Phoenix Wrongful Death Lawyer

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Phoenix Wrongful Death Attorney

The death of a loved one can be such an overwhelming experience that family members are often unaware of the potential options available for seeking some kind of compensation. When people are grieving, it’s understandable that money wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind.

However, when you work with an experienced Phoenix wrongful death lawyer, you can count on someone to pursue your family’s needs with the sensitivity and care the situation deserves.

The loss of a loved one comes at a tremendous cost, and if that cost is brought upon a family by someone else’s error, that person owes them compensation for what they’ve gone through. A wrongful death claim is a way for families to seek compensation for everything they’ve lost when a family member dies.

Of course, money doesn’t bring a person back or replace someone. It can be, though, something that can ease burdens elsewhere, leaving families the space and time that they need to adjust to their new dynamic. With over 23 years in Phoenix personal injury law, Marc Bleaman of the Bleaman Law Firm has the skills needed to help your family through a devastating time.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Phoenix?

Sometimes, one of the more challenging aspects of a wrongful death claim can be understanding who can file a claim. The process can be somewhat complex to ensure that the right person is able to file. Generally, though, the following parties may be able to file a wrongful death claim in Phoenix, AZ:

  • Spouse – If a spouse is left surviving, they are typically the most likely party to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Children – Additionally, any surviving children may have a right to file a wrongful death claim as well. This applies to both biological and adopted children.
  • Parents – If someone doesn’t have any surviving spouse or children, then their parents could be able to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Estate Representative – In some cases, the deceased may have no living spouse, children, or parents. If that’s the case, then it could be a representative of the estate who could file a claim on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Who Could Be Liable in a Phoenix Wrongful Death Claim?

While there is a wide range of potential candidates for who is liable in a wrongful death claim, the compensation is typically paid by insurance companies. Those who could be liable in a wrongful death claim could be anyone acting negligently enough to cause someone’s death. Some of the more common categories include:

  • An Individual – Many times, a wrongful death is the result of an individual’s actions. The cause could be negligence in driving, medical malpractice, or some other form of recklessness or even maliciousness.
  • Product Manufacturers – There are times when a defective product, poorly conceived product, or product with insufficient warnings could lead to death, and the manufacturer could be held liable.
  • Medical Professionals – In some cases, a wrongful death may be the result of medical malpractice, leaving the medical staff or facilities liable for the death.
  • Employers – It’s possible, though unlikely, that in the case of something like a construction accident leading to death, the employer of the deceased may be liable, although workers’ compensation laws could also be a factor. In such cases, you can take the help of our Phoenix construction accident lawyers.

Proving Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim in Phoenix

The process for proving a wrongful death claim follows the same general process that we find in a personal liability claim, such as car accidents in Phoenix. To prove enough for the defendant to be held liable, the plaintiff’s lawyers must be able to demonstrate that the death was a direct result of the defendant’s actions. They must prove that if the defendant hadn’t made the choices that they did, then the death would not have occurred.

What Is a Duty of Care?

The process of proving liability is one of proving negligence on the part of the defendant. This begins with proving a “duty of care” on the part of the defendant. Exactly what that means could differ quite a bit from situation to situation, but the general premise is that the defendant had a duty, in the given circumstance, to consider the effect that their actions could have on others.

A duty of care sets the expectation that the defendant should have been careful, within reason, to behave in a manner that minimized the potential impact on and harm to others. A driver, for instance, has a duty to operate their vehicle in a way that doesn’t create extra harm for others. A product manufacturer has a duty to produce something that fits people’s expectations because they place their lives in the hands of those products.

What Is a Breach of Duty?

If one has a duty to care, not executing that duty is a “breach.” This means that someone has failed to live up to that duty of care. The plaintiff’s lawyer must show that the defendant either acted or failed to act in a way that lived up to their duty of care.

Again, what this looks like will be highly specific to the case that someone is involved in. The more complex the case, the more tools, like expert witnesses, may be involved to describe what should have reasonably been expected of the defendant and how their actions fell short.

The lawyer will need to prove what the defendant’s actions were in the situation in question. They will need to be able to persuade the jury that the defendant’s behavior was negligent by using things like photos and videos, eyewitness testimony, and any other evidence that could be helpful in proving their position. Once they’ve proved what happened, they can then describe how the defendant failed to live up to their duty.

How to Connect the Breach of Duty to Your Loved One’s Death

The final thing the lawyer for the plaintiff will need to prove is often the hardest part for the surviving family members, as it must be shown that the breach led directly to the death. It’s important to realize that there are some situations where a breach occurs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it caused the death.

For instance, a nurse could be off on the timing of a medication for an infection, but if the patient later that day suffers cardiac arrest and passes, then it may not be the cause of death.

In many cases where an accident is involved, proving this element of the case could mean proving two separate points. First, the wrongful death lawyer may need to show that the breach caused an accident and then that the accident caused the death.

For instance, if a driver caused a car accident, and another driver involved had a sudden cardiac arrest, the driver who caused the accident may not be liable, particularly if there was a pre-existing condition. The plaintiff’s lawyer will need to make it clear, then, that the accident was the cause of death.

Effectively, what a lawyer is trying to demonstrate to the court is that the death could have been prevented or avoided if the defendant had behaved differently. If it is proven that the defendant was pivotal in the death, then they may be held liable for the wrongful death.

Compensation Awarded in a Phoenix Wrongful Death Claim

Compensation in a wrongful death case is determined by a variety of different factors, but all must be shown to be directly related to the death. The process of determining an appropriate compensation package can be complex and challenging. It is often very specific to the situation. Some of the factors that are considered include:

  • The age and health of the deceased
  • The nature of the wrongful death
  • The defendants involved and what their needs are

Compensation for Economic Damages

Many of the things that a wrongful death claim will compensate for have a clear financial element involved. This will usually include any of the costs that are directly related to the death itself. The medical bills that come from any treatment or care that was given prior to the death are usually all covered. Additionally, funeral and burial expenses are other costs that are typically covered.

Another financial element that is covered can be a little more complex, and that is the loss of financial support that survivors experience. This can vary significantly, as it depends on a number of factors, such as the deceased’s income, the level of support given to dependents, and the inheritance they may have one day provided.

It can be challenging to know exactly what income the deceased would have made in the future, and this is one of the things that makes this process particularly complex.

Additionally, the value of lost benefits, such as life insurance or pensions, is also included. These things are given a value as well. They must be calculated and compensated for. The younger the deceased is, the more complex calculating all of these things can be. It’s hard to know what someone would have done financially in their lives, so there is some level of speculation that is involved, and this element can be highly contested.

Compensation for Non-Economic Damages

Those who have lost a loved one, though, know that the most impactful of losses are not the financial ones but rather the more intangible losses. Often, the most significant costs are those that come from no longer having the deceased in the lives of the survivors. The younger the deceased, the greater this impact can be. The compensation in a wrongful death claim will attempt to place a value on these intangible costs as well.

Some of those intangible things that a wrongful death claim may compensate for include loss of companionship. Often, there is care, guidance, support, and companionship that the deceased provided that will no longer be a part of loved ones’ lives. These losses are tremendous, and they may be compensated.

Most often, in the case of married couples, there’s also the loss of consortium. This compensates for the loss of affection, intimacy, and love that married couples experience. The pain and suffering that was experienced by the deceased may also be compensated for.

Compensation for Punitive Damages

There are some rare cases where the court may also choose to award punitive damages. These are damages that don’t cover any specific costs but are instead meant to act as a kind of punishment.

Therefore, these are only awarded in situations where the behavior of the defendant is considered egregious in some manner. While they aren’t awarded in most cases, they may be awarded in yours if the death was precipitated by actions that the court deems to have been malicious or particularly egregious.

Can My Wrongful Death Compensation Be Capped?

There is no cap on the compensation that may be awarded in a wrongful death claim in Arizona. However, the financial award could be limited by Arizona’s pure comparative negligence doctrine. Under this system, the defendant’s lawyers will be given the opportunity to argue that some kind of negligence on the part of the deceased contributed to their death.

If the defendant’s lawyers are successful, there will be a percentage applied to both parties. The financial award will be reduced by the percentage that is given to the deceased. For instance, if the deceased is determined to be 25% at fault on a $1 million award, then the final award will be $750,000.

When Must a Wrongful Death Claim Be Filed in Phoenix?

The statute of limitations determines how soon after an event occurs that legal proceedings must begin. In most circumstances, this is a two-year limit. There may, though, be some exceptions, in particular a likely shorter timeline if the government is at all involved.

Two years may seem like a long time, but there is quite a bit that needs to be done to prepare for the claim, as well as negotiate a possible settlement. It’s a good idea to contact someone at the Bleaman Law Firm as soon as you are able. The more time you leave your wrongful death lawyer to prepare your claim, the better the odds of a favorable outcome.

Settling a Wrongful Death Claim Compared With Going to Court

Civil claims, because they involve an arrangement between two parties, can usually be settled outside of court. This dynamic, though, creates a conundrum for plaintiffs of whether or not they should settle or take a claim all the way through to court. The answer is complex, particularly in the case of a wrongful death claim.

The right answer is also highly specific to the particular case. Generally, though, there are some things to understand about weighing a settlement compared with taking a claim to court.

Should I Choose to Settle?

A settlement is a negotiated compromise that avoids taking a claim to court. Generally, this means that both sides will have to give up a little something. For the defendant, this usually means giving up the possibility of being able to be found blameless and not owe anything.

For the plaintiff, this typically means taking less money than the maximum that they might receive if the civil trial works out perfectly. If that’s what’s being given up when settling, it’s important to weigh against the benefits of avoiding court.

What Are the Benefits of a Settlement?

  • Guaranteed Compensation: One of the most significant benefits of avoiding going to trial is that there is always a risk that the court could rule against you. It’s impossible to guarantee the outcome of a civil trial because everything is unpredictable. Even the strongest of cases occasionally have an outcome that’s unexpected. Taking a case to trial always carries the risk that you may get a disappointing judgment. A settlement, on the other hand, is a sure thing and avoids that risk.
  • A Shorter Timeline: Another benefit of choosing a settlement is the benefit of time. A wrongful death trial can often last for months and potentially even years. A settlement, though, avoids that long process. This can be appealing for those seeking the money sooner. It also can be appealing to those who need to avoid dragging out the process for their mental health. The death of someone so close is painful and difficult to process, and for many people, it can be hard to come to peace with things until this legal aspect is closed. A settlement may help people reach that point sooner.
  • Avoiding a Potentially Traumatic Experience: One benefit of a settlement that is less frequently discussed is that it allows someone to receive compensation without having to relive or immerse themselves in the thing that caused them to need that compensation in the first place. A good Phoenix wrongful death lawyer will do whatever they can to minimize your involvement in the claim and trial. However, there are some situations where a certain level of participation is paramount to a successful claim. This can be very challenging for many people, as they may mentally and emotionally return to where they were when the death originally occurred. A settlement can be an alternative that avoids that anguish and difficulty.

Ultimately, whether or not a settlement is the right choice for you will depend on your situation. Whether or not you want to go through the challenges of trial balanced against the settlement offer is a very personal decision. Given the circumstances, it can be difficult to process everything. Your wrongful death lawyer in Phoenix, though, can help you understand the breadth of your options and help you work through everything to come to a decision.

What Is a Phoenix Wrongful Death Lawyer Responsible for?

A Phoenix wrongful death lawyer will take on a number of different roles and tasks between when you agree to their representation and when your case concludes. What a good lawyer will do, primarily, is make the situation as burdenless as possible for you.

At the Bleaman Law Firm, we understand how difficult a time it is for our wrongful death clients. We know that they are dealing with a bevy of emotions and thoughts as they try to navigate the challenges of grieving, facing the reality of what has happened to their loved one and how it happened, and recognizing the necessity of the legal aspect of a wrongful death claim.

The last thing you need during this time is any extra burden created by your lawyer. That’s why we approach these cases with the care and sensitivity you need while still fighting for the compensation you should receive. It’s our aim to thread that needle, seeking what’s right for our clients both financially and emotionally.

Conducting an Investigation

One of the first tasks we are responsible for taking on for our clients is a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death. This is necessary for a few different reasons. First, we need to understand how many and what parties may bear some liability for the situation.

Second, we will need to gather the different kinds of evidence that can be helpful in proving liability. This could include getting photos and videos, gathering facts, interviewing eyewitnesses, and even getting an expert witness opinion. Part of that fact-finding effort may also include looking for any evidence that can help defend against claims of comparative negligence.

Representing You in Negotiation

The next major element that we handle is negotiation with the defendant regarding a possible settlement. In many situations, this will mean communicating with the defendant’s insurance company, which is responsible for paying out the settlement. There are some significant advantages to allowing your wrongful death lawyer in Phoenix to negotiate on your behalf.

One thing that happens when your lawyer negotiates on your behalf is that the insurance company will likely make a more serious offer. As unfair as it may be, insurance companies could try to take advantage of someone who doesn’t have a lawyer negotiating for them. However, they know that a lawyer has a strong understanding of what should be compensated and what could happen if the case goes to trial. That should lead to a more serious offer from the insurance companies.

Another advantage of a lawyer negotiating for you is that it carries a threat. It’s not that it’s a direct threat of a lawsuit, but the mere involvement of a lawyer conveys that going to court is a real possibility. Someone attempting to negotiate on their own could, of course, threaten to file a claim, but that alone will never be taken as seriously as when a lawyer is present.

Arguing Your Case in Court

There are times, though, when an agreeable settlement simply can’t be found. If that’s the case, we are prepared to take the case to court and argue for what you’re owed. We can use the information that we gathered in our investigation to demonstrate the fault on the part of the defendant.

We can also explain why you are seeking a particular compensation package and defend against any claims of comparative negligence. We can do all this, though, with a full understanding of the sensitivity and fragility that may be present in such a difficult situation.

What to Look for in a Phoenix Wrongful Death Lawyer?

You may fully understand the importance of working with a lawyer and, therefore, want to understand how to choose the right Phoenix wrongful death lawyer for your situation. The key is to focus on what will be right for you. There are some specific things you will want to look for. You’ll want a lawyer who is knowledgeable of both the law and the particulars of your situation. You also want a lawyer who has experience in both negotiating settlements and taking a case to court.

Given the sensitivity of the situation, it’s absolutely critical that you find a lawyer you are comfortable with. You need a lawyer who will strike a balance between seeking the compensation that should be provided and understanding the emotional fragility that you may be feeling.

Remember that a lawyer acts as your representative in negotiations and before the court. That’s why it’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable with. You wouldn’t want someone representing you who behaves inconsistently with your values. Take the time to have a conversation with a wrongful death lawyer and make sure you feel confident that they will represent you how you want to be represented.

We Help Families of Wrongful Death Victims Get What They Need

The death of those closest to us is always one of the hardest things we have to face, especially when that death is sudden. It’s made all the more challenging when it’s the result of someone else’s mistake.

In many cases, too, losing someone leaves an emotional, psychological, and financial hole in families. Ultimately, these are costs that families must bear. However, because that cost was created by someone else, families are also due compensation for those costs.

In many cases, families will find they receive some level of resistance when seeking what they are owed. In particular, insurance companies, which usually pay out these claims, are not eager to take money off their bottom line.

Fortunately, though, the legal system gives these families some level of recourse to seek what they deserve. At the Bleaman Law Firm, we assist these families and help put the legal system to work for them. If you’ve suffered the wrongful death of a loved one, contact us today.


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