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Having a loved one stripped from your life can be one of the most painful experiences a person can endure. Wrongful death claims are potentially extremely complicated and vary in complexity based on the cause of death of the individual. Wrongful deaths most commonly occur in motor vehicle accidents, industrial accidents, and medical malpractice cases. It is important to note that only certain people are able to pursue a wrongful death action in Arizona. Under state law, a surviving spouse, surviving child, a surviving parent or guardian, or personal representative of the estate of the deceased may pursue a claim for wrongful death. The facts and circumstances surrounding every untimely death are unique. It is important to contact an attorney with the knowledge and experience to advise and guide on these topics. Members of Goodnow|McKay are experienced with these claims and are here to help. We are committed to helping our clients recover fair compensation. We are often able to negotiate reasonable settlements with the responsible insurance companies, but we are willing to fight for our clients through trial if necessary.
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Arizona Wrongful Death Law Overview
The Arizona Wrongful Death Act outlaws the criteria for compensating individuals for the loss of a loved one. The statute itself only allows very specific individuals to bring a claim for the loss of a loved one. The individuals who may bring a claim are: the decedent’s spouse, the decedent’s children, the decedent’s parents or guardians, or a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
There are two types of claims for pursuing a wrongful death claim: the wrongful death claim itself and a survival action.
Wrongful Death: Certain members of the family are compensated by the at-fault party for the loss of the relationship of the deceased individual. Essentially, the wrongful death beneficiaries are compensated solely for their emotional damages.
Survival Action: A representative of the estate attempts to collect medical expenses and costs on behalf of the deceased party. These are common when a person, who does not have health insurance, is involved in an accident and does not die immediately. Instead, the person is hospitalized or receives ongoing medical care due to the negligence of another and then passes away.
Both actions arise because of the death of a victim of negligence but differ in terms of damages. Wrongful death actions allow specific relatives to be compensated for the loss of the relationship of the individual.
The survival action allows the estate of a decedent to enforce a claim for the injuries and damages suffered by the decedent before death. In essence, the survival action allows a person to represent the decedent for the injuries suffered as the decedent would have been able to had they survived.
Comparing Types of Wrongful Death Legal Claims
Wrongful death claims are centered on compensating survivors who were close to the decedent for the losses they suffered as a result of the death. The people who can be compensated, often called beneficiaries, are the parents of the deceased individual, the spouse of a deceased party, or the party’s children. The losses themselves may include loss of financial support or include loss of companionship or sexual consortium.
Survival actions focus on the damages, medical expenses, disability, and medical expenses, suffered by a decedent before death. A representative of the estate of the decedent steps into their shoes and make a claim on their behalf.
Claims for the loss of the relationship with the deceased individual are the most commonly pursued types of wrongful death claims. This is because the loss of a relationship, generally, is more valuable than the medical bills in a survival action. The other reason people tend not to pursue survival action is when a party recovers money for medical costs and care, health insurance and healthcare providers may be entitled to portions of the money recovered to settle outstanding debts. Claims for damages related to the loss of the relationship are not subject to these debts against the estate.
Wrongful Death Damages
Under Arizona Law, damages for wrongful death claims are based on the value of the relationship the surviving relative had with the deceased individual. The strength and duration of that relationship as well as the estimated amount of years the relationship would have continued are the main criteria used to assess a value. In essence, the closer the individuals, the more valuable the claim. The longer the relationship, the more valuable the claim. Finally, to a certain extent, the more years a person is estimated to have prematurely passed, the more valuable the claim.
Multiple Claimants in an Action
Multiple people may have a claim for the loss of a loved one. For example, a surviving spouse and the decedent’s children. When this occurs the damages recovered are split in proportion to the damages. What this means is that those who are allowed to make a wrongful death claim will split the recovery based on the value of their loss. Often times this loss is calculated by examining the substance and extent of the potential claimant with the decedent. Generally, the stronger the relationship, the larger the damages.