Wrongful Death Claim Against a Public Entity
Notice of Claim Requirement – Helpful Steps
First, when faced against 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.
- Determine when the injury or death occurred.
- 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.
- After that a lawsuit must then be filed within one (1) year from the date of loss.
- 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:
- “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.
- “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. The 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 also 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) your notice of claim and a lawsuit must be filed.
If someone you know has been affected by a WRONGFUL DEATH case, please contact our office at 480-246-8050 today for your free consultation.
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