Wrongful Death 

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


Wrongful death cases are highly emotional and complicated. Hiring a wrongful death attorney at Budge Law Firm will help you navigate through the complicated legal process. We have years of experience and knowledge in dealing with these types of cases and will help you to alleviate the stress that comes from being involved in a wrongful death case.

In order to bring a successful wrongful death cause of action, the following elements must be present:

  • The death of a human being;
  • Caused by another’s negligence, or with intent to cause harm;
  • The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death, and;
  • The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate.

A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances, such as in the following situations:

  • Medical malpractice that results in death
  • Automobile or airplane accident
  • Occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances
  • Criminal behavior
  • Death during a supervised activity

Wrongful Death Claim Against a Public Entity

Notice of Claim Requirement — Helpful Steps

First, when facing a wrongful death claim, consult with an attorney. A wrongful death claim against a public entity or employee is difficult and time sensitive. To pursue a claim against a public entity, there are specific rules that must be followed, which are highly technical and will likely cause you to lose your case if not followed correctly. Keep in mind that public entities have vast legal resources, and an attorney can help level the playing field.

Second, if you decide to proceed without an attorney, the following steps will help you to complete the first major requirement of your case, which is your Notice of Claim:

  1. Determine when the injury or death occurred.
  2. Arizona law allows 180 calendar days from the date of loss (date of injury or death) to file a “Notice of Claim” against any public entity or employee.
  3. After that, a lawsuit must then be filed within one year from the date of loss.
  4. If you miss either of these dates, it typically means the claim is lost forever.

Third, determine who the defendant is. You should identify which public entity or employees are at fault for your loss. Ensure that the entity you choose can be sued. Some agencies or departments are not juridical entities, and the proper defendant is the state or city itself. Be sure to identify the individuals who directly caused you harm, as Arizona law requires it.

Fourth, draft your Notice of Claim. The notice should be in letter format and include your name, address, and any other information used to identify your case. It should be addressed to all persons/entities you have identified. You should separate each section with a bold heading based on topics such as: Factual basis for claim, legal basis for claims, and amount of claim. 

At a minimum, your Notice of Claim must contain the following items pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-821.01:

  1. “Facts sufficient to permit the public entity, public school, or public employee to understand the basis on which liability is claimed.” You should include facts that show that the public entity/employee is at fault for your loss.
  2. “The claim shall also contain a specific amount for which the claim can be settled and the facts supporting that amount.” You must include an amount that you are willing to accept to settle the claim. You should also include facts about your damages, including medical treatment, economic damages, and general damages (all with supporting documentation).

Fifth, serve the Notice of Claim. The public entity must receive your claim within 180 calendar days from the date of loss. Your Notice of Claim can be mailed or served by a process server. A point to remember is that you must obtain proof that it was received by the public entity, such as a certified mail receipt or an affidavit of service from a certified process server, to prevent the opposing party from saying that it was never received. The Notice of Claim should be served on all public employees listed in your case and on the public entity. You will need to discover who can accept service on behalf of the public entity since each public entity is different.

Lastly, wait for a response. Under Arizona law, a public entity has 60 days to review your claim before you can file a lawsuit. You must wait until your claim is denied or 60 days has lapsed (whichever is earlier). If your claim is settled and you are paid, congratulations! However, most public entities do not settle (or even acknowledge) claims, and lawsuits must be filed.

At Budge Law Firm, we understand the sensitive nature of each wrongful death case and will work with you through every step.  If you have any questions, please contact our office today at (480) 376-7193 for a free consultation.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Pecuniary, or financial, injury is the main measure of damages in a wrongful death action. Courts have interpreted “pecuniary injuries” as including the loss of support and services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Most laws provide that the damages awarded for a wrongful death shall be fair and just compensation for the pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent’s death. If the distributees paid or are responsible for the decedent’s funeral or medical care, they may also recover those expenses. Finally, a damage award will include interest from the date of the decedent’s death.

Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Case

The surviving family members have two years from the date of death to either settle the case or file a lawsuit within the proper court, or they will lose the ability to recover. [A.R.S. §12-542.]

If someone you know has been affected by a wrongful death case, please contact our office at (480) 376-7193 for your free consultation.

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