Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Arizona

Learn about wrongful death claims in Arizona, including who can sue, the types of possible damages, and time limits for filing the lawsuit.

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In Arizona, when one person dies as a result of someone else's accidental or intentional conduct, the deceased person's family members might be able to file a wrongful death claim. In this article, we'll discuss:

  • how Arizona defines "wrongful death"
  • who can file a wrongful death claim in Arizona's civil court system
  • the potential "damages" that might be available in a wrongful death claim, and
  • the statute of limitations deadline for Arizona wrongful death lawsuits.

What Is "Wrongful Death" in Arizona?

Arizona law defines a "wrongful death" as one that is caused "by wrongful act, neglect or default." (Arizona Rev. Stat. § 12-611 (2021).) In other words, a wrongful death occurs when one person dies as a result of the legal fault of another, including by:

Learn more about wrongful death claims and proving liability in a wrongful death case.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Versus Survival Actions In Arizona

With most wrongful death lawsuits, a deceased person's family members seek compensation for their own losses (financial and personal) resulting from their loved one's death. A "survival action" is a similar but distinct kind of legal action in which the estate seeks compensation on behalf of the deceased person, for certain kinds of harm resulting from the defendant's wrongdoing.

Arizona survival actions (which are governed by Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 14-3110) can be used to hold the defendant liable for the deceased person's medical bills, lost income, and related losses, starting from the time of the accident and continuing until the deceased person's death.

The defendant can also be held liable for the deceased person's funeral expenses as part of an Arizona survival action, but compensation for the deceased's pre-death pain and suffering is specifically excluded from these kinds of cases under state law.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Arizona?

According to Arizona law, the following people are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state's civil courts:

  • the deceased person's surviving spouse
  • any surviving child of the deceased person
  • a surviving parent or guardian of the deceased person, or
  • the deceased person's personal representative (called an "executor" in some states) on behalf of a surviving spouse, child, or parent, or on behalf of the estate if none of those people survived the deceased.

If the deceased person is a child, either of the child's parents or a legal guardian may file a wrongful death claim. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-612 (2021).)

Read more about who has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Damages Are Available in an Arizona Wrongful Death Case?

In a wrongful death case, "damages"—or the plaintiff's claimed losses—are typically divided into two categories: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages typically include money paid to the deceased person's survivors to cover financial losses associated with the death. In Arizona, some common economic damages include:

  • funeral and burial expenses
  • medical bills
  • the value of lost wages and benefits the deceased person would have earned if he or she had lived, and
  • the repair or replacement of any property damaged in the event.

Noneconomic damages can be more difficult to quantify than economic damages, but they are intended to compensate for the intangible losses suffered by the deceased person's family as a result of the death. Noneconomic damages can include:

  • loss of the deceased person's love, affection, comfort, companionship, and guidance,
  • loss of household services the deceased provided, and
  • survivors' emotional pain and suffering.

Some states cap the amount of damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a wrongful death suit, but Arizona has no such limit. Get more details on damages that might be available in a wrongful death case.

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

Wrongful death claims must be filed within a specific period of time, set by a law known as a statute of limitations. In Arizona, a wrongful death case must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased person's death. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-542 (2021).) Learn more about statutes of limitations and how these laws work.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Arizona Wrongful Death Claim?

Some kinds of injury claims don't necessarily require a lawyer's help, but wrongful death claims can be complicated from both a legal and procedural standpoint, so having a skilled attorney on your side is often crucial.

From establishing the defendant's liability for your loved one's death, to proving the losses you've suffered as a result, an Arizona injury lawyer will have the experience to put your best wrongful death case together, and the expertise to make sure you get a fair result. Learn more about finding, hiring, and working with a personal injury lawyer. You can also use the features on this page to connect with an Arizona injury lawyer near you.

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