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Who may sue for wrongful death after a fatal car accident?

Car accident fatality, as readers know, is among the top killers in the United States. Federal and state transportation safety authorities and law enforcement agencies are well aware of this and are continually working to address the problem through better laws and more effective enforcement techniques, as well as through safety awareness and public education.

When a fatal accident occurs, the surviving family of the victim is left to pick up the pieces of their lives without their loved one. Doing so can be very difficult, not only emotionally, but also financially, especially if the accident victim was a primary breadwinner. For survivors of accident victims, it is important to understand the process for seeking recovery, particularly through wrongful death litigation.

Wrongful death claims are based on the principle that the party who would have been held liable if the accident victim had not died should be liable to the victim’s survivors for damages they suffered or will suffer as a result of the accident victim’s death. Wrongful death actions may be brought by a surviving husband or wife, child, parent or guardian, or personal representative of the deceased person on behalf of the surviving spouse, children or parents.

If spouse, children or parents do not survive the accident victim, an action may be brought by a personal representative on behalf of the accident victim’s estate. The only requirement for a personal representative to bring a wrongful death action is to be granted letters testamentary or letters of administration by a probate court. Damages stemming from a wrongful death action are distributed to these parties in proportion to their damages. When the estate receives the judgment, it becomes an asset of the estate.

Navigating wrongful death litigation is not always an easy thing, particularly when one is still grieving the loss of a loved one. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help make sure one’s rights are protected.

Source: Arizona Statutes, Title 12, Chapter 6, Article 2. Accessed Oct. 15, 2015. 

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