In Arizona, wrongful deaths are governed by Arizona Revised Statutes Section 12-611 to 12-613. These three sections explain the basics of wrongful death: when a lawsuit can occur, who can file suit and what damages may be awarded. For those looking to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the statutes provide a good starting point for learning more about what wrongful death entails in Arizona.
Wrongful Death Liability
The first section of the Death by Wrongful Act article, A.R.S. 12-611, essentially states that a wrongful death suit can be filed if the deceased would not have died during the act and instead could have filed a personal injury suit. It then states that the liable party can be held for damages. This means that the death must have occurred due to a “wrongful act, neglect or default.” If this is the case, then the statutory survivors – who will be described below – may pursue a wrongful death suit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A.R.S. 12-612 states that an action for wrongful death can only be brought by specific survivors, including:
- Parent or guardian
- Legal representative of the above
If none of the above apply, the estate of the deceased could bring a wrongful death claim. This statute excludes some of the common survivors that cannot under Arizona law file a wrongful death suit:
- Siblings or other relatives
- Same-sex partners
- Common law spouses
While some states allow same-sex partners to file wrongful death suits, Arizona is not among them.
How Wrongful Death Amounts are Distributed
When a wrongful death suit is filed, there is only one plaintiff, even if multiple survivors are able to file the action. When this occurs, a singular plaintiff represents the collective group of eligible survivors, and A.R.S. 12-612 states that the compensation, if any, will be allocated according to the survivors “in proportion to their damages,” which is decided by the court. If the estate of the deceased receives the compensation, it will be considered an asset of the estate. When wrongful death damages are assessed, they are based on many factors, including the survivors’ financial dependence on the deceased person. This and other factors will determine the court’s allocation of damages.
How Wrongful Death Damages are Determined
A.R.S. 12-613 governs how damages are awarded, and though it is fairly broad – the jury must award damages that are “fair and just with reference to the injury” – there are many issues the court considers when evaluating damages. This includes:
- The financial dependency of the survivors on the deceased
- The historical earnings of the deceased, and future earnings
- The cost of medical, funeral and burial services
- Value of emotional damage and loss to survivors
Using these and other variables, the court will decide an appropriate level of compensation and as stated, distribute this to the statutory survivors as seen fit. This section of the statutes also states that the damages awarded cannot be in any way subject to the debts and liabilities of the deceased, unless the compensation is going to the estate of the deceased.
Top-Rated Wrongful Death Counsel in Arizona
At JacksonWhite Law, we provide compassionate legal counsel that acknowledges the emotional and financial difficulty of your situation. If you need help with a wrongful death case, call personal injury attorney Jared Everton to schedule a free consultation. Jared focuses his practice on helping individuals get the legal attention and compensation they deserve when it comes to injuries, wrongful deaths, disability and other areas. We work on a contingency fee basis, so we don’t get paid unless you’re compensated.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.