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Arizona Wrongful Death Claim | Colburn Hintze Maletta

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Arizona Wrongful Death Claim | Colburn Hintze Maletta 

Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, particularly when their death was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.

In the state of Arizona, family members have the option to bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party to seek justice and compensation for their loss.

Having a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer by your side is important when seeking compensation for a wrongful death in Arizona. Colburn Hintze Maletta is here to provide the necessary guidance and assistance in handling the legal system. With their skills and commitment to their clients, they will advocate for the rights of the surviving family members.

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Wrongful Death Claims

What is Wrongful Death? 

Wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person or entity. This can include deaths caused by negligent acts, medical malpractice, or intentional harm.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 12-611, a wrongful death claim can be filed if the deceased person could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived.

Wrongful death claims aim to provide financial compensation to the surviving family members for their loss. These claims can help cover expenses such as funeral costs, loss of income, and emotional distress.

What Type of Compensation is Available? 

In a wrongful death claim, several types of compensation can be awarded:

  • Economic Damages: These include medical expenses incurred before death, funeral and burial costs, loss of income and benefits, and the value of household services the deceased would have provided.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These compensate for the emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of guidance and nurturing.
  • Punitive Damages: In some cases, where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar actions in the future.

Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Under A.R.S. § 12-612, the beneficiaries of a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona include the surviving spouse, children, parents, or the deceased’s estate. Here is a breakdown:


1.) Primary Beneficiaries:

  • The surviving husband or wife, child, parent, or guardian can bring an action for wrongful death on behalf of the surviving family members.
  • If none of these relatives survive, the claim can be made on behalf of the decedent’s estate.


2.) Parents and Guardians:

  • Either parent can maintain the action for the death of a child.
  • A guardian can maintain the action for the death of the guardian’s ward.


3.) Distribution of Recovery:

  • The amount recovered in a wrongful death action shall be distributed to the parties in proportion to their damages.
  • If recovery is on behalf of the decedent’s estate, the amount becomes an asset of the estate.


4.)Disqualification for Certain Crimes:

  • A party found guilty or who pled guilty to certain crimes involving the death of the decedent is deemed to have predeceased the decedent and is disqualified from recovering wrongful death benefits.
  • This includes violations of sections 13-3623, 13-1103, 13-1104, or 13-1105, or equivalent offenses in other jurisdictions.


5.) Personal Representatives:

  • “Personal representative” includes any person granted letters testamentary or of administration by competent authority under state laws.
  • The personal representative can maintain the wrongful death action without further legal requirements.

How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out? 

Wrongful death settlements in Arizona can be paid out in various ways, ensuring that the compensation received is suitable for the beneficiaries’ needs. Here’s how these payments typically work:


  Lump-Sum Payment

A lump-sum payment is a single, comprehensive payment that covers all the awarded damages. This option can be beneficial for immediate financial needs, such as funeral costs and outstanding medical bills. 


Structured Settlement

A structured settlement involves periodic payments made over time. This method can provide long-term financial stability and help manage future expenses. It is particularly useful when the beneficiaries need sustained support for living expenses, education costs, or other ongoing financial obligations. Structured settlements ensure that the family of the loved one has financial security for years following the decedent’s death.


Distribution of Recovery

According to Arizona’s wrongful death statutes, the amount recovered in a wrongful death action shall be distributed to the eligible parties in proportion to their damages.

This means the settlement is divided based on the financial and emotional impact experienced by each beneficiary.

If the recovery is on behalf of the decedent’s estate, the amount becomes an asset of the estate, which is then distributed according to the decedent’s will or state probate laws.


Payment to Personal Representatives

In cases where the claim is made on behalf of the deceased’s estate, the personal representative—who may be appointed by the court—will manage the settlement distribution.

The personal representative ensures that the settlement is allocated appropriately, following the guidelines set by Arizona wrongful death laws.

Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable

The tax treatment of wrongful death settlements can vary based on the type of damages awarded and the case’s specific circumstances.

Non-Taxable Damages

Generally, compensatory damages received in a wrongful death settlement are not taxable. This includes payments for:

  • Medical Expenses: Compensation for medical bills incurred due to the injury or illness that caused the death of a loved one.
  • Funeral and Burial Costs: Payments covering the costs associated with the funeral and burial of the decedent.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the emotional distress experienced by the surviving family members as a result of the death.
  • Loss of Companionship: Damages awarded for the loss of companionship, guidance, and emotional support that the deceased provided to their loved ones.


Taxable Damages

While most compensatory damages are not subject to taxation, there are exceptions:

  • Punitive Damages: These are awarded to punish the defendant for particularly egregious or reckless conduct and are considered taxable income by the IRS. Punitive damages are designed to deter similar wrongful actions in the future.
  • Interest on Settlement: Any interest that accrues on the settlement amount before it is paid out to the beneficiaries is also taxable.


Are There Statute of Limitations on Filing a Wrongful Death Claim 

In Arizona, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the deceased person’s death, as per A.R.S. § 12-542.

Fulfilling the claim within this period is crucial to avoid losing the right to seek compensation

How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit 

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit involves several steps. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you through the process:


Consult an Attorney

Seek legal advice from a qualified wrongful death attorney to evaluate your case. An experienced attorney can provide you with a clear understanding of your rights and the potential value of your claim.


Investigate the Claim

Gathering evidence is crucial to support your wrongful death claim. This may include:

  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Expert opinions

Your attorney will help collect and organize this evidence to build a strong case.


File the Complaint

Draft and file a wrongful death complaint in the appropriate court. The complaint should outline the details of the incident, the basis for the claim, and the damages being sought.


Serve the Defendant

Once the complaint is filed, the defendant must be formally notified (served) with the lawsuit. This ensures that the defendant is aware of the legal action and has an opportunity to respond.


Engage in Discovery

During the discovery phase, both parties exchange information and evidence related to the case. This can include:

  • Depositions
  • Interrogatories
  • Document requests


 Negotiate Settlement

Many wrongful death cases are resolved through settlement negotiations. Your attorney will negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company or legal representatives to reach a fair settlement. If an agreement is reached, the case can be settled out of court.



If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments, and a judge or jury will determine the outcome.


Important Considerations

  • Statute of Limitations: Ensure your claim is filed within Arizona’s statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of death (A.R.S. § 12-542).
  • Documentation: Keep detailed records of all communications, medical bills, and other relevant documents.
  • Legal Representation: Having a knowledgeable attorney by your side can significantly impact the success of your claim.

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take? 

The duration of a wrongful death lawsuit in Arizona can vary significantly based on several factors. Typically, cases can take anywhere from several months to a few years to resolve.

The complexity of the case is a major determinant; cases with straightforward evidence and clear liability under Arizona wrongful death laws may settle more quickly. Conversely, cases involving disputed facts, multiple defendants, or complex legal issues can take longer.

The willingness of both parties to negotiate and reach a settlement also impacts the timeline. If a settlement is not reached, the lawsuit may proceed to trial, which can add significant time due to court schedules and procedural requirements. Factors such as evidence gathering, witness availability, and the need for expert testimony can further extend the duration.

Contact an Arizona Wrongful Death Attorney 

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act is devastating. At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our experienced wrongful death attorneys are here to provide compassionate and effective legal support during this challenging time.

We have extensive experience with Arizona wrongful death cases and understand the nuances of state laws. Our personalized approach ensures that we meet your unique needs and goals, fighting for the justice and compensation you deserve. Whether negotiating a settlement or representing you in court, we are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome.

Contact Colburn Hintze Maletta today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us help you secure the compensation you need to move forward. Reach out at (602) 825-2500  to schedule your consultation.


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