While we don’t want to believe it was ever our loved one’s time to go, a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona or elsewhere implies there was negligence or intentional harm that resulted in the death of a family member.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, a representative of the deceased individual presses charges against the defendant, claiming they did not do everything in their power to assist the deceased, or in some cases, the charges can imply that the defendant caused intentional harm that resulted in the death of the now deceased person or persons.
Understanding if your loved one suffered a wrongful death can be a confusing and complicated process. Because of the complexity of the issue, we wanted to take the time to explain what constitutes a wrongful death case and make things a little easier for those who do not practice law, but who may find themselves in this situation.
When Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Happen?
The most common wrongful death lawsuits come in the form of medical malpractice lawsuits or accident fatalities. It is important to remember that a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter, not a criminal one. So, although a homicide may seem like a “wrongful death,” it does not actually qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit.
A good way to identify if a case qualifies as a wrongful death is to consider if the victim had lived. Ask yourself, if s/he had survived the incident or accident, could s/he have filed a personal injury claim against the defendant as a direct result of their negligence or harm? If the answer is yes, and the negligence and harm resulted in death, the surviving family members of the victim are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If we look at the example of a medical malpractice suit, the individual suffered from the negligence or intentionally harmful acts of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. If the victim had lived through the same negligence or intentional harm, they would have a personal injury case. Unfortunately, in the circumstances we are discussing, the victim passed away due to the negligence or intentional harm of his or her doctors and/or nurses. This means you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and should seek the assistance of a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer.
What is the Arizona Law that Defines What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
In the state of Arizona, a wrongful death charge would be brought to court under Arizona Revised Statute (ARS 12-611), and is essentially explained as the personal injury suit that the deceased would have filed if s/he had survived the negligence or intentional harm that killed him or her. Because s/he is deceased, s/he can obviously not bring the claim forward.
The people who can bring forth a wrongful death suit in Arizona are described in Arizona Revised Statute Section 12-611 as the following persons:
- The surviving husband or wife of the deceased person
- Any of the deceased’s surviving children
- The mother or father (biological or adopted) of the deceased person
- Any person who for legal purposes represents the deceased person’s spouse, parent, child, or guardian
- Any person who is the legal representative of the deceased person’s estate
When the deceased person is a minor child, in the state of Arizona, either of that child’s parents or legal guardian may file a wrongful death case on the behalf of that deceased minor child (under the age of 18 in Arizona)
How are Wrongful Death Cases Proven in Court?
The first wrongful death case happened in the United Kingdom Parliament in 1846 (under the “Lord Campbell’s Act” otherwise known as the “Fatal Accidents Act 1846“) long before being implemented in the United States. Since then, wrongful death cases have been happening all over the world, although precisely how they are defined differs based on where you are geographically.
In order to prove that a wrongful death case occurred in the state of Arizona, the surviving family members and their Phoenix wrongful death attorneys must prove that the negligent actions or intentional harm administered by the defendant resulted in the death of the victim. Again, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter, not a criminal one, so the same requirements do not hold up in court.
One of those requirements is that in a criminal murder case, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. This means that everyone must agree that the defendant is guilty of the crimes of which he or she is being accused, but this is not a requirement in a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, in a civil lawsuit, there must be a “preponderance of the evidence.” This makes it much easier to win a wrongful death lawsuit and reward compensation to the surviving family.
How Was O.J. Simpson Proven Guilty of Wrongful Death but Not Homicide?
A well known example of the difference between a civil and criminal trial is with the O.J. Simpson trial. Because O.J. could not be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, he was not convicted in a criminal court. But, with the same evidence, O.J. Simpson was found guilty in a civl court of their wrongful murders.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be difficult to understand, and that is because it is a very complicated process.
If you believe a loved one has suffered from a wrongful death due to the negligence or intentional harm of another individual, a wrongful death lawyer at Hutzler Law can help you determine whether or not you have a case. The wrongful death lawyers at Hutzler Law are experts in their field with years of experience finding justice and getting their clients the settlements they deserve. To begin with your no-cost, complimentary legal consultation, call Hutzler Law today at 602.730.4530 or visit our contact form on www.hutzlerlaw.com.