The loss of a loved one is devastating. It is even worse if a person loses a loved one because of another's recklessness or negligence. Personal injury laws in Nevada allow families to file a lawsuit for wrongful death against at-fault parties. It helps them recover damages incurred in the demise of their loved ones. Compensation from such a case will be used to cater for funeral and burial expenses and compensate the deceased person's close relations for their loss of support and companionship.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident and another person was at fault, you can get in touch with us at the Las Vegas Personal Injury Law Firm. We are dedicated to ensuring that families are recovering full compensation for the loss of their loved ones in the hands of negligent parties.
Legal Definition of Nevada Wrongful Death
People lose their lives for several reasons, some through sicknesses and others through accidents. Wrongful death occurs when a person loses their life as a result of another person's wrongdoing. A person's recklessness, for instance, could cause an accident which can claim the life of another person. If an employer does not adhere to the safety standard expected of him by the law, for instance, his/her employees could get injured in the course of their job. If any of them loses their life, the family of the victim is allowed by the law of Nevada to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent employer.
A person or entity is said to be liable for Nevada wrongful death if they caused another person to die. In the state of Nevada, it does not change anything if the death was intentional, or it stemmed from the party's negligence. As long as a person lost their life and you are believed to have caused it, you may be sued for compensation by the deceased person's family.
Legal actions against wrongful death in Nevada arise out of several circumstances. The most common situations include:
- Car accidents and other forms of accidents
- Medical malpractices
- Criminal conduct
- Products liability
- Death of a person in the course of a supervised activity
- Work-related exposure to dangerous substances and condition
In the state of Nevada, most claims are grounded on past cases, and common law, but cases involving wrongful death are statutory. It means that there are certain elements that the court must prove before finding the respondent liable for wrongful death. These elements of the crime are:
- That a person, called a decedent, lost their life
- That their death resulted from another party's negligence or wrongful act
- That the claimant is a personal representative or heir to the decedent
- That the claimant suffered monetary damages following the death of the decedent
The success of a wrongful death lawsuit is entirely dependent on the exceptional circumstances of a particular case. Evidence will be needed in the court to establish how the respondent caused the death of the decedent. The common types of evidence that could be used in such cases include:
- Medical records
- Video surveillance recordings
- Testimonies from eyewitnesses
- The statement of an accident scene reconstruction expert
- A written or recorded message by the offender
If the case goes to court, and the evidence is admitted in a civil court, the respondent will not be incarcerated as it would happen in a criminal court. Instead, he/she will be required to compensate the plaintiff for the monetary damages they have incurred.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Nevada?
Nevada wrongful death lawsuits cannot be brought up by just anyone in the decedent’s family. The law provides a list of eligible plaintiffs, which include:
- The estate of the deceased person
- Intestate heirs of the deceased person. An intestate heir is a legal term used for the person's surviving family
If the victim was married, his/her partner and children would be legally considered his/her beneficiaries. If, on the other hand, the victim were not married and childless, his/her legal beneficiaries would be as follows, in order of precedence:
- His/her parents
- His/her closest living kin. It must not be a sibling or parent
Some people are not eligible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada, even after they have been named as the deceased person’s beneficiaries in his/her will. These are, for instance:
- Fiancées and significant others
- Foster children and unadopted stepchildren
- Close friends
Possible Defendants in a Nevada Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Defendants in a Nevada wrongful death lawsuit could be any person, company, or organization that caused somebody to lose their life either through criminal acts or negligence. Examples of respondents could be:
- A motorist who accidentally caused the death of a person on the highway while operating a car while intoxicated or recklessly. The victim, in this case, could be another motorist, a passenger in the motorist's car or the other car, a pedestrian, or a cyclist.
- A doctor or medical practitioner who negligently caused the death of a patient under their care. This could have been done through the administration of poor quality medical care, also called medical malpractice. A pharmacist who accidentally prescribes the wrong medication to a patient, causing their death, can also be liable to wrongful death
- An individual who deliberately stabs or shoots another person will be not only liable to wrongful death but also guilty of criminal murder
- A hotel that fails to monitor its levels of carbon monoxide, which results in the death of one of its guests
- A parent/guardian who gives their minors access to a knife or gun. When such a child accidentally stabs themselves, or the gun goes off, killing them, the negligent parent will be liable to wrongful death
Note that entertainment joints that sell alcohol might not be held liable if an underage victim below 23 years of age dies as a result of binge drinking. The business will not be held responsible for the victim's death, even if it is established that the alcohol was the direct cause of their death.
Possible Defense Approaches for Nevada Wrongful Death Cases
Both civil and criminal courts will give the respondent a chance to defend themselves against the wrongful death claims and lawsuits. With the help of their attorney, the respondent can use several defense strategies to ensure that they are not guilty of the charges. Some of these defense strategies include:
That the respondent has been mistakenly identified
In any serious criminal case, a person can be mistaken for the actual perpetrator. It could happen if the respondent lives close, is friends with, or looks just the same as the real perpetrator. The respondent's attorney, in this case, will try to demonstrate to the court why the respondent could not have committed the said offense. If the respondent was not anywhere close to the accident scene, for instance, the court may agree that indeed, this is a case of mistaken identity, thus dropping the charges.
False accusations are also bound to rise from severe cases of murder and wrongful death. A person can falsely accuse another of wrongful death, while in the real sense, the victim died of natural causes. If a person believes that they have been framed for an offense they did not commit, their attorney can help come up with a strong defense to that effect. Evidence of the actual cause of death can be presented in the court to exonerate the accused of their charges. The accused can also present evidence in court to show that his/her actions were not the actual cause of the victim's demise.
That the respondent did not contribute to the occurrence of the victim’s death even though he/she was present during it
A lot of people find themselves in such situations where someone else is committing an offense in their presence. The court would not convict such a person for murder or wrongful death, even if they were present when another person lost his/her life. As long as you did not do anything to contribute to the demise of the victim, you may not be liable for it.
That the respondent acted in self-defense, thereby killing the victim
Self-defense is acceptable as a defense for both murder and manslaughter cases and could also be acceptable in a wrongful death lawsuit. The court will, however, seek to establish why the respondent was defending themselves. If indeed he/she was in a situation where they could have suffered severe bodily injury or death in the hands of the victim, defending themselves might have been the best way out of it. While defending oneself, the other person could get injured or lose his/her life.
That the victim had signed a release agreement assuming full responsibility for their death
This defense strategy would work well in a case where the injury victim was taking part in dangerous activities such as car racing and skydiving. If a signed release is available, the respondent will not be held responsible for the victim's death.
When the respondent is defending him/herself, the plaintiff's job will be to cast doubts on the respondent's justifications and prove to the court that the defense strategy was not relevant or credible. That is why, as a plaintiff, you can benefit from the services of a competent personal injury attorney. Great skills and experience will be needed to counter the claims by the defense team to get the court to make a ruling that the respondent pays full compensation for the damages the plaintiff has suffered after the demise of a loved one.
Compensable Damages in a Nevada Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Of all civil claims in the state of Nevada, wrongful death will be the severest of them all. Loss of life will never be taken lightly, especially if it is something that could have been avoided if the respondent was a little careful. That is why most cases end up with large settlements as well as jury rewards. The large settlements also act as a caution to people who could negligently cause the death of a person in the future.
If a victim's heir or estate decides to file a lawsuit for the wrongful death against an at-fault party, there are several damages that the plaintiff could recover. Some of these are:
Special damages: these could be in the form of medical costs that the injury victim had incurred before his/her demise. Special damages would be there if the victim did not die on the spot. In a case of medical malpractice, for instance, special costs will rise if the victim was undergoing treatment to correct the mistake a negligent medical practitioner had made.
Funeral expenses: these will depend on the kind of funeral home and services the family had utilized before the burial of their loved one. Even for immediate burials, families still incur a large sum of money for funeral expenses in Nevada
Compensatory damages the victim could have recovered if they did not die: Nevada personal injury laws allow plaintiffs to recover personal injury compensatory damages even if the victim lost his/her life. Depending on the facts of the case, your attorney will help you come up with a list of compensable damages that you feel would have been recovered by the victim
Punitive damages: the law also allows plaintiffs to recover any punitive damages the victim may have recovered if he/she had not lost his/her life. Punitive damages are the kinds of damages awarded by a civil court to a plaintiff as a way to punish the respondent for their negligence or recklessness. These costs are meant to reform the respondent and deter him/her and others from engaging in the same conduct that resulted in the lawsuit at hand.
Compensatory damages in a case of wrongful death are meant to approximate the actual losses the deceased person’s estate has suffered.
In addition to the above damages, heirs who file a lawsuit against the respondent for the wrongful death of their loved one can recover the following types of damages:
- The pain, suffering and possible disfigurement of their loved one
- Their loss of financial provision by the deceased
- Their loss of comfort, companionship, loss of consortium and society
- Their grief and sorrow
The court does not grant plaintiffs’ demands without considering some factors. Some of the factors that are important to consider before determining the monetary loss incurred after a person’s death include:
- The age of the plaintiff
- Their earning ability
- The health and life expectancy of the plaintiff
However, an essential factor to consider in any case is the circumstances under which the victim died. If, for instance, the victim was a wage-earning adult with dependents, the court will consider the dependent's loss of revenue as well as parental guidance when determining the total amount of compensatory damages. The victim's potential earnings if he did not die will be considered as well.
Working with an experienced attorney eases up the issue, especially when determining the number of compensable damages you should include in the claim and how much you deserve for every loss. Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure that you are getting the highest possible reward. Damages are usually not easy to determine, and sometimes the court will rely on speculations. An economist could be called upon to evaluate each of the possible damages you want to file a claim for.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Medical Malpractice Victims
Just like everyone else, doctors and healthcare professionals make mistakes in the course of administering help and treatment to their patients. A doctor's mistake is considered a grave error because the patients he/she treat depends wholly on his/her judgment and decision to get better. In case a patient loses their life because of a doctor's negligence, it will be upon the family of the victim or their estate to file a lawsuit against the doctor for wrongful death of their loved one.
Unlike other wrongful death cases in Nevada, medical malpractice lawsuits are a little different. It is because the court will first seek to establish that the victim did not die a natural death or as a progression of their illness but as a direct result of the doctor’s recklessness or negligence.
Cases of medical malpractice resulting in the death of a patient can be filed against a number of medical practitioners, including doctors, nurses, chiropractors, pharmacists, and dentists, among other people working within the healthcare sector.
Types of medical malpractices in the state of Nevada include:
- Failing to refer a patient to a specialist
- Failing to treat a complication properly
- Failing to render appropriate care and treatment to a patient
- Administering the wrong medication or the right medication in the wrong dosage
- Wrongful death during an operation
Should You Settle Out-of-Court or Go to Trial?
It is a dilemma that most plaintiffs find themselves in when deciding on what to do to recover personal injury damages. In the state of Nevada, most of these cases are settled out of court and only through negotiations. The settlement procedure is usually convenient and quick for all parties. It allows a more flexible way of coming up with a possible solution to the issue at hand. By agreeing to settle the matter out of court, both parties will be avoiding the tedious and time-consuming court trial.
However, there are family members who will not relax after the loss of their loved one until they are granted a day in court, and the respondent is found guilty in a Nevada court. For some, the trial is a way to find closure. Another reason why other people prefer the court process is the belief that the court may grant more money as compensation to the plaintiff as compared to what he/she is likely to get in a settlement.
It is important to note that both settling the matter out of court and going to trial have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Finding justice is possible with a court trial, but there are risks involved. The court may find the respondent not guilty of the wrongful death, for instance. This will completely shatter the desires of the family to recover some of their losses. Again, respondents are given a chance to appeal against the court decision once they are found liable. This may drag the case on for a very long time, which is not easy for a family that wants to find closure.
It is crucial to speak to your injury attorney to determine the best course. An experienced attorney will be in a better position to offer advice and guidance to ensure that the option you choose will be the best for your particular case.
Statutes of Limitations for Nevada Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Just like other states in the U.S, Nevada has a time limit within which personal injury cases should be filed. The amount of time allocated for these cases depend on the actual incident, the respondent, and the plaintiff. Generally, plaintiffs filing a personal injury claim of any kind have up to two tears from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This means that you will have at most two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party from the day your loved one died.
Once again, it is advisable to work closely with an experienced personal injury attorney so as not to get the dates wrong when filing essential documents in a civil court. This also means that you need to get in touch with your attorney right away to allow for detailed investigations into the matter. This way, you will have sufficient evidence to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Find a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Personal injury cases involving the loss of a loved one can be a stressful experience for families. Working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney makes things a little bearable. A reasonable attorney will help you through the legal process and fight to ensure that you are getting the maximum compensation you deserve for the wrongful death of your loved one. At the Las Vegas Personal Injury Law Firm, we have a team of dedicated attorneys who are willing and ready to take up your case. Call us at 702-996-1224 today!