Tragically, more than 35,000 people are killed every year in motor vehicle collisions. Nothing is more devastating than suddenly losing a loved one. But the ordeal can become even harder to bear if the family is suffering through financial burdens. The average cost of a funeral and burial is more than $7,000. If the loved one who died was a breadwinner, the family may also be struggling due to the loss of that income.
If your loved one has died in an auto accident and the other driver was partially or wholly at fault, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. You may be able to receive reimbursement for your financial losses, as well as some compensation for the loss of your loved one.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be an agonizing, complicated and stressful process. An experienced and caring attorney can relieve some of the burden and help you obtain the most compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses, suffering, and more.
Let’s go over some of the points you’ll need to consider when filing a wrongful death case.
Who can file a wrongful death action?
Each state has its own wrongful death statutes. In Arizona, you can file a a wrongful death suit if you are the decedent’s spouse, children (biological or adopted), parents (biological or adoptive) or legal guardian. You can also become a plaintiff if you are the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
What kind of damages can be awarded?
Arizona law states that in cases of wrongful death, “the jury shall give such damages as it deems fair and just with reference to the injury resulting from the death to the surviving parties who may be entitled to recover.”
This gives the jury broad freedom to compensate plaintiff(s) for the loss of a loved one. According to Arizona statutes, plaintiffs may receive financial compensation for the following:
• “The reasonable expenses of funeral and burial”
• “The reasonable expenses of necessary medical care and services for the injury that resulted in the death”
• “The income and services that have already been lost as a result of the death, and that are reasonably probable to be lost in the future”
• “Loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance since the death and in the future”
• “The pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock, and mental suffering already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future”
In addition, the law allows a jury to assign punitive damages to the at-fault driver. Punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault person for their gross negligence and to discourage him or her – as well as others – from repeating the behavior that caused the accident.
Proving your wrongful death claim
Because the stakes are much higher in a wrongful death claim than in an injury claim, the burden of proof is also higher. Your attorney must prove that someone was at fault in the accident, and they must prove the degree to which the person or people were at fault. Arizona is a comparative negligence state, which means plaintiffs are entitled to a percentage of the damages depending on the percentage the other driver was at fault. For example, if the at-fault driver was 80 percent liable and the victim 20 percent liable, the plaintiffs would receive 80 percent of the total amount of damages.
If it can be established that the at-fault driver was operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the case will be easier to win. If it can be shown that the driver was distracted by texting, this could also make for a strong case. Other circumstances may be more difficult to prove.
How your attorneys can help
Your attorney will fully investigate the case, including police reports, the scene of the accident, photographs, witness testimony, medical records and bills. He or she may collaborate with accident reconstruction experts, physicians and experts in a variety of fields.
Your attorney may secure video surveillance of the incident and data from the vehicle’s black box, which will tell them the condition of the vehicle and the road in many cases. Your lawyer may also contact accident witnesses and obtain statements.
Cases of wrongful death are extremely complex and emotionally draining for the families involved. Experienced attorneys who care deeply about their clients can help families through this time by shouldering some of the stress and relieving some of the financial burden by helping them obtain the most compensation possible.
The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team offers free consultation and serves clients on a contingency fee basis. Our lawyers only get paid when and if we secure a favorable settlement or verdict. There are no out-of-pocket costs for our legal services. We will help you accurately evaluate the value of your case and make the most informed decision in your unique situation.