For families, losing a loved one is a cause of grief and trauma, regardless of the cause of death. This is even worse when their loved one died an untimely death because of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness. Beyond the physical loss of their loved ones, families will suffer both financially and emotionally. If they can prove their loved one died because of someone else’s actions, families may be eligible for significant financial compensation.

Zanes Law Injury Lawyers help families pursue the money that they legally deserve in wrongful death cases. When you are unsure of where to turn, our Phoenix wrongful death attorneys are ready to help.

How Negligent Actions Cause Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful death can happen in many circumstances.

These include:

While this is a broad group of accidents, they share something in common: someone else can be responsible for the death of your loved one. When that happens, justice demands that they be accountable for the losses they cause.

How to Prove Your Wrongful Death Case

While the consequence of the accident is far greater, wrongful death claims are like any other negligence case. You need to prove the same thing that you would in any personal injury case. You must put forth evidence that someone else was to blame for the injury that caused your family member’s death.

The legal term for this is negligence. It is another way of saying that someone else’s actions took your family member from you. There is a four-part test to prove negligence in any wrongful death case, and you must prove each of these four elements.

They are:

  • Duty of care – The defendant owed your loved one the duty to act reasonably under the circumstances
  • Breach of duty – The defendant breached that duty by acting unreasonably
  • Injury – Your loved one suffered an injury
  • Causation – Your loved one would not have suffered injuries had it not been for the actions of the defendant

Proving a wrongful death case requires that you have evidence to support each of the above four elements. The biggest issues in any wrongful death case will be the second and fourth parts of the test. Often, the entire case will come down to proving what the defendant did or did not do. This requires an attorney who can investigate the cause of the death and present the facts to an insurance company or jury.

Examples of Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases

Here are some examples of unreasonable conduct that could be grounds for compensation in a wrongful death case:

  • A tractor-trailer jackknifed and hits a car because the driver was speeding
  • Two cars have a head-on collision because one car goes into the opposite lane of traffic
  • A consumer dies from a defective drug that caused them to develop cancer
  • A pedestrian is struck and killed by a driver who was texting at the time of the accident
  • A child drowns in a swimming pool because they were unsupervised
  • A factory worker dies from mesothelioma because they had exposure to asbestos
  • A construction worker falls because of the negligence of someone who was not their employer

As you can see, many situations can unfold and lead to wrongful death claims, and our attorneys assess your rights based on your specific circumstances.

Families often want to know whether they can bring a wrongful death claim after their loved one died on the job. The answer is that it depends. If your loved one died in a work accident, you will need to file a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits. However, if your family member died because of someone else’s negligence other than your employer or fellow employees, you may have a wrongful death case, possibly in addition to a workers’ comp case.

Negligence can include causes like defective work equipment, vehicle accidents due to other drivers, or contractor carelessness. A third party (not the employer) needs to be responsible for a wrongful death lawsuit to apply.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The wrongful death legal process is a little different from some personal injury cases because of who may bring the case. Of course, in the standard personal injury case, it is the accident victim themselves who is filing the case.

Here, Arizona law decides who can file the wrongful death claim after the death of their loved one:

  • The surviving spouse always has the first right to bring the legal case.
  • If there is no spouse, the children have the legal right to sue.
  • The next group that can file a lawsuit is the surviving parents.
  • Finally, if there is no spouse, children, or parents, an authorized personal representative can file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate.

No matter who is eligible to file the case in your situation, our Phoenix wrongful death lawyers are ready to help.

The Ways to Recover After Your Loved One Dies

The fact that the spouse is the one filing the lawsuit does not mean that children cannot recover financially. They could always join the wrongful death lawsuit. Families need to decide how they would divide the proceeds from any insurance claim or jury verdict.

There are actually two different lawsuits that a family can file after their loved one has died to recover money:

These two are not exclusive of the other. Families can file both types of lawsuits to fully recover for all of the damages possible, and Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can help.

What Families Can Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The wrongful death lawsuit is to recover for what the family lost when their family member died. Families suffer significant consequences when their loved one dies. While money cannot bring the person back, it is how families legally recover for a wrongful death. The family members listed above can file this lawsuit.

They could recover for the following damages:

  • The grief and trauma that they experienced from losing their loved one
  • The lost earnings with which the deceased person would have supported the family
  • The loss of companionship that families would have received from their family members (this includes cases when parents lose a child)
  • The loss of emotional support that the deceased person would have provided
  • The loss of consortium and a physical relationship with the deceased

What the Estate Can Recover in a Survival Action

The survival lawsuit is something that the estate of the deceased brings. It provides recovery for damages that the deceased person suffered before they died.

These damages include:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost wages that the deceased missed out on between their injury and death
  • Pain and suffering before their death
  • The emotional distress that they suffered between their injury and death

In a successful survival lawsuit, the estate divides the proceeds among each beneficiary. Since this lawsuit is part of the deceased person’s estate, it could be subject to their debts, so it is critical to consult an attorney.

Filing a Wrongful Death Action Against a Company

If the defendant was working for a company at the time of the accident, you can file a lawsuit against the defendant’s employer. Businesses are responsible for the acts of their workers when they happen during their employment. When you sue a company, you may get a larger recovery. This is not because your damages are greater but because a business maintains a larger insurance policy than most individuals. They have much more to lose.

Should You Contact a Phoenix Wrongful Death Attorney?

Absolutely, yes. Nobody is going to voluntarily give your family money after you lose a loved one. Instead, you will need to begin the legal process on your own to receive compensation. If the insurance company tries to begin the process, it is because they are trying to make your claim go away for pennies on the dollar. A wrongful death attorney is here to make the process much easier for you and allow you to focus on your family at a difficult time.

Without an attorney, your family’s legal rights could be at risk. Someone may be able to completely escape their legal responsibility for your loved one’s death. Even if they are willing to pay, you may not receive the full amount of what you deserve. Hiring an attorney could help keep this from happening by giving you someone who can fight on your side.

The biggest question for your family is not whether you can afford an attorney (you do not need to pay anything out of your pocket for legal help). The question is whether you can afford to be without an attorney. Zanes Law Injury Lawyers will value your case and fight for what you legally deserve. We know exactly what your case is worth, and we will explain all of your legal options. We will keep the insurance company from preying on a vulnerable family that is struggling to cope with the grief of losing a loved one.

When to File a Wrongful Death Claim

In Arizona, there is a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim due to the statute of limitations. You have two years from the time that you learned that someone else’s negligent conduct caused your family member’s death. This is a very strict limit, and there are harsh consequences for missing it. Namely, you would lose the right to receive financial compensation.

This is why you never want to wait until the last minute, or any moment longer than necessary, to begin the legal process. Many families will either file a lawsuit very soon after their loved one dies, or they will at least begin the process of working with the insurance company on a settlement as soon as they can. Lawyers will handle the details while the family deals with their own grief.

How the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process Works

Your first step in the process of trying to obtain financial compensation comes when you contact a wrongful death attorney. When you speak to an attorney at Zanes Law, we will speak to you to learn more about the facts of your case. You will also decide after the initial consultation whether you are comfortable with us. Assuming that we are a fit to work together, you will sign an agreement that hires us as your lawyer. Then, we will get to work.

We will often begin by investigating the circumstances of your loved one’s death. This can be a painful part of the process for a family, but it is a necessary one. You need to be able to establish exactly what happened because you have the burden of proof to show that someone else was to blame.

At the same time, we will also handle the communications and details of your case. The insurance company will not be able to hassle you and try to pressure you when we are representing you. They will need to deal with us. Pressuring grieving families is a favored tactic of insurance companies, and those dealing with difficult circumstances are particularly vulnerable.

You may decide to work through the insurance company first to see if you can reach a settlement agreement. The advantage of this route is that it is quicker than a lawsuit. However, the insurance claims process does not happen overnight. It usually requires months, or even years, of intensive negotiation with the insurance company to settle the claim. They do not make it easy for you to get the money that you need. Having someone in your corner who knows all of the tricks that insurance companies use is vital when you are negotiating a claim.

An aggressive attorney will always keep the option of a lawsuit open. This will put pressure on the insurance company in settlement negotiations because they do not usually want litigation. In some cases, you may need to go to the jury to have them decide how much compensation you should receive.

Phoenix Wrongful Death Attorney FAQ

Our Phoenix wrongful death lawyers answer many questions from families who might have a wrongful death case. Below are the answers to some questions that clients commonly ask us about wrongful death in Arizona.

Should I Settle My Wrongful Death Claim or File a Lawsuit?

This all depends on the situation and the strategy that your lawyer advises you to follow. In some situations where you should file a lawsuit right after your loved one has died and use that as leverage in settlement negotiations. Other times, you may want to file an insurance claim first and see if you can reach a settlement agreement. You always have the option to file a lawsuit if the insurance company does not pay you what you legally deserve.

Even if you file a lawsuit, you can continue to discuss a potential settlement agreement. In fact, most wrongful death lawsuits will eventually settle and not go to trial. In many cases, the defendant does not want their case in the hands of a jury when someone has died. Juries can sympathize with the grieving family and hit the defendant with a large verdict. In the end, your attorney will give you advice about the right time to settle and whether they believe that you are receiving a fair settlement offer.

What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Survival Action?

Families file a wrongful death lawsuit after they lose their loved ones. The lawsuit aims to compensate them for their losses after their family member dies. It attempts to replace the value of their family member to them with money (although nothing can bring back the person that they lost). The money goes to the surviving family members according to the proportions decided by the court.

A survival claim aims to compensate for the damages that the deceased person suffered before they died. For example, they may not have died immediately, and they suffered a great deal of pain between the injury and their death. It also covers the funeral and burial costs. The proceeds of the lawsuit go to family members as part of the estate distribution process.

What Happens if the Wrongful Death Was a Result of Criminal Action?

You have a legal right to recover if someone else was to blame, regardless of how the accident occurred. This means that you can file a lawsuit if an assault or a drunk driving accident caused the death. The civil lawsuit process is completely different from the criminal process. You still need to file a case, even if the defendant faced charges and received a conviction of a crime.

You may still have a case even if the defendant received an acquittal. This is because there are different burdens of proof in the two types of cases. A criminal prosecutor will need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, you have a lower standard, which means it is easier to prove unlawful conduct in civil court than in criminal court.

You do not need to wait for a conviction to file a civil lawsuit. However, the criminal process may move faster than the civil one, and that case can resolve before your lawsuit. If the case ends in a conviction, you can use evidence of the conviction to help your civil lawsuit.

What Happens at Your Initial Consultation with Your Attorney?

We understand that seeing an attorney for a wrongful death case will be a difficult conversation for you because it involves discussing the trauma of losing your loved one. Your lawyer will handle the consultation with compassion and sensitivity while attempting to learn more about your case.

We will need to learn the facts, so we can tell you where to begin for the process of trying to obtain financial compensation. We will ask you specific questions to understand your case. This may be the initial conversation in a series of them. We can help you get started, although you may not expect your attorney to have all of the answers within an hour of talking to you. Thus, the initial consultation is a starting point for both of us.

We may need to investigate further, and we may have some follow-up questions. While we are learning more about your case, you are learning more about us as a lawyer. We hope that you will understand why you want Zanes Law Injury Lawyers to represent you by the close of your initial consultation.

How Difficult Is it to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death case is no more or less difficult to prove than any other personal injury case. They use the same legal standard. This is no different from any other negligence case, even though someone’s death is at issue here. The general question is whether someone acted unreasonably under the circumstances, and it caused your loved one’s death. Every personal injury case requires evidence to prove what happened. Even the most major and complex cases are winnable if you have the proof on your side.

On your own, you may find it difficult to prove your wrongful death claim. While you may know what happened, there are many steps between telling your story and proving it in court or presenting satisfactory evidence for an insurance company. Your lawyer can gather the evidence necessary to prove your case once you hire them. They will handle the details, investigate the accident, and compile the evidence that will support your claim.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?

While the legal term sounds complex, the concept behind it is relatively simple. A wrongful death occurs when someone else’s negligent actions caused your loved one’s death. This can be a person or a company. Your loved one possibly died instantly or after a protracted illness, but the legal theory is still the same. The wrongful death will become the basis for an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit that will compensate your family if someone else is responsible for the death. Any personal injury case can become a wrongful death case if your loved one does not survive the accident or their injury.

What Does Not Qualify as a Wrongful Death Case?

The usual concept is that someone else’s fault in a fatal incident is grounds for a wrongful death case. The exception to this is when your loved one died as the result of a work-related accident. The concept of negligence does not apply in workers’ compensation claims. You cannot sue an employer for wrongful death in almost all cases.

There are very few exceptions to that doctrine in Arizona. This means that your compensation for a loved one’s death on the job will likely be lower because you do not qualify for the full lost wages or pain and suffering damages in a workers’ compensation claim. However, you also do not need to prove that anyone was responsible for your family member’s death. This is even true if your loved one made a mistake on the job that caused the accident.

You can file a wrongful death case if a third party caused a fatal work accident. For example, if your loved one died due to defective work equipment, you can sue the manufacturer in a product liability case. If a third-party contractor or subcontractor caused the death at a construction site, you can file a wrongful death claim against them.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Arizona?

Wrongful death lawsuits must abide by a statute of limitations. This sets a time limit on filing lawsuits in your case. If you miss this deadline by even a day, you will lose the right to file a lawsuit. Courts are very unforgiving about missing this, and there are very few exceptions.

The usual rule in Arizona is that you have two years from the date of death to file the lawsuit. However, there is a very important exception that helps families. The deadline begins to run on the day that you realized that your loved one’s death happened due to the defendant’s conduct. This is important in product liability or medical malpractice cases, when you may not know at the time of death that someone else was to blame.

If a plaintiff waits until close to the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is usually because they tried to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company and did not receive an offer for enough money. Families will not wait too long to file a lawsuit because the legal process takes time to unfold, and they will need the money sooner rather than later.

Can I Get Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?

Punitive damages do not frequently apply in personal injury cases. However, more egregious cases may cause juries to want to punish the defendant. Whether a jury awards punitive damages all depends on the facts. We cannot say that a wrongful death makes it more likely that the jury will hit the defendant with punitive damages, but the fact that someone died may anger the jury and cause them to want to punish someone.

Your lawyer will inform the court at the beginning of the case that they are seeking punitive damages on your behalf. If the evidence comes out in discovery that shows that the defendant can be at serious risk of a large verdict, they may be more inclined to negotiate a settlement on your terms.

Can I Sue a Company for Wrongful Death?

Yes. This depends on who committed the negligent action and what they were doing at the time of the accident. A common example is when your family member died in a truck accident. If the truck driver was an employee of a company, and they were on duty at the time of the accident, their company can be legally responsible for their actions. This is because an employee is an agent of the company when they are acting within the scope of their employment.

For family members, this means that they may be able to get more money in a wrongful death case. It’s not that the damages are greater – a wrongful death claim value is the same regardless of the defendant. However, when a company is a defendant in a case, they likely have a larger insurance policy because they are trying to protect their assets from a large verdict. This means there is a greater chance of having extensive losses covered.

When Is the Best Time to Hire an Attorney for My Wrongful Death Case?

We understand that losing a loved one is a very difficult experience, and your family will be grieving. Many things can occupy you during this time. However, you need to think about the legal process. You can do this by hiring an attorney. Once you retain a lawyer, they can handle the details of the claim or litigation process. The insurance company may try to begin the legal process for you by trying to contact you. This can put your legal claim in danger.

In addition, you need an attorney to begin moving to preserve evidence in your case before it is lost. You have a limited amount of time to gather the proof that you need for the case. It is hard to see beyond your grief, but calling a lawyer is a necessary step to let them go to work. At least you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have an experienced attorney on your side, ready to fight for your legal rights when someone else tries to take them from you.

Work With the Right Phoenix Wrongful Death Attorney

Insurance companies often fear lawyers with a reputation for aggressively working on behalf of their clients. They know who we are at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers because we have a long track record of fighting hard for what our clients deserve. Contact us today at (520) 777-7777 for a free discussion about your situation and your rights.

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