In What Circumstances Is A Wrongful Death Suit Filed?

“A wrongful death suit is filed by those close to the family member to compensate them individually for the loss of the relationship with the decedent.”


Wrongful death claims are lawsuits filed by the surviving family members, or their beneficiaries, as a result of the unexpected death of a loved one. A wrongful death claim is distinct from a survival action because a survival action is filed by a representative of the decedent’s estate. A wrongful death claim is based on negligence and alleges that but for the negligence of another person or entity, the loved one’s death would not have occurred.

Wrongful death claims are based on tort law, which is an area of law focused on civil wrongs that cause some sort of injury to another. There are a number of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death claim, but in essence, the petitioner is seeking to recover for his or her own losses as a result of the wrongful death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Generally, a wrongful death claim is brought by those who were close to the decedent and suffered financial losses as a result of the unlawful wrongful death. Wrongful death lawsuits are often filed when the decedent supported children, a spouse, and other close family members prior to their death.

Arizona law specifically designates the individuals that can recover and file a wrongful death lawsuit. Unfortunately, not every type of family member is eligible for recovery. Only children, parents, guardians, a surviving spouse, or a representative of the estate may file the claim.

Generally, a wrongful death suit is filed by those close to the family member to compensate them individually for the loss of the relationship with the decedent.

A wrongful death lawsuit can still be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to compensate beneficiaries of the estate for the cost of the medical care incurred by the decedent before they died. While compensation in a wrongful death claim never replaces the loved one lost, it recognizes the impact of the civil wrong on others beyond the deceased.

Common Circumstances That Lead to Wrongful Death

As wrongful death claims are based on the negligence of another, there are many different circumstances that can give rise to this type of lawsuit. Common circumstances include deaths that occur as a result of car and motorcycle accidents caused by another’s negligent driving.

Other wrongful death claims are filed against doctors and hospitals, claiming that the death was caused by medical malpractice or negligence related to their care and treatment. Another common circumstance giving rise to wrongful death claims is when someone dies from a defective product. Usually, the petitioner is alleging that the product should have included safety warnings, or that the design was defective.

There is no limitation on the circumstances that can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit, only that it is alleged to have been caused by another’s negligence.

What Damages Can be Recovered as a Result of Wrongful Death?

Additionally, the types of damages that the petitioner seeks to recover play an important role in the circumstances of a wrongful death suit. Depending on the unique circumstances of the death, a wrongful death attorney will seek to recover certain costs.

“While compensation in a wrongful death claim never replaces the loved one lost, it recognizes the impact of the civil wrong on others beyond the deceased.”

Surviving family members can recover for the loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance that they would have received from the decedent in the future. Furthermore, they can recover for their grief and mental suffering that has already occurred and will occur going forward.

Additionally, family members can recover lost income, and the loss of future income, as is usually calculated by an expert. Finally, the family can recover for medical expenses and the burial expenses as a result of the wrongful death.

What About Punitive Damages?

In certain circumstances, individuals can recover punitive damages as a result of wrongful death. This type of damages is intended to punish the wrongdoer, rather than to compensate the surviving family members. Punitive damages are usually awarded under circumstances where individuals or corporations acted with malicious intent or gross negligence in their actions and those actions caused the death of the decedent. Punitive damages are awarded to deter that type of behavior in the future.

Talk with a Wrongful Death Attorney

If a wrongful death occurs, it is important to seek counsel from a lawyer who is able to help you navigate the process. Luckily, the attorneys at Goodnow McKay have years of experience representing clients in wrongful death cases arising from all types of circumstances. While we can never replace a loved one, our attorneys can help you towards becoming whole again. Request a free consult today!

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