Was Someone Responsible For Your Loved One's Death

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 After the death of a loved one, the last thing you want to be thinking about is filing a criminal lawsuit. It is difficult for friends and family to come to terms with a loved one passing away.

However, if someone was responsible for the death through negligent or reckless action, that person must be held accountable so that it never happens again. A wrongful death claim can hold the responsible party liable and compensate the family for the untimely death of a loved one.

Arizona Wrongful Death Claims

Under A.R.S. § 12-611, “When death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action to recover damages in respect thereof, then, and in every such case, the person who or the corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages.”

A wrongful act, neglect or default could involve any number of incidents. Such negligent actions occur all the time and are a common cause of death. For example, wrongful death could result from a nursing home not properly caring for a patient, a doctor committing malpractice during surgery, or a drunk driver hitting a child in the street.

In some cases, an insurance company may get involved if the responsible party is insured for accidents or injuries. However, it is important to understand who the insurance company works for and what its interests are. If you are contacted by an insurance representative after the death of a loved one, you should refer him or her to your attorney. The company may try and get you to settle your claim for as little as it can. Let your attorney deal with the insurance company so you can concentrate on what is truly important.

Wrongful Death Damages

While nothing can bring back a loved one who was killed in an accident, a wrongful death claim allows the surviving family to seek relief from the individuals responsible.

The law allows surviving family members such as a spouse, children parents or a personal representative of the deceased individual to file a claim for damages. If there is more than one plaintiff, any damages will be distributed in proportion to the damages suffered. See A.R.S. § 12-612.

According to Arizona statute, “the jury shall give such damages as it deems fair.” Damages for a wrongful death lawsuit can include costs related to the loved one’s death such as funeral expenses, burial costs and medical bills. However, it also provides damages for surviving family members through compensating pain, suffering and the economic loss suffered as a result of the untimely death. See A.R.S. § 12-613.

How To Contact Us

The law offices of West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C. are located in Tucson, Arizona. Call our lawyers at 520-790-7337 or contact us online.

Personal Injury FAQ

If I lose, do I have to pay you?

Personal injury cases are usually taken on a contingency basis, meaning attorneys’ fees are paid from what you recover, not from your pocket.

How much do you charge to do a personal injury case?

Our standard fee is 33.3 percent, but it does vary based on the type of case and the amount available for the client. The skill of the attorney and the facts of the case help determine the results.

How much is my case worth?

No attorney should ever tell you the value of the case when you first come in. If the attorney does, the attorney is guessing. To get the true value of the case, you need to know a lot of detail.

How do you value my case?

You have to look at the injuries, the costs for medical care and treatment, the lost income and the impact the accident has had on your life. Then you have to understand what juries are doing in your locale and how they react to certain claims.

How long will the case take?

Each case has its own timetable. To go to court, the average wait time is 18 months, but many cases settle long before then. If it is a small matter going to arbitration, it goes much faster.

What is the limit for arbitration?

A case can now opt out of arbitration for as low as $1,000.00.

What if you do not like the arbitration decision?

You have the right to a new trial in superior court. The Arizona Constitution guarantees that right.

How much time will it take me?

You will need to spend time with your attorney and, if in litigation, in deposition and trial. Much can be done by email, lessening the time spent in a lawyer’s office. The amount of time depends on the complexity of your case.

My car is totaled. How do I get paid for it?

If you have insurance, it is sometimes easier and faster to go through your own carrier. Your deductible can be recovered sometimes by your own carrier, but many times by the attorney handling your claim. If you do not have insurance to cover the loss, it must be included in your claim at the same time as your injury claim. Many times, the defense carrier will offer to settle the property damage and keep the bodily injury claim open so you can get a car. It does not want to be hit for car rental.

What about my medical bills?

If you have medical insurance, you should use it. Some insurance coverage like Medicare must be paid back, but only if you win and get money. Better to get all the care you need than skimp because of cost. Often, we can work with the provider and it will treat you until the case resolves without requiring payment.

What is a medical lien?

There are various types of medical liens, including consensual liens, where you sign a form at admission allowing for a lien; liens by law such as Medicare and ERISA plans; and what medical providers call “balanced billing” liens. Some liens, like Medicare and ERISA liens, must be paid from any proceeds. Some may not be valid liens and must be examined carefully. Each one is unique.

What if the other driver was uninsured or underinsured?

When you purchase insurance for your own vehicle, you should always buy uninsured and underinsured coverage. The cost is nominal and the benefit great. You cannot get blood out of a turnip, so if the defendant driver has no assets, you need your own coverage.

Will a claim on my underinsurance coverage or uninsured coverage raise my rates?

That type of coverage claim should not increase your rate as it is based on someone else being at fault.

As a passenger, do I have to sue the driver of the vehicle I was in?

You do not have to sue the driver of the vehicle you were in, but you may have to consider it if the other side says your driver was negligent and alleges nonparty at fault.

What is a nonparty at fault?

A person who is not named in the lawsuit, but who is believed to have caused or contributed to the accident is usually identified as a nonparty at fault.

What if I was hit by more than one car?

There is no simple answer. If the car behind you was legally stopped and pushed into you, that driver may not be liable. If the car behind you hits you and then another car hits that car, causing a second impact, both may be liable.

What do I do if I am in an accident?

First make sure everyone is OK. If need be, get out of the vehicle to safety. Call 911 and report the incident and if injuries require medical care, ask for it. If there are witnesses, try to get their names and numbers. After getting information from law enforcement, seek medical care if not transported from the scene. You may not realize how hurt you are. DO NOT assume you are not injured because you do not feel any pain. Adrenaline hides pain. Call a lawyer before speaking to the other side’s insurance company. They are not your friend.

I am a veteran and get my medical care at the VA. Do I have to pay them back?

The VA has an automatic lien for any services provided as a result of the collision. You only have to pay back the amount of services received and only if you recover from a third party or your own uninsured or underinsured policy. You do not have to pay out of your own pocket.

Can we settle without going to court?

Yes, cases do settle. Statistically, more cases settle than get tried. But whether your case will settle depends on many factors, including the amount of injury, the medical bills, pre-existing injuries and, of course, liability. It is a process that is ongoing throughout litigation.

Why do I need a lawyer?

No insurance adjuster will pay you a fair amount without one. They are not in the business of paying out premiums, only collecting them. The adjuster’s job is to reduce the amount of loss.

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At West, Longenbaugh, Spanier and Zickerman P.L.L.C, we are proud to serve people in Tucson and beyond.  To speak with an attorney, call us at 520-790-7337

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