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Home 9 Arizona Wrongful Death 9 What Forms of Compensation Can be Recovered in an Arizona Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

What Forms of Compensation Can be Recovered in an Arizona Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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The Lamber Goodnow legal team, recognized as one of Phoenix’s leading personal injury law firms, evaluates the details of each wrongful death case to make sure that each family is receiving the damages that they deserve.

In Arizona, the current recommended jury instructions list the elements of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death action.

A jury may award an amount to compensate the decedent’s beneficiaries for the following:

  1. The loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection, and guidance since the death [of the decedent] and in the future.
  2. The pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock, and mental suffering already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future.
    • In Arizona, the decedent’s pain and suffering prior to their death is not recoverable in a wrongful death action.  The surviving family members, however, are entitled to damages for their pain and suffering caused by the death of the decedent.[1]
  3. 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.
    • In order to establish the amount of future income, an expert is usually needed to testify as to the earning potential of the decedent.  These earnings are generally based on the decedent’s prior earnings, education, life expectancy and on “acceptable economic analyses.”[2]
  4. The reasonable expenses of funeral and burial.
    • Funeral and Burial expenses of the deceased are generally only recoverable by a surviving beneficiary if they have paid for these expenses or if they are liable to pay for them.[3]
  5. The reasonable expenses of necessary medical care and services for the injuries that resulted in the death (RAJI (Civil) 2nd, Personal Injury Damages 3).

A.R.S Section 12-613 describes the damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death action.  The section does three things.  First, it gives the jury broad discretion to award whatever damages to the plaintiffs that the jury “deems fair and just.”  Second, it allows the jury to consider in determining damages any “mitigating or aggravating circumstances” of the act causing the wrongful death.  Third, the plaintiff’s recovery is not offset by any “debts or liabilities of the deceased” unless the action is brought by the personal representative solely on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

In some wrongful death cases, punitive damages may be awarded.  The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the party responsible for the wrongful death and to discourage similar behavior in the future.  Punitive damages may be awarded if the negligent act is considered especially reckless or egregious.

Under A.R.S Section 12-612(C), the amount recovered in a wrongful death action shall be distributed to the parties in proportion to their damages.  If the recovery is on the behalf of the decedent’s estate, the amount shall be an asset of the estate, which would be distributed pursuant to the decedent’s will or the intestacy statutes.

[1]  Mullen v. Posada Del Sol Health Care Center, 169 Ariz. 399, 819 P.2d 985 (App. 1991).

[2]  Sedillo v. City of Flagstaff, 153 Ariz. 478, 737 P.2d 1377 (App. 1987).

[3]  Barragan v. Superior Court, 12 Ariz.App. 402, 470 P.2d 722 (1970).

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