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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.

FAQs: Wrongful Death Lawyers Tucson

When someone negligently or wrongfully causes your loved one’s death, you will likely feel overwhelmed by the grief you feel and all of your losses. Many people who contend with the unexpected deaths of their loved ones because of the actions of others have questions about whether they have grounds to file wrongful death lawsuits. The wrongful death lawyers Tucson at Lamber Goodnow often receive questions from people who are dealing with their loved ones’ deaths. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that we receive to help you to understand wrongful death actions.

 

Q: What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: In Arizona, a wrongful death occurs when a death is caused by the negligent actions, wrongful actions, or failures to act of another person or entity. Under A.R.S. § 12-611, when a person dies from injuries that would have supported the basis of a personal injury case if he or she had lived, a wrongful death action can be filed.

Wrongful death and personal injury cases are closely related. Both of these types of legal actions are filed when someone’s negligence or wrongful acts cause injuries and harm to others. In personal injury cases, the victim can ask to be compensated for the losses that he or she has suffered. In a wrongful death lawsuit, someone else is allowed to take the place of the deceased victim to recover compensation.

Q: Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: Most states limit the parties who can file wrongful death claims. In Arizona, the parties who are allowed to file wrongful death claims are listed in A.R.S. § 12-612. Under this statute, the right to file a wrongful death claim depends on the relationship that the prospective plaintiff had with the victim. The following people may file wrongful death claims in Arizona:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse
  • The decedent’s surviving child
  • The decedent’s surviving parent(s) or guardian
  • The personal representative of the decedent’s estate or the personal representative of a deceased spouse’s, child’s, parent’s, or guardian’s estate

When the victim is a child, either parent or the legal guardian can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Q: How is a wrongful death case different than a criminal case against a defendant who caused the victim's death?

A: Depending on the circumstances, the state may file criminal charges against someone who wrongfully causes the death of another person. For example, a drunk driver who causes a fatal accident may face criminal charges as a result. Criminal cases are filed by prosecutors, who are tasked with presenting evidence against the defendants to secure a finding of guilt. Since criminal convictions can result in sentences to prison and a loss of liberty, the burden of proof required of criminal prosecutors is much higher than the burden of proof that is required in civil wrongful death actions.

Prosecutors must prove the guilt of defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. By contrast, plaintiffs in civil wrongful death lawsuits must prove their claims by a preponderance of the evidence. While only the state can file criminal cases, civil wrongful death actions can be filed by any of the parties who are allowed to do so under state law.

When a plaintiff wins a wrongful death case, the defendant will not be sentenced to jail and will instead have to pay monetary damages. Since wrongful death lawsuits fall under civil law, they can be filed even when criminal cases are pending against the defendants for the same incidents. Because of the lower burden of proof, it may be possible to win a wrongful death case and hold the defendant accountable for his or her actions even if he or she is found not guilty in the corresponding criminal case.

Q: How do I file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: Before you file a wrongful death lawsuit, you will first need to figure out if you are eligible to file the claim. The wrongful death attorneys at Lamber Goodnow can review what happened and the relationship you had with the victim to help you to determine whether you have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawyer will also check the statute of limitations to make sure that your claim is not time-barred.

If you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, your lawyer will help you to draft the civil complaint and file it in the court with the proper jurisdiction. After your lawsuit is filed, you will need to serve a copy of it with the summons to the defendant. The defendant will then have time to file his or her response. Once everything is filed, your wrongful death action will commence.

Q: What will I have to prove in a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: As a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if he or she had survived. Wrongful death claims have four common elements that must be proven before you can prevail. You will have to prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence to prevail in your claim and recover monetary damages:

  • The defendant owed the deceased victim a duty of care.
  • The defendant’s actions breached the duty of care.
  • The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused the victim’s death.
  • The plaintiff suffered quantifiable losses as a result.

A wrongful death claim requires that the victim’s death was caused by the negligent, reckless, or wrongful actions of the defendant. If your loved one’s death was purely accidental and was not caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of another person, you will not have grounds to file a wrongful death claim. Your loved one’s death must also have resulted in quantifiable damages. For example, if your loved one was hospitalized and incurred medical expenses before succumbing to his or her injuries, those are quantifiable damages since the bills will be paid by the estate.

To prove each of these elements in a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to present strong evidence. The wrongful death lawyers Tucson at Lamber Goodnow regularly complete thorough investigations to uncover important evidence. They also work with experts to help to prove what happened. Working with an attorney can help you to build your case based on the provided facts.

Q: What is the deadline by which I must file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: Arizona sets a time limit for filing civil lawsuits involving personal injury or death. This limitation period is designed to keep people from filing lawsuits years after the accidents and injuries or deaths occurred. The idea is that it would not be fair for potential defendants to go throughout their lives with the threat of potential legal actions hanging over their heads.

Under A.R.S. § 12-542, the statute of limitations starts to run on the date of your loved one’s death. You have two years to file a lawsuit from this date.

Q: What are the common causes of a wrongful death?

A: Wrongful deaths may happen in a broad variety of circumstances. Regardless of what type of action resulted in the wrongful death of your loved one, you will still have to prove the basic elements that were previously described. Some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims include the following:

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Birth injuries
  • Work injuries
  • Product defects
  • Medical malpractice
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Premises liability cases
  • Criminal actions

Q: How much is my wrongful death case worth?

A: Every wrongful death lawsuit is different. Wrongful death attorneys cannot give you a guarantee about what you might recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. Each case has a unique set of parameters, making it impossible to calculate an average expected amount for wrongful death claims. Your attorney will need to review all of the facts and evidence to give you a rough idea of how much you might expect to recover. This will require work, and you shouldn’t expect to receive a quote over the phone.

Q: What types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death claim?

A: In a wrongful death case, the damages are normally divided between the losses suffered by the deceased victim’s estate and the losses that have been suffered by the family members. Damages that are awarded to the deceased person’s estate will be distributed to his or her heirs. These damages include the following types:

  • Funeral costs
  • Burial expenses
  • Medical expenses incurred for treating the deceased person from the time of the accident until his or her death
  • What the deceased person would have likely earned in income if he or she had survived
  • Property losses
  • The deceased person’s physical pain and suffering from the accident until he or she died

Damages that are normally paid directly to the family members include the following types:

  • Emotional distress for family members who witnessed their loved one’s death
  • The lost value of services that the victim performed for the household
  • Loss of consortium and guidance

The specific types of damages that might be available will depend on who is filing the claim. For example, if the estate is pursuing the wrongful death claim, it would not be able to recover damages for loss of guidance or consortium. If the surviving spouse or child of the deceased victim files the claim, these types of damages may be available. Damages that are recovered in wrongful death claims in Arizona are distributed to the family members proportionately for their losses. Finally, if the defendant’s actions were particularly outrageous, punitive damages may be available.

Q: What if I cannot afford to hire a wrongful death attorney?

A: It is a common misconception that you must have a substantial amount of money set aside before you can hire a wrongful death lawyer to handle your claim. However, most attorneys who accept wrongful death cases offer to represent people on a contingency basis. With this type of fee agreement, you do not have to pay a retainer or your attorney’s fees until and unless your lawyer recovers compensation for you through a settlement or trial. The wrongful death attorneys at Lamber Goodnow also offer free initial consultations so that you can meet with a lawyer to learn about your claim and the options that you have.

If you win your claim, your attorney will take a percentage of your total settlement or verdict award for payment of his or her legal fees and costs. Since wrongful death cases are frequently complex, hiring an attorney to represent you might increase the likelihood that you will succeed with your claim. Hiring an attorney might also help you to recover a greater amount of compensation than you might otherwise expect, making his or her fees worthwhile.

When you meet with an attorney, he or she will carefully analyze the facts and circumstances to determine the legal merits of your case. By using a combination of legal skills, knowledge, and hard work, your attorney may help to make your case much stronger so that you can recover full compensation for all of your losses.


 

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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