Arizona Wrongful Death Statutes


A wrongful death case can be a difficult time for a victim’s loved ones, but there is some legal recourse for close relatives who experience pain and suffering as a result of an unjust incident. Wrongful death statutes laws are covered 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.

ARS 12-611: 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 a person wrongfully lost their life in an incident where the act of death was unjustified or avoidable and would have typically fallen under the scope of a personal injury case.

The statute 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 against the liable party for the pain, suffering, and financial damages they experienced as a result of the death.

ARS 12-612: Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A.R.S. 12-612 states that a lawsuit for wrongful death can only be brought by specific survivors, known as statutory beneficiaries. These individuals are a select few specified by Arizona law who have a close, qualifying relationship to the victim of wrongful death and can claim damages.

Under Arizona statute, statutory beneficiaries are:

  • A surviving spouse
  • A child of the deceased individual
  • A parent or guardian
  • A legal representative of the estate

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 who cannot, under Arizona law, file a wrongful death suit:

  • Siblings or other relatives
  • Same-sex partners
  • Common law spouses

These groups are often not regarded as high on the hierarchy of inheritance laws or included at all, and this carries over into wrongful death cases. While some states allow same-sex partners to file wrongful death suits, Arizona is not among them. However, if the victim of a wrongful death had an established will or trust naming any of the above parties, they may have some opportunity for compensation, but just not under a wrongful death case.

It’s also important to know that there is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits in Arizona. If you believe you have a case for a wrongful death lawsuit, you should begin seeking legal recourse as soon as possible to ensure you remain within the statute of limitations.

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. Additional factors that can determine the court’s allocation of damages include lost income and support, emotional distress, and the age of the surviving parties.

ARS 12-613: 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. 

The jury will also consider any aggravating or mitigating factors when deciding the amount of an award. Aggravating factors include factors like the degree of negligence or wrongdoing, criminal conduct by the responsible party, and the financial resources of the offender. 

Mitigating factors include available insurance coverage, whether the victim contributed to the incident through negligence, and whether the offender made good faith efforts to rectify the situation, among others.

Meanwhile, 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. In the event that the compensation is tied to the estate, creditors may try to recover debts against the deceased party through the estate.

Top-Rated Wrongful Death Counsel in Arizona

A case of wrongful death can be an extreme source of stress and sadness for the surviving relatives of a victim. However, a legal settlement can be a small form of reconciliation for people who have experienced a wrongful death case. Still, understanding how to navigate a wrongful death suit is complex, so it’s important to have the right personal injury attorney by your side in the process.

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) 378-8802 to discuss your case today.

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