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480.991.7677

Scottsdale  •  Phoenix

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Phoenix Wrongful Death Attorney

Nothing can ever prepare us for the sudden death of a loved one. When that death is caused by someone else’s negligence, it is difficult to understand why this happened. A Phoenix wrongful death lawyer at Knapp & Roberts cannot erase the pain of a wrongful death, but we can help your family obtain the compensation you need and deserve.

When a person suffers injuries and other damages due to the negligence of another party, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation for those damages. However, if negligence causes a person’s death, the surviving family will need to file a wrongful death claim to secure compensation for the loss. No amount of money can replace a lost loved one, but the financial security a wrongful death settlement or case award can provide may help a family rebuild their lives and establish a sense of normalcy after an untimely death.

Arizona has specific laws concerning wrongful death claims, and these civil actions function very similarly to personal injury lawsuits with a few notable exceptions. Negligence is still a crucial factor, but the way the claim moves through court and the damages the plaintiff can claim are different. Arizona law also clearly dictates which parties may file wrongful death claims.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Arizona

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Arizona is two years from the date of death. A deceased individual’s spouse, children, or parent may file a wrongful death claim. Additionally, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a claim if no other kin is available or willing to do so. This extends to personal representatives of a deceased child, parent, or spouse of the decedent in the wrongful death claim. If the deceased person is a child, either parent or the child’s legal guardian may file a wrongful death claim.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful deaths happen for a number of reasons, and the leading causes include:

  • Car accidents. Vehicle accidents account for tens of thousands of injuries and deaths in the United States every year. When a driver causes a fatal accident due to negligence, he or she should expect legal action from the victim’s surviving family.
  • Intentional violence. When one person knowingly and intentionally kills another person, he or she will face criminal charges from the state, but criminal action does nothing to compensate the victim’s family. The surviving family will file a wrongful death claim that will run in tandem with the criminal charges from the state.
  • Workplace accidents. Some working environments are inherently more dangerous than others. Accidental workplace fatalities are unfortunately common in industries like construction, oil and gas, mining, and deep-sea fishing.
  • Medical malpractice. Medicine is an inherently uncertain field and unpredictable circumstances can arise without notice, but doctors and other medical professionals have a legal and moral obligation to treat patients using acceptable methods and sound treatments. When a physician or other medical practitioner acts outside the bounds of acceptable treatments, he or she commits medical malpractice.

Any type of Phoenix wrongful death case can be time-consuming and stressful without reliable legal representation. The victim’s family should act quickly and contact a reliable, experienced Phoenix wrongful death attorney to pursue a wrongful death claim.

The 15 leading causes of death in the United States

  1. Diseases of heart (heart disease)
  2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
  3. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
  6. Alzheimer’s disease
  7. Diabetes mellitus (diabetes)
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease)
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
  11. Septicemia
  12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
  13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (hypertension)
  14. Parkinson’s disease
  15. Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids

The third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015 was unintentional injuries, which are made up of car crashes, falls, accidental poisonings and other events. According to the CDC there were 146,571 of accidental deaths in 2015 – a 28,762 increase from 2005, only ten years prior (see chart below).

Wrongful Death Claims from Vehicle Accidents

Vehicle accidents can lead to different types of wrongful death claims. For example, a vehicle defect that leads to a fatal accident could lead to a product liability claim for wrongful death against the manufacturer. Distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, or aggressive driving can lead to wrongful death claims for individual negligence. People who cause fatal accidents from criminal activity behind the wheel such as DUI stand to face criminal action from the state as well as civil claims from the surviving family.

In a wrongful death claim from a vehicle accident, the plaintiff must prove the defendant caused the accident that led to the death in question. If the state is prosecuting the defendant in a criminal case, the evidence in that case can also apply to the civil claim from the victim’s family. Evidence such as eyewitness statements, traffic camera recordings, cell phone records, and more can all contribute toward the plaintiff’s success. However, the most critical factor for succeeding in a wrongful death claim is proving the defendant’s negligence. By hiring a Phoenix wrongful death attorney, your chances of successfully proving negligence greatly increase.

Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

In a wrongful death case for individual negligence, the plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence in court to win:

  • Duty. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff in the given situation. For example, every driver has a duty of care to others on the road to obey the traffic laws in the area and heed posted signals and signs.
  • Breach. The plaintiff then must show how the defendant breached this duty of care. This requires proving the defendant engaged in a specific action during the given situation, such as speeding or texting while driving. It could also mean inaction, or failure to take an appropriate action to prevent harm to the plaintiff.
  • Damage. The plaintiff must be able to prove the defendant’s negligence resulted in some tangible injury or measurable loss. In wrongful death claims, this is readily apparent and documented.
  • Causation. Finally, the plaintiff must connect the defendant’s breach of duty with the death in question. This typically requires proving the defendant’s actions directly caused the death, or proving the death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions.

It’s important to note that some types of claims will involve different elements of negligence, such as medical malpractice claims. The nature of the defendant is also important. There are different rules for filing civil actions against individuals and for filing lawsuits against government entities. Suing a federal or state government agency requires meeting very tight filing deadlines with the court and dealing with caps for certain types of damages.

Wrongful Death Claims from Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician or other medical professional acts outside the scope of acceptable treatments for a patient’s condition. It can also occur due to incompetence or medical negligence, which describes failure to meet the acceptable standard of care for the given situation. The medical community establishes consensus for acceptable treatment methods, medications, and medical techniques. A doctor who wishes to use an experimental, untested, unapproved, or otherwise unrecognized treatment must have an extremely compelling reason to do so, otherwise he or she is committing medical malpractice.

Some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims from medical malpractice include:

  • Informed consent violations. Doctors must fully advise patients of the risks of any suggested treatment. Patients have the right to make informed decisions about their own healthcare.
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Many medical conditions mirror the symptoms of other conditions, so diagnosis happens with a process of elimination. Doctors must use good judgment when assessing a patient’s condition to avoid a misdiagnosis, but they must do so quickly before the patient’s condition worsens.
  • Prescription errors. Doctors and pharmacists must ensure patients receive the correct medication in the correct form and dosage. They must also account for a patient’s preexisting medical conditions and prescriptions to check for potentially dangerous drug interactions.
  • Surgical errors, such as leaving instruments inside a patient’s body after a procedure, operating on the wrong body part, or causing internal injuries during surgery that require additional treatment.
  • Gross negligence. This applies to errors of extreme incompetence or inattention. In many cases, these are errors that a person without any medical training could prevent, such as reading an x-ray backwards and amputating the wrong limb from a patient or giving the patient medication when he or she has a known allergy to the medication.

It’s crucial for plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims to carefully assess their targets for their medical malpractice claims. For example, in some cases it is advantageous to sue the negligent doctor and the hospital where the doctor works. Some wrongful death claims may focus on a hospital completely independent from a treating physician. Examples of this could include poor oversight from the hospital leadership for hiring, firing, and staffing, allowing the hospital to fall into disrepair, or failure to establish safety and sanitation standards in the hospital.

Damages in Phoenix Wrongful Death Claims

Plaintiffs in wrongful death claims can secure economic damages as well as noneconomic damages. Arizona allows plaintiffs to collect compensation for economic damages including:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Medical bills for treating the deceased’s final illness or injury.
  • Lost income from the deceased’s final illness or injury. The plaintiff’s attorney will likely call on an economics expert to testify as to the deceased’s lost future earnings to produce a reasonable figure.
  • Property damages, for any personal property damaged or destroyed in the fatal incident. For example, in a wrongful death claim for a fatal vehicle accident, the family can sue for the cost of repairing or replacing the victim’s vehicle.

Noneconomic damages describe intangible losses suffered by the victim and his or her family. These include:

  • Pain and suffering. This applies not only to the surviving family’s pain of losing a loved one, but also the pain and suffering endured by the deceased as a result of the defendant’s negligence prior to his or her death.
  • Loss of value of household services provided by the deceased.
  • Loss of consortium, affection, care, guidance, and companionship.

Arizona law allows estate representatives to claim economic damages and pain and suffering for the deceased but does not allow representatives to claim noneconomic damages. When the court awards damages to surviving family members, the family must either agree how to split the award or agree to follow a court-ordered disbursement plan.

 

Did you know?

  1. In 2014, researchers found in a first-of-its-kind study that an estimated 3,278,073 children were treated in United States emergency departments from 1990 through 2011 for a toy-related injury.
  2. Choking is the leading cause of injury in children. A child is seen in the emergency room approximately every three minutes due to a toy injury.
  3. The number of medical injuries due to prescription errors is rising substantially. Millions become sick or die every year because of being improperly medicated with wrong dosage, tainted drugs, or other physician errors.
  4. Diagnosis errors cause up to 160,000 deaths annually in the U.S., making diagnostic errors the most dangerous by doctors and, according to Johns Hopkins researchers, estimated to cause between 80,000 and 160,000 deaths every year. Data from over 350,000 malpractice claims over the last 25 years showed that the majority of claims were related to diagnostic errors, frequently leading to severe patient harm.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Arizona?

Surviving family members may have suffered monetary or other losses as a result of the victim’s death. Under Arizona law, only certain family members may bring a wrongful death claim: a husband or wife, child, parent or guardian, or the representative of the deceased person’s estate. That means, for example, that siblings or longtime companions may not have a wrongful death claim for damages they suffered as a result of a loved one’s death due to negligence.

A successful wrongful death lawsuit could result in damages such as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering as well as loss of companionship and household services.

You can talk to a Phoenix wrongful death attorney whose entire practice is devoted to helping the families of wrongful death victims and those who have suffered serious personal injury.

  • Our Phoenix wrongful death lawyers will tell the story of your loss. We will get to know you and your family so that we can understand how your life has changed since the death.
  • Our wrongful death law firm has a network of experts who can investigate the accident or negligence and determine the liable parties.
  • We will explain to the insurance company or to the jury how this wrongful death has affected your family financially and emotionally. Losing a loved one can mean losing the foundation of your current and future life.
  • Your Phoenix wrongful death lawyer at Knapp & Roberts can seek damages caused by lost wages; future economic security; your pain, grief, sorrow, and stress; the loss of companionship and household services; loss of retirement and health benefits; and medical expenses associated with the death.

 

Find Reliable Wrongful Death Legal Counsel

Navigating the wrongful death claims process in Arizona can be difficult, especially after experiencing the untimely death of a loved one. The team at Knapp & Roberts has been helping clients in Arizona for more than 20 years in all types of civil actions. We understand how difficult a wrongful death is for the surviving family, and we put the full extent of our resources and experience to work in every case. We operate on a contingency fee billing structure, meaning you don’t pay any legal fees unless we secure recovery for you in your wrongful death claim.

Contact the Knapp & Roberts team today to schedule a free consultation about your wrongful death claim. We’ll review the details of your case, identify the possible defendants, and let you know what to expect from a lawsuit.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.