When someone is harmed in a car accident, they have the right to sue the other driver for negligence. Negligence is best understood as what a driver failed to do rather than what they did. For example, if someone was speeding, they failed to follow proper traffic laws. If someone was texting, they failed to pay attention to the road.
Personal injury suits exist to compensate someone for their injuries. Car accidents, however, can be deadly. If a negligent driver kills someone, how can they be held liable? In such cases, a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate.
What Is Wrongful Death?
In a personal injury suit, the injured party is the plaintiff, suing the defendant for damages. In a wrongful death suit, a surviving loved one sues the defendant for damages. The two lawsuits work essentially the same way, only in one, the injured party did not survive.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
In Arizona, many people are eligible to file a wrongful death suit. First, close family members may file. This includes the spouse or the children of the deceased. The deceased’s parents or guardians may also file.
The next eligible person is the personal representative, or PR. When someone dies, they leave behind an estate. The estate is any property they owned that must be managed after death. The person who manages that estate is the PR. Someone can name the PR in their will, or the PR can be appointed by the court.
Who Can Receive Money in a Wrongful Death Suit?
In a standard personal injury suit, the injured party receives compensation. In a wrongful death suit, compensation is a bit more complicated. Depending on who files the lawsuit and who paid for expenses, compensation can go into the estate or directly to a family member. For example, the spouse may have paid for hospital treatment, but the estate paid the funeral expenses. In that case, both the spouse and the estate would be reimbursed.
Compensation for Expenses
The compensation you receive in a wrongful death suit is called “damages.” “Economic damages” reimburse someone for the financial burden of their injuries. When someone is killed, there are economic damages that go beyond an injury.
Here are some examples of economic damages you can recover in a wrongful death suit.
These include any treatment associated with treating the injured party. Sometimes people suffer a “fatal injury,” dying weeks or even months after the crash. Any surgeries, treatments, prescriptions, therapies, and so forth can be compensated.
Anything can be included here, from the urn to the casket. Cremation, funeral cosmetology, and so on can all be reimbursed.
Income Associated with the Deceased
The law assumes that married people share their incomes. Regardless of who made more money or who supported whom, the loss of a spouse has a direct financial impact on the family. Perhaps the deceased support their parents as well. Any close family member who was financially impacted by the loss can be compensated.
You could even receive compensation for potential future earnings. This happens if the deceased just earned their degree, got a big promotion, etc.
It’s hard to imagine caring about a car after you lost your loved one. Pragmatically, however, a car wreck damages a vehicle that may be necessary to the family. Any repairs or replacements can be folded into the lawsuit.
Personal injury law recognizes that damage goes beyond the monetary. For this, it can award non-economic damages. No amount of money will replace the loss of a loved one, but receiving this extra compensation can help ease the transition to life without them.
Pain and Suffering
In a personal injury suit, someone can receive damages for the time they spent in pain. In a wrongful death suit, this pain is the mental distress suffered by surviving loved ones.
Loss of Emotional Support
Everyone knows families are close. There are countless films, plays, and TV shows about people grieving and avenging the loss of their family members. The bonds we create help us get through life. When someone you rely on is taken from you in a car accident, you can be compensated for this loss.
Loss of Household Support
Beyond the emotional, people rely on one another in tangible, pragmatic ways. You can see this in parents. For instance, one is the disciplinarian, and the other is the teacher. Even in marriages without children, each person plays a role. One may manage the money while the other keeps the place clean. A sudden loss can throw a household into disorder. A single father must now play both parenting roles, do more housework, and manage the bills. Monetary compensation can help make this transition easier.
Sometimes a court simply wants to punish a defendant for their actions. This probably won’t apply to a car accident that was an honest mistake. Perhaps the defendant knew the other driver, and they intentionally hit them over an old grudge. Since this suit takes place in civil court, a judge cannot throw this defendant in jail. They can, however, order the defendant to pay more money to penalize them. This is called “punitive damages.”
Speak with an Attorney
If someone you love was killed by a negligent driver, talk to a lawyer about your options. They may be able to file a wrongful death suit for you. Perhaps you are ineligible to file suit since you are a sibling or a close cousin. An attorney can help you appeal to the personal representative of the estate and work with them on filing suit.
For help with a death resulting from a car accident, contact our firm today for a free consultation. Our number is (602) 483-6114, and you can contact us online.