A Look at Wrongful Death Cases in Northern Arizona
In 2020, over 200,000 people died from accidental injuries in the United States. When a relative dies unexpectedly under such circumstances, families can be left struggling to figure out how to manage life without their loved one. However, there are times when civil law applies to these situations.
“Wrongful Death” is a specific kind of personal injury lawsuit. When someone's actions result in the death of another person, the estate or family of the deceased could be entitled to compensation.
There are specific qualifications in Arizona for a wrongful death case to become a possibility. Continue reading if you need more information about wrongful death cases, and contact Glazer, Hammond & Ruben, PLLC to schedule a consultation if you believe you may have a case.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Arizona?
A wrongful death suit determines if a person or entity is legally responsible for inflicting injuries that result in death. If the defendant is found liable, the court will determine how much financial compensation the plaintiff is owed. Arizona statute declares that a death caused by negligence, neglect, or misconduct could result in a civil case.
Negligence refers to behavior that is reckless and presents a risk to the safety of others. An example of wrongful death at the hands of negligent behavior could be someone dying from an accident caused by drunk driving.
Neglect is legally defined as the failure to perform an act, fulfill a responsibility, or fulfill an assigned job. An example of neglect in the context of wrongful death could be if a child dies due to a daycare's failure to not provide proper care.
Misconduct translates to unlawful, unprofessional, or unethical behavior. For instance, say a medication manufacturer does not disclose harmful side effects of their drug, and these side effects cause someone's death. Arizona's civil court could hold the company responsible for damages in a wrongful death suit.
Wrongful death can happen in many different ways. It's best to get in touch with a personal injury attorney quickly if you feel you could have a case.
The Aspects of Proving Wrongful Death
The essential element to proving wrongful death is describing how the defendant was negligent. To do this, the plaintiff's case must demonstrate that the four elements of negligence are present: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
First to be established is the duty of care. Here, the plaintiff's case must determine the existence of a legal duty owed to the victim by the defendant. The expectation to behave safely and responsibly in order to avoid causing harm to another is what comprises legal duties. For example, drivers must follow traffic laws to keep others on the road safe.
Next, the plaintiff's case exemplifies how the defendant breached this duty either intentionally or by accident. After establishing that the defendant had a legal responsibility to conduct themselves with care, the case must factually describe how the defendant failed to do so. For this, the plaintiff's attorney must provide evidence that exemplifies irrational, ignorant, or irresponsible behavior.
Following breach, the element of causation links the defendant's behavior to the victim's death. Simply demonstrating that a breach of duty occurred is not sufficient. The plaintiff's case must offer evidence that proves how the defendant's breach was the main cause of the victim's death. If the death could have happened regardless of the defendant's breach, then the element of cause is not satisfied.
Additionally, the defendant's actions must fall within the scope of liability. This means that the defendant could have predicted the victim's death as a consequence of their actions.
Lastly, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the victim's death has created damages. Damages are the losses that the plaintiff faces in light of the wrongful death. Two categories of damages exist: economic (also known as special damages) and non-economic (also known as general damages).
Economic damages are the financial losses the plaintiff incurred from the incident. These are expenses that can be monetarily calculated and include the funeral/burial expenses, medical expenses, lost household income, lost benefits that would be available if the victim were alive, property damage, and all other financial costs that stem from the death.
Non-economic damages can't be exactly calculated in a monetary sense. These damages consider the costs associated with a lower quality of life caused by the incident. Examples of non-economic damages applicable to wrongful death include:
- The emotional pain and suffering the victim's family suffers due to their loss
- The loss of household services that the victim provided
- The loss of the emotional role the victim provided to their family, including the loss of their affection, comfort, companionship, and guidance
Putting the Elements Together
To provide an example of a case where each element is present, consider a driver getting into a deadly crash while traveling at a speed well over the legal limit. As a vehicle operator, the driver owes a duty of care to others on the roadway to adhere to the speed limit. The driver breached this duty by breaking the law and speeding, as the crash report proves that they were traveling far faster than the limit. The driver is responsible for the crash, as they could not slow down in time and therefore collided with another vehicle. It is reasonable for the driver to understand that by speeding, they could cause a deadly accident, proving that their actions fall within the scope of liability. As a result, the opposing car's passenger was killed, leaving behind a spouse that now suffers financially and emotionally.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Case?
As its name implies, wrongful death means that the victim of negligence, neglect, or misconduct did not survive their injuries, and thus will not be the one to collect compensation for the incident. Arizona law has declared what individuals can bring forward a claim on behalf of the deceased:
- The victim's living spouse
- Any of the victim's living children
- The victim's living parent or guardian
- The executor, or representative of the deceased on the behalf of the victim's family or estate
Overall, an experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to determine who is qualified to pursue a wrongful death claim according to the unique factors of each case.
How Are Wrongful Death Cases Awarded?
When a court decides that a wrongful death did take place, different aspects determine the amount of compensation that the court feels is just:
- The financial need of those that survive the victim. For example, if the victim's living children are still minors, they will receive a higher amount of compensation than if they were adults
- The historic wages and future earning potential of the deceased
- The costs associated with any medical treatment the victim received as a result of the incident and (in certain circumstances) the costs incurred from the funeral/burial of the deceased
- The level of emotional hardship that the survivors of the deceased now face
Get In Contact With Excellent Wrongful Death Representation as Soon as Possible
Each case is unique, so the amount of compensation awarded in wrongful death cases is varied. To get the most compensation possible, it's important to reach out and confer with legal representation. A wrongful death attorney can do more than provide guidance. They should help determine how to build the strongest case based on the circumstances at hand.
It is also important to note that there is a statute of limitations that pertains to wrongful death cases in Arizona, so do not delay in contacting an experienced attorney.
Losing a loved one is difficult, especially in a manner that is unexpected and the fault of another. The right legal representation is not only aware of the emotional difficulties in such circumstances but is prepared to lessen the burden of pursuing a wrongful death claim. If you believe you have a case in Arizona, reach out to Glazer, Hammond & Ruben, PLLC. Personal injury attorney Keith Hammond has the skills necessary to fight for the compensation you deserve. Healing from loss is a challenge, but holding the person responsible for your loss is achievable with the right help and support.