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Wrongful death suit lodged by Arizona firefighters' families

Life can lose its meaning when a family member dies. Any Arizona resident will agree that besides the emotional loss, financial damages can be extensive, particularly if the one who died was the family breadwinner.

In a recent case, 12 Arizona families have sued public agencies in the state for the deaths of 19 firefighters in 2013. In the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the agencies, the families have sought damages for pain and suffering, funeral costs and lost wages. The lawsuit stems from an incident where the firefighters were trapped and perished while fighting a wildfire caused by a lightening strike. This fire decimated 13 square miles and 127 houses. Through the lawsuit, the families are also hoping to gain more information about the reason behind the deaths and what can be done to prevent future tragedies. In December, 2013, the families notified the state of Arizona, along with the county and fire district of a possible lawsuit, hoping to settle the claim for roughly $220 million. At the same time, the families asked for a thorough revamp of the fire-fighting system, including better equipment and a program to better train those who fight wildfires.

According to an attorney for the families, the state of Arizona refused to discuss the fire with them. The defendants were tight-lipped about this alleged negligence but, in December, an attorney for the fire district said that there was no basis for this wrongful death suit. Many area property owners also sued the state because it was not able to control the fire. A report by the Occupational Safety and Health division of Arizona also drew a similar conclusion.

An investigation by the Forestry Division of Arizona revealed that there was insufficient communication between fire officials during the blaze. However, the correct procedures were followed. The families contend that fire officials were negligent and did not make firefighters' safety a priority.

A wrongful death suit can be a good way for families who have lost loved ones in accident to pursue the compensation they need following the fatal incident. Oftentimes this includes financial recovery for any medical expenses incurred, burial costs and loss of income. In all cases of wrongful death, it is advisable to consult an Arizona attorney for sound advice.

Source: The Republic, "Families of a dozen Arizona firefighters file wrongful death lawsuit against public agencies," Felicia Fonseca, June 26, 2014

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