Tucson Wrongful Death Lawyers

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Tucson Wrongful Death Lawyers

When you lose a loved one, it may be especially devastating when the death resulted from another person or entity’s negligence. A sudden and unexpected death caused by a negligent or wrongful act means that your family member is taken away from you in an instant in an incident that was preventable.

The experienced and compassionate legal team at Lamber Goodnow understands how difficult dealing with the sudden death of a loved one is for our clients. Cases involving wrongful death are both tragic and highly complex, and our attorneys have years of experience advocating for the families of people who are killed due to the negligence or wrongful acts of others.

Wrongful death cases

If you have suffered the loss of your loved one because of the negligent actions of another person or company, you may be able to recover monetary compensation by filing a wrongful death civil lawsuit. While no amount of money can bring back your loved one, financial compensation in a lawsuit may help you to recover money for the following types of losses:

  • Medical expenses incurred for your loved one before he or she died
  • Your loved one’s lost income or financial contributions to your family
  • Reasonable funeral expenses and burial costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium and guidance
  • Lost inheritance rights

If the wrongful actor in your loved one’s case was especially egregious in his or her actions, our experienced lawyers may also be able to help you to recover punitive damages. Unintentional accidents causing deaths are very common, leaving thousands of families suffering from the sudden losses of their loved ones each year. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 3,403 people died in the state as a result of unintentional accidents in 2015 alone, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the state during that year.[1] No matter what type of accident happened that caused the wrongful death, proving it will necessitate a thorough investigation by experts.

Lamber Goodnow has the answers to your questions about wrongful death claims

What is a wrongful death?
In Arizona, a wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the “wrongful act, neglect or default” of another person or corporation. A.R.S. § 12-611.[2] Arizona has two distinct causes of action available when a person is killed by another. Under the wrongful death statutes found at A.R.S. § 12-611 to § 12-613, the person who caused the death may be held to be liable for the damages that are caused to the family members who are left behind. The law also allows a separate survivorship claim under A.R.S. § 14-3110, which allows families to hold the defendants accountable for the damages that they caused to the people who were killed.[3]

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Arizona?
The law outlines specific parties who are allowed to file wrongful death claims against the at-fault parties. Not all family members are able to file these lawsuits. They are brought by the personal representatives of the estates in the names of the surviving spouses, children or parents. If none of these parties are surviving, the lawsuits may be brought on behalf of the estates. A.R.S. § 12-612.[4] If a family member who would otherwise be able to file a wrongful death claim caused the death of the decedent, violating other sections of the law, that family member will be disqualified from recovering damages in a wrongful death action.[5]

How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim in Arizona?
In Arizona, an action under the wrongful death statutes has to be filed within two years of the person’s death. A.R.S. § 12-542.[6]

What types of damages might be recovered in a wrongful death action?
Arizona law states that juries may award damages that they deem to be fair and just, and they may consider mitigating or aggravating circumstances when making their decisions about the amounts to award. A.R.S. § 12-613.[7] Caps on damages are prohibited under the Arizona Constitution.[8]

Plaintiffs may recover damages to pay for the medical expenses that were incurred for treating their loved ones prior to their deaths. The plaintiffs have the burden of proving the expenses that were incurred.[9] They may also recover pain and suffering damages for the pain and suffering that the decedents experienced following their injury up until they died.[10]

Survivors may also recover loss of consortium damages for the losses that they suffered because of losing their relationships with their loved ones. In Arizona, there are three types of loss of consortium damages that may be available, including loss of spousal consortium,[11] loss of filial consortium,[12] and loss of parental consortium.[13]

Future losses of income or financial contributions to the family that the decedent would have made if not for his or her death are also recoverable. Families may also recover the costs of their reasonable funeral and burial expenses.

How is fault established in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Plaintiffs must prove that the defendants caused the underlying act that resulted in death. In most cases, the underlying act will be negligence. In order to prove that the defendant was negligent, a plaintiff will need to be able to prove that the defendant failed to meet his or her standard of care. The plaintiff may do this by showing that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the defendant breached the duty that was owed, that the breach resulted in the accident, and that the decedent died as a result, causing harm to the plaintiff. Arizona follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, if there is more than one defendant, each will be responsible for the percentage of fault that is allocated to him or her. If the decedent was partly to blame, the gross award will be reduced by the decedent’s percentage of fault. [14]

Do you always have to file a lawsuit?
It is not always necessary to file a lawsuit in a wrongful death case. Your lawyer may start by drafting a demand letter in which he or she will outline the facts of what happened and the amount of compensation that is being sought. The purpose of this letter is to persuade the at-fault party to offer reasonable compensation. Your lawyer will send this letter to the party who is at fault or the attorney that is representing him or her. The party or the attorney may respond with a settlement offer. If it is reasonable, you may be able to resolve your dispute without filing a formal lawsuit.

What if an unborn fetus dies?
Arizona law recognizes the rights of parents to recover damages in wrongful death actions involving the death of a fetus, regardless of its stage of development.[15]

What is the difference between criminal and civil wrongful death cases?
Criminal cases are brought by the local, state or federal governments to punish individuals for actions that have been classified as crimes. Civil cases are brought by private individuals about disputes concerning the rights and duties that people owe to each other. Criminal and civil cases may be filed and proceed simultaneously. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is much higher, and prosecutors must prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. By contrast, civil actions have burdens of proof of by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard that is easier to prove. People who are criminally convicted face imprisonment. Those who are found to be liable in civil cases will have monetary judgments entered against them.

How much does it cost to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
When people are killed, their families are often left struggling with their loved ones’ deaths along with substantial and unexpected expenses. Lamber Goodnow does not charge fees upfront in wrongful death cases that we accept. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not have to pay attorneys’ fees unless we are able to secure a settlement or verdict award on your behalf.

What Steps Do We Take in a Wrongful Death Case?
We will work closely with you to determine the best way that you should proceed. This may involve an analysis of the facts and circumstances of the case and the actions of the liable party or parties. We will then advise you about the rights that you might have. There may be a number of different claims that you might have available to you. We will also assess liability so that you know what you might be able to expect.

Our experienced team has worked on many different types of cases, including those involving general negligence, product defects, poisoning, vehicle accidents, fires and workplace accidents. Each of these different types of cases requires unique knowledge and skills, and our team of dedicated attorneys has amassed the necessary skills and knowledge through decades of practice. We will begin by investigating all of the different aspects of your case, including what happened, the parties involved, whether negligence existed, the parties who are liable and what could have been done to protect the life of your loved one.

Why you may need the help of an attorney
Wrongful death is a complex area of the law. Most families are simply not prepared or able to thoroughly investigate wrongful death cases, which makes it vital for you to have someone fighting for you. it is very important for you to refrain from talking to third parties about what happened or to agree to a settlement without first consulting with a lawyer. We understand the seriousness of these cases and will thoroughly investigate what happened. We will keep you informed at all stages while taking the time and care that is necessary to secure the most favorable result.

Our no-fee promise
Our Tucson team has a no-fee promise. If you retain us, you will not have to pay any costs or fees until and unless we recover compensation for you. To learn more about your rights, call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 520-477-7777 to schedule your free consultation with one of our lawyers. You will not be obligated to hire us, and we will be happy to discuss your claim with you.

Sources

[1] Arizona Department of Health Services, Leading Causes of Death, http://pub.azdhs.gov/health-stats/report/ahs/ahs2015/pdf/text2b.pdf.
[2] Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-611, http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/00611.htm.
[3] Arizona Revised Statutes § 14-3110, http://www.azleg.gov/ars/14/03110.htm.
[4] Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-612, http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/00612.htm.
[5] Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-612(D), http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/00612.htm.
[6] Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-542, http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/00542.htm.
[7] Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-613, http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/00613.htm.
[8] ARIZ. CONST. art. 2 § 31.
[9] Allied Van Lines v. Parsons, 80 Ariz. 88, 100 (Ariz. 1956).
[10] Maldonado v. Southern Pac. Transp. Co., 129 Ariz. 165 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1981).
[11] Howard Frank, M.D., P.C. v. Superior Court, 150 Ariz. 228, (Ariz. 1986).
[12] Pierce v. Casas Adobes Baptist Church, 162 Ariz. 269, 272 (Ariz. 1989).
[13] Villareal v. Dep’t of Transp., 160 Ariz. 474, 477 (Ariz. 1989).
[14] A.R.S. § 12-2501, et seq.
[15] A.R.S. § 13-1102, et seq.; Summerfield v. Superior Court, Maricopa Cty, 144 Ariz. 467 (Ariz. 1985).

 

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