What Damages Can Family Members Recover in an Arizona Wrongful Death Case?
Nothing can ever prepare you for the death of a loved one. However, learning that someone’s negligence led to the wrongful death can make it even more difficult to understand. Although no amount of compensation can truly ease your family’s pain, it can help with financial pressures during a very challenging time.
When the negligence of others causes the death of your family member, you and surviving family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for the loss of your loved one. Under A.R.S. Sec. 12-611, if a victim could have pursued a personal injury suit had they survived their injuries, the victim’s surviving family can pursue a lawsuit. An experienced wrongful death attorney from Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A. can help in this situation.
Family Members Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case
Under A.R.S. Sec. 12-612, only immediate surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim for the loss of their loved one. These family members include:
- A spouse
- A child
- A parent or guardian
The personal representative of the victim’s estate, who may or may not be a family member, also can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate. However, Arizona law specifically excludes some individuals from filing wrongful death suits to claim damages due to the negligence of others, including surviving siblings and long-time companions (an unmarried couple, whether residing together or not).
Damages Family Members Can Seek in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim aims to hold the parties whose negligence caused your loved one’s death accountable for their actions. In the course of a wrongful death action under A.R.S. Sec. 12-613, you can seek damages due to their negligent behavior.
There are two types of damages for wrongful death; economic and non-economic:
Economic damages relate to a specific economic or financial loss. If a personal representative files a wrongful death suit, they are limited to seeking only economic damages from the responsible parties.
Unlike personal representatives of the deceased’s estate, family members can collect economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim. Economic damages can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills for treating the victim’s final illness or injuries
- Lost income due to the victim’s final illness or injuries
- Loss of future income due to premature death
- Property damages, such as the loss or damages to a motor vehicle
These economic damages are generally easy to prove. For instance, you can prove the existence of medical expenses with copies of medical bills. Likewise, a repair or replacement estimate for a motor vehicle can prove a claim for property damages.
Similarly, you can provide tax returns or paycheck stubs to prove the deceased’s lost wages due to final injury or illness. Concerning the loss of future income, an economic expert may be necessary to testify as to the projected future financial losses to arrive at a reasonable figure.
Non-economic damages do not represent a specific monetary loss. These damages represent intangible losses that may be more challenging to quantify in dollars and cents. Non-economic damages that family members might claim in a wrongful death case include:
- Pain and suffering of the surviving family members for losing a loved one
- Loss of household services that the deceased provided
- Loss of consortium, including the affection, care, guidance, and companionship that the deceased provided
Because non-economic damages represent mostly an emotional loss, quantifying non-economic damages for losing a loved one can be more difficult — but is far from impossible when you hire an experienced wrongful death attorney. You can present evidence to show how severe the loss of your loved one has been on your life and the lives of other surviving family members. In particularly egregious cases in which reckless, malicious, or intentional behavior led to your loved one’s death, you may even be able to seek punitive damages as part of your wrongful death claim.
Dividing Damages Among Family Members in a Wrongful Death Case
If the court awards damages to surviving family members in a wrongful death claim, the family members must agree on how to divide the damages amongst themselves. Otherwise, the family members must agree to a court-ordered disbursement plan for the damages. Oftentimes, an estate or probate attorney can work with your attorney to help allocate any damages awarded by the court. An attorney at Gallagher & Kennedy can help you navigate all of these challenges so you can focus on healing after your loss.
When You Lose a Loved One in an Accident, We Can Help
Going through the legal process can be confusing and overwhelming, especially following the unexpected loss of a loved one. However, a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer at Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A. is here to help you through that process from beginning to end. Contact us by calling 602-530-8400 or online to set up your free consultation and learn how we can help with wrongful death claims.