Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim
January 26, 2023
If your loved one has passed away in a tragic accident, you’ve probably already been advised to file a lawsuit against the party that caused the fatal incident. However, you might not be aware of the process that goes into holding the at-fault party responsible for the tragic loss that has occurred.
At Zanes Law, we believe that educating our clients about their cases can help them make smart legal decisions for the rest of their lives. That’s why we’ve decided to inform you about the four steps required to prove negligence in a wrongful death claim.
The Four Elements of Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case
To hold the at-fault party liable for the loss of your loved one and any related financial losses you’ve incurred, your attorney must prove the four elements of negligence. They’ll use evidence from their investigation to support the following points:
Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal responsibility to act in a way that doesn’t put others at risk of injury or death. When you drive a car, you have a duty to other motorists to drive safely and avoid behaviors that could foreseeably harm another driver.
Proving that the at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care is the first step of establishing negligence. If your loved one was killed in a car accident, your attorney would prove this element with evidence that shows the at-fault party and your family member were sharing the road at the time of the fatal collision.
Breach of Duty
The next step your attorney must take to prove negligence is establishing that the at-fault party breached the duty of care. To prove this element, your lawyer will need to provide evidence showing the at-fault party failed to behave responsibly and safely.
To prove breach of duty after a fatal car accident, your attorney would need evidence like traffic camera footage of the at-fault party speeding or a copy of their blood test that shows they were intoxicated at the time of the collision.
Your lawyer could use many different records, documents, and testimonies to demonstrate a breach of duty. As long as they provide evidence that shows the at-fault party didn’t take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of others, they’ll be able to prove this element.
Once your wrongful death lawyer has proven a breach of duty, there’s still more to do to establish negligence. Next, they’ll have to show that the at-fault party’s failure to uphold a duty of care directly caused your loved one’s death.
To prove this element, your lawyer might refer to your family member’s end-of-life medical records, ask your loved one’s doctor to give a statement or even present testimony from a medical expert.
Emotional Suffering and Financial Loss
Lastly, your attorney must show that the fatal incident and your loved one’s passing caused you significant emotional upset and monetary loss. They can use your testimony to show that you’ve suffered from mental anguish or loss of enjoyment of life. They can also present funeral bills, inherited medical bills, and other invoices to the court to prove financial loss.
Once your wrongful death attorney has presented evidence that connects the at-fault party’s actions with your family member’s death and your losses, they’ll have proven negligence.
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Evidence Your Wrongful Death Attorney Needs to Prove Negligence
Your wrongful death attorney will need substantial evidence to prove the four elements of negligence. In collaboration with investigators, they’ll gather and examine the following documents and records:
- Police reports
- Accident reports
- Footage from security and traffic cameras
- Relevant photographic evidence
- Eyewitness statements
- Expert witness testimony
- Medical records and bills
- Other documents and records related to your loved one’s passing
Your attorney will use the evidence they find during the investigation to build a solid argument as to why the other party’s negligence caused the pain and loss you’ve experienced. If they’re successful, you could benefit from multiple forms of compensation.
Compensation You Could Receive From a Successful Wrongful Death Claim
If your lawyer can prove negligence, the money you receive from your wrongful death claim can help you in several ways. Depending on how the death of your loved one has affected you, you might be able to use compensation for the following:
- The medical bills you’ve inherited from the decedent
- The cost of your loved one’s funeral, burial, cemetery plot, or cremation
- Loss of financial support that the decedent provided
- Mental anguish
During your consultation, your lawyer will ask you about the emotional challenges, financial pressures, and other expenses you’ve faced due to the death of your family member. They’ll use that information to figure out which of the abovementioned damages you’re eligible to receive.
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Filing Deadline for Wrongful Death Cases Arizona
Unfortunately, having the evidence required to prove negligence won’t help if your attorney can’t file your wrongful death lawsuit on time. That’s because Arizona imposes a strict statute of limitations on wrongful death plaintiffs. ARS § 12-542 gives you two years from your loved one’s death to submit a suit.
Missing the filing deadline could prevent you from getting the support you need to pay bills and cope with the trauma of losing a family member. Acting fast and reaching out to a law firm ASAP can help your attorney comply with the state’s short filing deadline.
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Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
The team at Zanes Law understands how hard it can be to lose a close family member or spouse. Planning a funeral, taking care of unpaid bills, and above all else, dealing with the pain of a sudden loss is never easy. That’s why our attorneys are here to guide you through the legal process with compassion and patience.
Contact us to learn more about filing a lawsuit and proving negligence in a wrongful death claim. We’ll schedule a free consultation to learn more about your situation and advise you on your legal options. If a wrongful death lawyer from our team agrees to take on your case, you can rest assured that you have the support of an experienced and reliable attorney.