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Wrongful death: elements and considerations

Reference is often made in the legal world to litigation predicated on wrongful death.

What exactly is a wrongful death action?

In answering that question, it might be useful to establish upfront what a wrongful death complaint is not, namely, a criminal action brought by state authorities.

Rather, a wrongful death lawsuit commenced in Arizona or elsewhere is brought by the personal representatives of a deceased person, with those persons most often being family families. A suit for wrongful death is a claim for money damages based upon a civil standard of proof emphasizing a preponderance of the evidence (as opposed to criminal law’s “beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” which imposes a higher proof duty for conviction of a defendant).

A central element of a wrongful death claim focuses upon the acts or omissions of a third party that proximately caused the death of a victim, with the requirement being that willful or negligent conduct contributed directly to a fatality. Thus, issues centered on a duty of care, attendant breach of that duty and resulting injury are all spotlighted in wrongful death litigation.

As noted in an online overview of wrongful death, “Pecuniary, or financial, injury is the main measure of damages in a wrongful death action.” Money damages are thus a core remedy for the personal representatives of a decedent.

Wrongful death actions can stem from a number of circumstances. They are certainly common in medical malpractice cases, following fatal motor vehicle accidents, in matters featuring product liability and with workplace accidents and injuries.

Every state has a wrongful death statute and its own rules and requirements for filing an action, including stated deadlines for bringing a claim.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can provide relevant information.

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