Depending on the severity of the accident, individuals might perish immediately or suffer injuries that are ultimately fatal. When this happens, it is crucial that the surviving loved ones consult with a legal professional for guidance and representation. The Glendale wrongful death attorneys at The Law Offices of John Phebus understand that the loss of a loved one can be devastating both emotionally and financially. If the deceased was a major wage earner in the family, it can be nearly impossible to financially recover from exorbitant medical bills and funeral expenses. Placing a dollar figure on the life of a family member can be a frustrating and confusing experience. Let us worry about the legal process while you focus your attention on grieving your loss.
Why Choose Our Team?
If your loved one was fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident, a defective product or through another serious accident, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Glendale wrongful death lawyer. Once liability has been determined after a thorough examination of the accident, we will negotiate a beneficial settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. If a settlement cannot be reached, we are fully confident in our ability to represent you in court. It is our goal to recover the maximum monetary compensation possible in your situation to provide financial stability for your family following this devastating loss.
- Who can file a claim?
- Who can be held liable?
- Elements for a valid wrongful death claim
- Damages you can recover
- Is there a limit on how much you can recover?
- Time limit to file a claim
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Not everyone has the privilege of filing for wrongful death. As in the case in most states, Arizona limits the ability to file for wrongful death to only certain parties close to the deceased person. Arizona Revised Statute 12-612 states who can and cannot file a lawsuit after the wrongful death of a party. The law gives the initial opportunity to file to the deceased person’s surviving husband or wife. The opportunity next passes to the decedent’s adult child, then a parent or guardian. If these parties do not wish to bring the claim themselves, they can use a personal representative of the deceased person to file on behalf of all surviving loved ones.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Loved One’s Death?
It is possible to file a lawsuit against almost any party in Arizona for being responsible for the death of your relative. Anyone who breached a duty of care to your family member, resulting in his or her death, may be liable for your family’s related damages. You may have grounds to bring a claim against your loved one’s employer or the manufacturer of a dangerous or defective product. Other liable parties could include doctors, drivers, property owners, roadway maintenance crews, government entities and alcohol vendors. Multiple parties could share fault in a wrongful death as well. The identity of the party responsible for your close one’s death could change the rules and restrictions associated with your claim. If a doctor was responsible, for example, you might need to hire a medical expert to testify on your behalf. If the responsible party was the government, your family will need to navigate sovereign immunity laws. The Glendale personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of John Phebus can help you with the specific rules relevant to your unique wrongful death claim.
What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The burden of proof during a wrongful death claim rests with the plaintiff – the filing party. As a surviving relative, it will be your responsibility to prove the defendant’s fault for causing the decedent’s passing. The weight of proof is a preponderance of the evidence: the jury must decide the plaintiff’s claim is more likely to be true than not true. In general, this takes proof of four main elements. A wrongful death lawyer from our law firm can help you with your burden of proof and the elements needed for a claim.
- Duty of care owed. The defendant had a lawful duty to exercise reasonable care over the victim. Duties of care can vary based on the circumstances of the case and the relationship between the defendant and the decedent.
- Duty of care breached. The defendant negligently or wantonly did not meet his or her duty of care owed to the deceased person.
- The defendant’s negligence was a direct and proximate cause of your loved one’s death and your related damages.
- You and your family members experienced real, compensable losses due to the death of the decedent. Losses can include funeral costs, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and lost income.
The lawyers at The Law Offices of John Phebus may be able to help you bear the burden of proof during a wrongful death lawsuit. We have experience bringing cases to trial when it is necessary for justice. Our attorneys can collect evidence of a defendant’s negligence, help you prove fault and causation, and fight for maximum financial relief on your behalf. We can help you understand precisely what you must prove during your specific case.
What Damages Can I Recover?
A successful wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of family members could result in compensation for losses such as grief, mental anguish, pain and suffering, unpaid medical expenses, past and future lost wages, lost inheritance, loss of consortium or companionship, and funeral and burial costs. The courts will distribute damages to the parties listed above in proportion to their losses. In most cases, the spouse and children of the decedent will receive the bulk of an award due to their dependence on the decedent. A wrongful death attorney in Glendale can assist you in securing a settlement for the unfortunate loss of a relative. Should the deceased person have no surviving spouse, child, parents or guardians, a representative of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate. In these cases, any compensation awarded will become an asset of the estate. The estate may then use the money to pay off outstanding debts and/or fulfill the wishes of the decedent’s will (e.g. going to named beneficiaries). In a wrongful death case in which a surviving spouse, child or parent committed a crime that took the life of the decedent, that party loses the right to file a claim or recover benefits.
Does Arizona Limit the Amount of Compensation You Can Receive?
Many states enact damage caps, they pass laws limiting the amount of financial compensation a plaintiff can receive for his or her injuries. Most states with these laws pick and choose only certain types of damages to limit, or only enforce caps during specific types of lawsuits. In Arizona, the state constitution prohibits damage caps during personal injury lawsuits. It is one of only five states with damage cap bans within its constitution, therefore, you will not encounter any caps on monetary damages. The value of your wrongful death claim will depend on the facts of the case – not on a statewide damage cap. The state does not cap any category of damages: economic, noneconomic nor punitive. However, state law does not permit a plaintiff to recover any punitive damages in a case against a public entity. It also rules punitive damages above a ratio of 9:1 with compensatory damages unconstitutional. Work with our wrongful death lawyers in Glendale to help maximize the financial outcome of your case.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases in Arizona
If you are one of the eligible parties who can file for wrongful death after medical malpractice in Arizona, the next rule to learn is the state’s statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law requiring plaintiffs to file claims by a certain deadline. The point of a statute of limitations is to keep the civil justice system just for both parties. Without a deadline to file, a plaintiff could theoretically wait until the loss of important evidence on the defendant’s side to bring a claim. The courts in Arizona take statutes of limitations very seriously, with few exceptions to the rule. In a medical malpractice wrongful death claim, the wrongful death statute of limitations will typically apply. This deadline is two years from the date of the loved one’s death, not the date of the malpractice that caused the death. This differs from a personal injury claim, in which the clock starts ticking on the date of the negligent or reckless act. If your relative died days or weeks after the alleged medical malpractice, the time limit on filing a claim will not begin until the date of death. Some claims qualify for exceptions to the general statute of limitations rule. If the filing party (such as a child of the deceased) is a minor under the age of 18, he or she will have two years from his or her 18th birthday to file a claim, regardless of the date of the parent’s death. The courts will also toll, or extend, the deadline in most cases involving criminal charges. If the party that caused your loved one’s death is on trial for a crime, the civil courts may toll the statute of limitations until the completion of the criminal case. Speak to an attorney from The Law Offices of John Phebus to learn your precise deadline to file. It is important to meet this deadline if you wish to retain any right to damages.
Contact Our Law Firm
If you have questions regarding personal injuries, car accidents, medical malpractice and more, schedule a free consultation at The Law Offices of John Phebus. Our Glendale wrongful death attorney can be reached by calling 623-847-7117 or by completing our online contact form. Our law firm’s office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Evening and weekend appointments are available based on the needs of our clients.