According to the Phoenix New Times, Arizona DPS has requested that the news media avoid making interview requests of family members of Bruce Harrolle who died this week in the line of duty when he was killed in an aviation accident when he was struck by helicopter rotor blades. Apparently, DPS claims that relatives are being overwhelmed with interview requests.
I agree with DPS on this issue, although I believe it should be expanded. Not as a matter of law, but as a matter of decency. Why must grieving families be subjected to piles of media on their lawn? Sure, it apparently makes for a more interesting news story. And, sure, freedom of the press must include the right to ask for an interview. However, not every right needs to be used at every opportunity.
As it is, this family is put under serious time constraints. After they get through the initial period of mourning, Arizona’s laws greatly limit the amount of time in which the surviving wife and children have to make certain claims. Already – and most likely unbeknownst to the family – the time to make certain claims that this family may need to make to address certain legal issues may already been down to less than six months, and almost certainly less than a year.
My point is that this family must be going through pain most should never have to experience, a tragic loss of a beloved and needed family member. When they can come back to any sense of reality, they will have all sorts of pressing issues to discuss. I cannot see any advantage to this family – or any other – to have to further deal with a media which can provide no benefit to them. The media has a right to do as they have, and I support that right. The media also has the right – in this case and following all other tragic accidents or Arizona wrongful death cases – to exercise their right to show restraint and respect.
Our heart goes out to Mr. Harrolle’s family for this tragedy. For those that have read my blogs, you may know that the family may be limited to 180 days in which to file the appropriate paperwork after doing an investigation that will take significant effort and can take significant time. To complicate matters, certain such claims may be limited under workers’ compensation exclusivity provisions or under an old rule known as the “firefighter’s rule” which also extends to police officers per a recent Arizona case.
While it is our view that Mr. Harrolle’s family should at least consult with an experienced Arizona personal injury attorney, who will thoroughly and independently investigate and evaluate the accident and look into the best way to keep this family from suffering horrendous financial burdens in addition to the overwhelming loss, we think the first thing everyone should do is step back, and let this family grieve in private.