Has your loved one been killed in an accident, or as the result of someone else’s negligence? Has your loved one’s death left you with undue financial hardships? If so, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death claim can help you get the money you need to get back on your feet after an accident takes your loved one away from you. The Law Office of Tony Merchant can help.
A wrongful death is any death that occurs as the result of someone else’s negligence. It is like a personal injury lawsuit, except that in this case the victim of the accident dies, either at the scene of the accident or later as a direct result of the accident.
When a loved one dies, families are often left with many financial complications. They’ve lost that family member’s income and services. They have to pay for that family member’s funeral. In some cases, the family member’s medical debt could threaten their own property or financial stability.
A wrongful death claim is meant to address all of these issues. While no amount of money can ever bring a loved one back, money can certainly help the family find their financial footing once more.
In order for a death to qualify as a wrongful death the decedent must have had grounds for a personal injury suit had they been alive.
This means the following must be true.
First, someone had to have a duty of care to the decedent. That means they either had a duty to take some course of action or to avoid some course of action in order to ensure the reasonable safety of others. In a car accident case, all drivers are considered to have a “duty of care” to all other drivers: drivers must do everything they can to follow traffic laws and avoid accidents.
In a case where a faulty product caused an injury or death, the manufacturer or distributor of that product is considered to have a “duty of care” to those who might interact with that product. They’re supposed to offer products that can be used safely when used correctly.
In a slip and fall case, the duty of care comes from the landowner’s obligation to maintain a safe property.
In both a personal injury case and a wrongful death case, an attorney must prove that the duty existed, that the defendant failed in that duty, and that injury and loss were suffered as a direct result of that failure.
In a wrongful death case, you may sue any party whose negligence led to the accident. This could mean a driver, their employer, the manufacturer of a faulty product, an organization who failed to post a warning about a hazard’s existence, or any other party whose actions had a direct impact on the accident and led directly to your loved one’s demise.
You may file a wrongful death claim if you are the spouse or the child of the decedent. Anyone who suffered a financial loss as the result of the death may also file, as may the representative of the estate on behalf of the estate.
All claimants must file at once, and they must all split the claims money between them.
Most of the time, wrongful death claims are filed by immediate family members.
We handle all sorts of wrongful death claims, including:
Don’t see your type of case listed here? Remember, the only real criteria is that your loved one would have had grounds for a personal injury case had they lived through their accident. If you’re not sure whether you have a case or not, reach out to the team at the Law Offices of Tony Merchant. We can help you decide whether your case is worth pursuing.
Every wrongful death claim is different. We’ve seen claims that are worth $50,000 and claims that are worth over a million dollars. Much depends on the facts of your specific case.
Wrongful death damages mirror personal injury damages. This means there are three types of damages that should be covered in your wrongful death claim.
The first are economic damages. These are all the losses that have cost you money. This would include the loss of your loved one’s income, money to pay off any hospital bills your loved one incurred before dying, and funeral expenses. If you needed to secure certain services as a result of your loved one’s death, like child care, then you can be compensated for those services as well.
The second are non-economic damages. These are “pain and suffering” damages. They include compensation for your grief, anguish, loss of companionship and support.
In Arizona, this method is calculated using the “multiplier method.” The severity of your pain and suffering get rated from 1 to 5, and then the economic damages are multiplied by that number to come up with the pain and suffering amount. Certain types of evidence may be admitted to help support a higher multiplier. For example, in the 2007 case Girouard v. Skyline Steel, Inc., the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that it was appropriate to admit evidence of the manner of death (a son’s car being engulfed in flames) when attempting to determine the extent of a father’s pain and suffering.
The court was careful to note that the evidence was admissible “only insofar as it is relevant to the survivor’s own mental anguish resulting from the death and not the suffering of the decedent prior to death.”
Some wrongful death cases will include a third type of damages known as punitive damages. In Arizona, punitive damages are very rare. They’re applicable only when the “defendant’s conduct was guided by an evil hand and evil mind.”
Punitive damages might be appropriate in cases where a driver was drunk, when a driver was texting at the time of the accident, where a corporation engaged in an act of “deliberate indifference” to public safety, any time the defendant intentionally caused harm, or any time the defendant knew what they were doing was unsafe or likely to cause harm, yet did it any way.
The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that punitive damages may not exceed more than 4 times the amount of economic damages.
Wrongful death attorneys work on contingency. This means they do not get paid until and unless your case is brought to a successful conclusion.
You don’t have to come up with a big retainer to get help from a wrongful death attorney. You don’t have to pay a big hourly rate. You just have to trust the attorney with your case. If the attorney agrees to take it you’ll have their representation, and they’ll fight for you.
They’ll even front some of the costs of working your case, like hiring expert witnesses and absorbing the costs of depositions. It’s an investment for them at that point.
You don’t have to worry about losing most of your money to the attorney. Statistically, you’re 40% more likely to get paid at all if you have a wrongful death lawyer on your side. Further, you’re likely to get paid three to ten times more with an attorney’s help, even after the lawyer’s percentage is accounted for.
You can expect your case to take 18 to 24 months from the date of filing. You should also be aware that there’s a two year statute of limitations on wrongful death cases. If you wait more than two years after the date of the death you cannot file a wrongful death claim.
It’s important to know this because insurance companies do like to use stalling tactics to avoid paying the claim.
In general, you are better off contacting an attorney to start the process as soon as you’re capable of doing so after your loved one’s death. As time goes by evidence tends to disappear, witnesses tend to drop out of contact and the defense’s case tends to get stronger. If you want the best possible case, contact a Tuscon wrongful death attorney as quickly as you possibly can.
Most cases settle out of court, and result in a check about 3 to 6 months after the agreement is reached. Jury award cases don’t tend to result in a check coming any faster. In some cases your attorneys may need to engage in collection activity on your behalf.
When the check arrives, it will go to your lawyer first. The lawyer will be responsible for distributing the funds to those who have a claim on it, such as hospitals or funeral homes. The attorney then takes out their percentage and writes you a check for the rest. If there are multiple claimants the attorney will distribute those funds to each claimant equally.
If you have creditors harassing you for money that is tied up in a wrongful death settlement you can refer them to your attorney. Your lawyer will issue a letter which acknowledges they have a claim, and the collection calls will stop. They will then get paid when the settlement arrives, just like all the other claimants.
We’ll start by dealing with the insurance companies on your behalf, which can keep you from making mistakes which could impact your case. This also provides some emotional insulation. Wrongful death claimants are often shocked and dismayed to learn that insurance companies will try to avoid paying by blaming the accident on their deceased loved one. It can be extremely emotional and difficult to listen to. Hiring an attorney means your attorney has to deal with this fact more than you do.
Your attorney will also be working hard to dispute these claims. Your lawyer will work to reconstruct the accident, gather all the appropriate evidence, and interview the available witnesses in depositions. Your attorney may begin making motions to exclude or include certain types of evidence.
Eventually your wrongful death case will go to a settlement conference. Here, you will want an experienced, keen negotiator. Much of your eventual settlement may well depend on your attorney’s ability to negotiate. For example, your attorney may be able to get your pain and suffering multiplier a little higher, which means a bigger award in the end.
If the attorney cannot come to an agreement with the insurance company then the case will likely go to trial. The award amount will be determined by a jury. Arizona juries are typically very skeptical of personal injury cases in general, so you’ll need a shrewd litigator who can get a jury on your side.
When you choose Tony Merchant you choose a wrongful death lawyer who has over 30 years of experience with cases just like yours. Mr. Merchant has won millions of dollars for his clients. He’s also been published in prestigious law journals and has won numerous awards for his legal work.
He’s responsive, caring, and ready to serve you. He’s also known as one of Arizona’s toughest negotiators and litigators.
Our offices are in Tuscon, but we serve clients like you throughout the state. Call (480) 581-8801 to schedule your case review today.