the wrongful death of a loved one. There are many more; please consult an experienced Arizona wrongful death attorney if you are faced with such a loss.