The team at Nuñez & Associates knows from experience that a wrongful death claim should be treated like a trial from day one, letting the guilty party and their insurance companies know that we mean business.
Because of the seriousness of wrongful death claims, the burden for proving the claim is strict. We’ll take your loss seriously, work diligently to meet that standard and get you as much peace of mind as we possibly can.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is one premised on the assertion that a person or entity carelessly or intentionally caused an accident or incident that led to a fatality. These claims can be emotionally wrenching, as loved ones must relive the life and the events that led to the death of a spouse, child, parent or sibling.
Although no amount of compensation can substitute for this type of loss, an award for damages can provide financial relief and some measure of support akin to what the decedent would reasonably have given the family or individual claimant, had he or she survived.
A wrongful death claim can originate from any type of underlying personal injury claim:
- Motor vehicle accident
- Pedestrian accident
- Premises liability
- Boating accident
- Motorcycle accident
- Bicycle accident
- Airplane crash
- Swimming pool drowning
- Defective product
- Occupational illness
- Defective drug
- Defective medical device
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
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Wrongful Death Claimants
Wrongful death is a statutorily created cause of action. In Arizona, the decedent’s immediate family members are allowed to bring such a claim, as can the personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the estate, though the damage awards are different.
Immediate family members who may bring a wrongful death claim only include the spouse, parents, children and legal guardian. If there are no surviving immediate family members or no one brings a claim, the estate’s representative may bring one.
Damages in Wrongful Death Actions
The damages in a wrongful death action vary widely depending on the claimant as well as the character of the decedent, the nature and strength of the relationship between family members and decedent, the circumstances of the tragedy, and the financial support the decedent would have provided. For instance, a spouse or the minor children of a fully employed decedent would likely settle or be awarded more than the elderly parents or adult children of the decedent who were no longer dependent on their father or mother for financial support.
If the conduct of the defendant was egregious or grossly negligent, an award of punitive damages might be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to “punish” the defendant for particularly bad behavior. Examples might include an excessively intoxicated driver who was driving over 100 miles per hour before colliding with the decedent’s vehicle, or a company that produced and marketed a product while concealing known and dangerous risks or complications in the interest of profit over safety.
Typical damages in a wrongful death claim include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for life-saving measures or treatment given for the injuries that resulted in the fatality
- Loss of financial support over the decedent’s working life
- The value of household services provided by the decedent
- Pain, shock sorrow and anguish of the survivors
- Loss of love, affection, companionship, support and consortium
- For a claim brought by the decedent’s personal representative on behalf of the estate and for any beneficiaries, the damages are slightly different:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for care or treatment for the fatal injuries
Loss of future earnings by the decedent
An economic forensic expert is often required to calculate the lost future earnings and other economic benefits, and to reduce it to present value so an award may be appropriately calculated.
For an action by the family, a jury or judge as trier-of-fact must also consider the decedent’s traits, such as industriousness, education, manner of living, prior earnings, health, and life expectancy, among other factors affecting his or her ability to earn a living.
Wrongful death claims involve many different factors to consider, especially when there is a large amount of compensation available, if there are numerous claimants, or whether there are issues concerning liability and proof of damages. Consult an attorney who has successfully handled wrongful death claims as well as the underlying type of a personal injury incident that led to the fatality.