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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Posted on July 20, 2021 in

If someone else’s carelessness or intent to harm took the life of your loved one, you deserve justice and closure. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona can go a long way toward helping you move forward by holding someone accountable and giving you the financial compensation that you deserve. Under state law in Arizona, only certain people have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Scottsdale. Find out if you are one of these parties with assistance from an experienced attorney.

Surviving Family Members

The rules for who can file a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state. Most states, including Arizona, give this right to surviving family members. Typically, only family members immediately related to the deceased person (the decedent) will have this right, such as a surviving spouse or adult child. It is less common for siblings, cousins, and aunts and uncles to have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 12-612, the following family members have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim in the state:

  • Surviving husband or wife
  • Surviving child
  • Surviving parent or guardian

In a case involving a wrongfully killed minor under the age of 18, either of the child’s parents may file on the child’s behalf. If the deceased person does not have any surviving immediate family members, the right to bring a lawsuit may go to the personal representative of the estate instead.

The Personal Representative of the Decedent’s Estate

Whether or not a decedent has surviving loved ones who are eligible to file, a personal representative may handle the legal wrongful death process in Arizona. A personal representative is someone assigned to represent the deceased person and his or her estate. If the decedent had a will, the executor of the will can act as the personal representative. Otherwise, the probate court may be used to assign an appropriate representative.

Who Can Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

State law says that if an action for wrongful death results in financial compensation, it shall be distributed to the same surviving family members listed above (a surviving spouse, child, or parent or guardian) in proportion to their damages. There is an exception, however, if one of these parties is found guilty or pleads no contest to a violation involving the death of the decedent, in which case the beneficiary will be disqualified from recovering benefits.

If the lawsuit is brought on behalf of the estate, the amount will become an asset of the estate. In general, the money will be used to pay off any of the decedent’s outstanding debts and then the remaining amount will be distributed among beneficiaries.

Damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona can include funeral and burial costs, medical bills, lost wages and benefits, lost inheritance, loss of consortium, and the family’s mental anguish. A family may also be able to recover financial compensation for the decedent’s losses, including pain and suffering, with a separate suit called a survival action.

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take?

If you are qualified to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona, work with an attorney to file your petition by the state’s deadline. How long your claim may take to result in a settlement or judgment award will depend on the specific case. If you have a complicated claim with issues such as a liability dispute, multiple defendants or a high value, this can add time to your lawsuit. Going to trial will also make your case take longer than settling. A trial can take a year or longer to complete, especially if you are filing in a county with a busy courthouse. Learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit by contacting a lawyer at Stone Rose Law.