You do your best to prepare for the unexpected, taking extra precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of your family and loved ones. No matter how responsible you are as an individual, accidents happen every day. And if an accident leads to personal injuries – or worse – the wrongful death of a loved one, then you may be faced with unexpected medical bills, funeral expenses, and emotional pain and suffering.
If you’ve lost someone due to the negligence or intentional malice of someone else, you shouldn’t be held financially responsible for their actions. A seasoned attorney like Nathaniel B. Preston of Warnock MacKinlay Law can help you receive full compensation for the personal and financial losses you’re facing now that your loved one has passed. He has experience helping residents of Avondale, Arizona, and surrounding areas get the justice they deserve.
- 1 What is a wrongful death claim?
- 2 How do I file a wrongful death action in Avondale, Arizona?
- 3 What is my wrongful death claim worth?
- 4 Who can be held responsible for the wrongful death of a family member?
- 5 How can I win my wrongful death lawsuit or settlement?
- 6 Should I settle my wrongful death case?
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a special kind of personal injury claim where the family of the deceased can sue to recover damages for their losses. In personal injury lawsuits or settlements, if someone is injured due to the negligence of a third party (either an individual or corporation), they can then sue them for the cost of their medical expenses. For wrongful death suits, the surviving family members gain the power to sue for damages since their loved one passed away as a result of their injuries.
Not every personal loss results in a lawsuit, but there are certain situations in which a wrongful death claim is considered appropriate, including:
- Car accidents caused by driver negligence
- Commercial truck accidents caused by driver negligence
- Motorcycle accidents caused by driver negligence
- Medical negligence or malpractice
- Patient neglect or abuse while in a nursing home
- Dog bites or animal attack
- Slip and fall accidents while on unsafe property
- A product defect or malfunction
How do I file a wrongful death action in Avondale, Arizona?
The first step to filing a lawsuit for the wrongful death of your loved one is reaching out to an Arizona attorney as soon as possible. In the state of Arizona, the statute of limitations for an accidental death claim is just 2 years from the death of your family member. Since it takes time to prepare a fatal accident lawsuit and gather evidence for a case, you’ll want to start the process as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss your chance to hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions.
Before filing, you should know that the state of Arizona also limits who can file a wrongful death claim. Even if you’re related to the deceased, if the relationship is not close enough, you may not be able to file your action. It cannot be filed by aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, grandparents, or divorced spouses of the deceased.
In Arizona, a claim can only be filed by the following:
- The spouse (husband or wife) of the deceased
- Natural born or adopted children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased (including natural parents, adoptive parents, or legal guardians)
- Estate representative for the deceased
In most cases, the accidental death lawsuit is filed by one party who then accused a person, company, or government agency of being responsible for their loved one’s death, either through negligence or intentional malice. However, there are cases where there may be more than one plaintiff filing a claim against the same person or entity. For example, if a product malfunction results in the death of multiple people across the state, then all surviving family members may file a lawsuit against the manufacturing company.
What is my wrongful death claim worth?
With knowledge of Arizona wrongful death lawsuits and a clear understanding of the facts surrounding your case, your attorney will be able to provide you with a strong estimate of what your claim could be worth. For most cases, there are key factors that determine how much compensation you can expect for the wrongful death of your loved one.
Medical Expenses & Treatments
If prior to their passing, your loved one required extensive medical treatment or procedures, the surviving family members could be left with the financial burden of paying these bills. If a judge finds the defendant in your case liable for all damages, then you could receive compensation for the money lost due to excessive medical expenses.
Lost Wages & Inheritance
Most families in Avondale, Arizona, enjoy a two-person income in order to maintain a certain quality of life. The unexpected loss of your husband or life could leave your family in a tight financial situation now that you only have a single income to live on. As such, the court may award your compensation for lost wages, or your children may receive compensation for their lost inheritance in order to make the transition to life with a single-parent household easier.
Emotional Pain & Suffering
There is no amount of money that can replace someone you’ve lost or fill the emotional gap that’s left now that they’re gone. However, you may be able to receive some compensation for any emotional pain and suffering caused by the accident. While the ultimate decision about how much you will be rewarded is up to a judge, you could recover damages for the loss of companionship with the one you love. These types of rewards are for “loss of consortium”, which means your family has now lost they familial benefits that came along with having your loved one in the family. For a spouse, it may mean you lose the companionship of your life partner. For any children involved, it means the lose the chance to enjoy the love and guidance that parent could have brought to their lives. In wrongful death lawsuits filed in the state of Arizona, loss of consortium claims not handled separately, but are included within the overall lawsuit.
In most cases, proving to the court that your family suffered financial losses as a resort of the fatal accident is not a difficult process. By providing the judge and jury with a clear record of any medical expenses, funeral costs, or income statements, the plaintiff’s attorney can show exactly what the family should be compensated for.
Proving the loss of consortium can be a lot more complicated. You’ll have to prove to the court that you and your children are losing a familial benefit because of the loss of your loved one. If your relationship with the deceased was strained, if you were separated, or if you suffered from physical or emotional abuse from the loved one you lost, then the defendant’s attorney may argue that you have not lost a significant familial benefit.
They may ask many personal questions about your relationship in an effort to prove that additional compensation for loss of consortium is not needed. This is why it’s important that you discuss this claim with your Arizona lawyer beforehand. By fully disclosing all aspects of your relationship with the deceased, they can help you decide if a loss of consortium claim is the best decision for your case and for your emotional wellbeing.
Who can be held responsible for the wrongful death of a family member?
In most cases of wrongful death, the plaintiff will be the spouse, child, or estate representative for the deceased. But the defendant in the case can be any number of individuals who may have contributed to the fatal accident. You can file a lawsuit against another persona, a corporation, or even government agencies or employees (though some agencies may be immune). Even if a party was not directly at the scene of the accident, they could still be held completely or even partially liable for the resulting wrongful death. You’ll find some examples of cases like this below:
Fatal Dog Bite Accidents Example
A dog owner is at a local park with their pet. They know their dog has a history of aggression, but while on a walk, they take their dog off of their leash so they could run together, side by side. If the dog runs off and attacks a passerby at the park, then the dog owner would be liable for that individual’s personal injuries. If the victim of this accident dies as a result of their injuries, then a wrongful death suit could be brought against the dog owner. The lawyer, in this case, would be responsible for proving that the dog had a history of aggression, the owner knew about this, and they still neglected their duty of keeping the animal properly restrained.
Reckless Driving Example
A young man is driving down the highway when they receive a text message. They look down for a few seconds to respond to a message, only to look up and notice they’re approaching another car far too quickly. The man slams their foot down on the breaks, but they don’t stop the car. Both cars collide and the accident results in the death of the other driver. A few weeks later, it’s revealed that the car manufacturer is now recalling their vehicles because of faulty brakes.
In this case, one could claim that there is more than one party responsible for the fatal accident. The young man was distracted and by texting while driving, they put everyone on the road in danger. If the wrongful death lawyer of the plaintiff can prove to the Arizona court that the young man was distracted while driving, he may be deemed liable for the accident.
In addition, the car manufacturer has some liability for this case. They released a defective product that directly resulted in a fatal car accident. If they knew about the defects and did not release a statement or recall until much later, then they also may be found partially responsible for the accidental death.
How can I win my wrongful death lawsuit or settlement?
A successful wrongful death claim will result in you and your family receiving compensation for the losses you’ve suffered as a result of your loved one’s fatal accident. In order to win, you’ll need to prove that the death occurred due to the negligence or intentional malice of someone else. Proving negligence is based on a legal term called “duty of care”.
Duty of Care
“Duty of care” states that someone was legally obligated to adhere to a reasonable standard of care towards another person. For example, a medical professional working in a nursing home owes a certain level of “duty of care” to their parents. f they neglect this duty, then they can be found responsible for any resulting injuries or fatal accidents.
The same applies to individuals who do not have the same level of authority as a doctor or nurse working at their practice. When you get behind the wheel, you own the other drivers on the road a certain duty of care. You’re responsible for driving safely to ensure your actions don’t cause an accident while on the road. The same goes for manufacturers of a product. They have a duty of care to ensure that a defect or malfunction doesn’t lead to a fatal incident.
Breach of Car
During your trial, the judge will decide if the defendant (or defendants) had a “duty of care” that was owed to the deceased. If it is decided that they did have a duty of care, the next step is to prove that this duty was breached. If the medical professional mistreats or abuses a patient or a driver was drunk or impaired before getting behind the wheel, then this would show that they neglected their duty.
The next step would be to prove that the breach of duty of care is the reason that your loved one passed away. A distracted driver that crashes into another car could be considered liable for damages if the other driver died at the site or suffered fatal injuries.
Once you’ve spoken to your Avondale, Arizona, attorney, they will be able to give you a clear idea of your chances of winning your wrongful death lawsuit. They’ll tell you how difficult it could be to prove duty of care, breach of care, and that these actions lead to your loved one’s death. The ability to prove duty of care is based on the amount of evidence you have to support your case. Your lawyer will be able to investigate the accident, collecting witness statements, gathering photo evidence, or accessing police reports that may bolster your claim.
Gathering this type of evidence takes time, and with the 2-year limitation for wrongful death lawsuits filed in the state of Arizona, you’ll want to start the process as soon as possible. Reach out to Avondale, Arizona attorney Nathaniel B. Preston of Warnock MacKinlay Law for a consultation for your accidental death case today.
Should I settle my wrongful death case?
You may have been approached by the defendant’s insurance company or the corporation responsible for your loved one’s death, and they may have offered you the opportunity to settle your case outside of court. While their offer may be tempting and you may want to put this entire affair behind you as soon as possible, there are some things you may want to consider before making the decision to settle.
The defendant’s insurance company or attorney may want to avoid taking the case to court to avoid poor publicity from the impending trial. In their haste, they may offer your a wrongful death settlement that doesn’t cover the full extent of your losses or damages. In addition, if you want to hold the parties responsible for your loved one’s death fully accountable for their actions, a public trial may be the best way to ensure their actions are known and no other family falls victim to the same fate.
With that said, whether you decide to take your case to an Arizona court, or negotiate a settlement, your lawyer can help. An attorney can build a case to support your claims and use this evidence to fight for justice in court or negotiate with the other party’s insurance company or attorney in order to ensure you receive full and fair compensation.
The first step to recovering damages for your loved one’s fatal accident is to reach out to an attorney who is experienced in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Nathaniel B. Preston of Warnock MacKinlay Law has helped hundreds of families in Avondale, Arizona, and the surround area, receive compensation for medical expenses and emotional pain and suffering they’ve had to shoulder as a result of the wrongful death. From a traditional lawsuit to a negotiated settlement, there are many options available to you to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact Nathaniel today to determine which is the right process for you. Our number is (602) 652-2009.