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.
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.
Wrongful deaths happen for a number of reasons, and the leading causes include:
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 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).
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.
In a wrongful death case for individual negligence, the plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence in court to win:
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.
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:
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.
Plaintiffs in wrongful death claims can secure economic damages as well as noneconomic damages. Arizona allows plaintiffs to collect compensation for economic damages including:
Noneconomic damages describe intangible losses suffered by the victim and his or her family. These include:
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.
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.
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.
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.