Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Arizona

Jody L. Broaddus

Losing a loved one or family member due to the wrongful acts of another can be utterly devastating. Although family members, significant others, and friends can experience extreme grief and loss as the result of the death of a loved one, Arizona’s statutory scheme provides limitations as to who can bring a claim, as well as when and how a lawsuit must be filed.

Who can bring a claim or lawsuit?

While a variety of people can be harmed by the loss of a loved one, only certain people are entitled to bring and recover in a wrongful death lawsuit under Arizona law. In this regard, a personal representative, guardian, surviving spouse, children, and parents can bring a lawsuit, and the lawsuit can only seek recovery on behalf of the estate of the decedent, surviving spouse, children, and parents. The surviving spouse, children, and parents are considered to be beneficiaries. Unfortunately, siblings and significant others are not entitled to bring a claim, even though their losses may be tremendous.

How is the lawsuit brought?

Only one lawsuit may be brought for wrongful death. In other words, a beneficiary cannot maintain a lawsuit separate from any other beneficiary. All beneficiaries should be considered as parties, but the estate is not required to be a party. This may impact the recovery of certain damages, and there may pros and cons when considering whether to include the estate as a party.

What damages can be recovered?

There are two general areas of damages that can be recovered: (a) damages on behalf of the estate, and (b) compensation and damages sustained by the beneficiaries. In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, beneficiaries may seek compensation for financial and monetary losses, as well as for grief and the loss of companionship, love, guidance, pain, suffering, and household services resulting from the death of a loved one. The estate of the deceased, through a personal representative, can seek damages for a variety of items, such as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, property damage resulting from the event that caused death, and the value of lost wages and benefits the decedent would have earned.

When must a claim be brought?

In general, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years from the death of the loved one. If the wrongful death is caused by a governmental entity, there may be other requirements and much earlier deadlines.

There may be other options and considerations that should be addressed including, but not limited to, restitution if there are criminal proceedings against the wrongdoer, responsibility for medical expenses, questions regarding insurance, and other matters. Therefore, you should immediately contact an attorney to explore your rights if you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct of another.

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