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Arizona allows for a wrongful death lawsuit in cases where the person who died would have had a cause of action for a personal injury lawsuit, had they survived. This includes accidents, such as car accidents and slip and fall, medical malpractice, injuries caused by defective products, and intentional harm. A wrongful death lawsuit is meant to compensate the specific surviving family members for the financial and emotional harm they have incurred due to the death of a loved one.
Arizona Wrongful Death Beneficiaries
Arizona law limits wrongful death beneficiaries to the following survivors:
- Minor and adult children
- The estate of the decedent, if there are no other eligible survivors
Other relatives and loved ones are not allowed to bring a wrongful death suit or to be beneficiaries in a wrongful death suit. However, if the estate receives compensation it may be of benefit to other loved ones.
Wrongful Death Compensation
Although a wrongful death lawsuit arises out of an accident or incident which would have been the basis for a personal injury lawsuit if the decedent had not died of their injuries, a wrongful death action is on behalf of the survivors and the compensation is for the damages they incur, rather than what the damages would have been for the injury victim.
Damages in an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit can include:
- Expenses created by the injury and death of the decedent, including medical care, funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income that the decedent would have provided in the future, and loss of future benefits such as retirement
- Loss of services, such as childcare and maintaining the home
- Loss of companionship, love, affection, guidance, and care
- Grief, sorrow, anguish, shock, stress, and other mental pain and suffering of the survivors
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are rarely awarded. The purpose of wrongful death is to compensate the survivors, rather than to punish the wrongdoer, but if you can prove that the defendant acted with intent to cause injury or knowingly disregarded unjustifiable substantial risk of harm, punitive damages may be available.
Statute of Limitations and Other time Limits
The statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Arizona is two years. Under most circumstances, that means that you have two years from the day your loved one died to file your lawsuit. However, the discovery rule applies, which means that if the cause of the injury which resulted in death is not immediately known, you have two years from the date that the cause was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered.
If you are suing a government entity you only have six months to take action by filing a “Notice of Claim” and only one year from the date of death to file your lawsuit.