Who can make a claim for benefits?
Under Arizona law, the following people are entitled to make a claim for benefits in a wrongful death case:
- The spouse of the deceased person;
- The children of the deceased person; and
- The parents of the deceased person.
All of the above relatives are entitled to benefits in a wrongful death case. Thus, if a decedent were survived by his or her parents, a spouse and children, everyone of these family members would be entitled to benefits. If there is no surviving spouse, child or parent, the estate of the deceased person may make a wrongful death claim. If the claim were made on behalf of the estate, any recovery would then be distributed to the more distant relatives of the deceased.
In most cases, a brother or sister of the decedent is not entitled to benefits in a wrongful death action. However, if a parent, spouse or child did not survive the decedent, then brothers and sisters may be entitled to claim benefits through the decedent's estate.
Arizona law does not currently recognize wrongful death claims by domestic partners. Likewise, “common law” marriages are not recognized. A valid marriage license is required for a spouse to make a claim for benefits.
There is no mathematical formula for dividing the proceeds among the spouse, children and parents of the decedent. Each persons relationship to the deceased must be considered as well the economic losses sustained by the various claimants. The amount each claimant receives may vary because each claimant’s relationship to the decedent is different. If the beneficiaries are unable to reach a division of the proceeds, the court may be asked to apportion any recovery.