The loss of a loved one because of someone else’s negligence is devastating. In most cases, wrongful death accidents are preventable if the party responsible for exercising a duty of care performs their obligations diligently. Despite several requirements for different groups of people to uphold high standards of care, many families still deal with the pain of their loved one’s wrongful death due to negligence.
Upon facing such an unforgettable ordeal, you should file a compensatory suit for your family’s painful experiences and losses since your loved one’s death. To do this, you need to partner with an experienced personal injury attorney who will help build your case.
At the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney, we dedicate ourselves to offering our clients in Las Vegas, Nevada, exceptional legal guidance, and court litigation services to receive compensation for their loved ones’ wrongful death. Over the years, we have handled numerous personal injury cases ranging from severe body injury to wrongful death. Therefore, you can trust our well-experienced team to take your matter seriously and provide personalized case strategies that meet your requirements and expectations.
The Nature of a Wrongful Death Claim
Once your family loses a member from a third party's negligent actions, you can file a civil suit for compensation to cater to all the distress and financial losses caused. Usually, a claim for wrongful death falls in the field of Tort and can be classified under severe personal injury claims that result in death. Like other suits filed for compensation, the burden of proof is on a balance of probabilities of events that transpired and resulted in the death of the deceased. Moreover, as a claimant, you will bear the burden of proof by establishing that the defendants to your case are liable for breaching regulations set to prevent negligence. Your injury attorney is also responsible for proving that the defendant's actions were the primary cause of your loved one's death from his/her neglect.
As a result, the subject matter in cases of wrongful death revolves around showing that the defendant is liable for an act or omission that was unreasonable in his/her part and that the unreasonable conduct caused death.
Parties Eligible for Filing a Wrongful Death Suit
A compensatory claim for wrongful death has several limitations concerning who can sue in place, primarily based on your relationship with the deceased. The limitations exist to ensure that parties with remote relationships with the victim of wrongful death do not file arbitrary cases with an ulterior motive to benefit from the damages available if they were to win the case.
Consequently, only close family members who have a right to inherit from the deceased's estate can file a claim for wrongful death because their effects directly affect them. If the accident victim died testate, meaning he/she left a will behind, it would be clear who has the right to file a suit. On the other hand, if the person died intestate, it is often more challenging to determine who has a rightful claim against the defendants liable for the victim's death.
Sometimes, the presiding judge will make allowances for close relatives and friends who can prove strong ties to the deceased. However, in most cases, eligibility for filing a suit remains exclusively for spouses, children, and parents.
Building Your Case for a Wrongful Death Claim
As mentioned, compensation claims often arise when a negligent act results in adverse consequences, including the accident victim's death. Subsequently, you, as a claimant, have the duty of proving that the defendants broke each element of negligence for you to receive rightful compensation. It may be difficult to prove all the necessary elements, especially where the sources of evidence are limited. However, with a personal injury attorney who is conversant with building wrongful death cases by your side, you will have an easier time navigating the entire process.
Once you decide to file a compensatory suit against defendants involved in the deceased's wrongful death, you need to work with your lawyer to find sufficient and valid sources of evidence for your case. These may range from footage that demonstrates all acts of negligence, witness testimonies, and reports from experts who assess the severity of the accident or injury. Moreover, you need to draft your demand letter and submissions efficiently to help you make all the necessary adjustments before making final presentations in court. Undertaking such diligence will set you on the right track and improve the chances of a favorable case outcome.
For a successful case outcome, it is crucial to plan out all the elements you will have to prove, including the specific information. In a compensatory claim involving negligence, the following are the four key elements to prove:
The Defendant Owed the Deceased a Duty of Care
The primary factor in establishing is the existence of a duty of care owed to the deceased who suffered from a severe accident. Proving this element will require your attorney to determine the exact circumstances that led to the victim's death, including where he was, and whether the defendant was governed by a statutory provision that required mandatory application of care. For example, if the deceased succumbed to injuries from a negligent car accident, your lawyer must show that there are existing laws that require all motorists and other road users to observe extra caution when navigating the highways and roads.
Apart from providing statutory impositions of a duty of care, it is also essential to prove that the defendant's damage was reasonably foreseeable, emphasizing the defendant's negligence. In the example of a car accident, if the defendant decided to ignore a red traffic light and proceeded into an intersection when the accident victim was crossing guided by traffic regulations, your lawyer can show that reasonable foreseeability of an accident was apparent.
Despite the need to prove reasonable foreseeability of the accident or injury occurring, your lawyer should also specify that the aspect of foreseeable danger from the defendant's violations was specific to the accident victim. Hence, narrowing down to the victim even when others may have also been affected by the defendant's negligence is crucial because it distinguishes the deceased from other cases that are not relevant to your matter.
Furthermore, your attorney should also prove that there was the proximity of relationships between the claimant and the defendant. A proximity relationship does not necessarily mean that you and the defendant must know each other, but rather that the defendant could tell that his/her actions would affect you.
For example, if the defendant was responsible for upholding safety in a construction site where your loved one worked, an existing proximity relationship held the defendant accountable for all actions that could harm the accident victim. Typically, proving proximity is more comfortable, mainly when you have already determined that the defendant's harm was reasonably foreseeable.
Your lawyer should also show that it is reasonable and justified to hold the defendant accountable for failing to uphold a duty of care. The main point to prove here is that out of all other possible defendants who would have been party to the case, it is reasonable for you to impose the duty of care on a specific person based on his/her responsibility or requirements to be met. When proving that it is reasonable to hold the defendant accountable for the mishaps that occurred, your lawyer will also consider rational links that point to the defendant's fault.
The question of the imposition of a duty of care may also arise in cases where the defendant's main fault is failing to act. As such, your case will be based on the defendant's omissions rather than actions. Usually, the law does not impose the duty of care to the general public, meaning that you are not obligated to perform actions to save anyone in danger. However, there is an exception for parties that voluntarily undertake such duties to perform their functions effectively. For example, suppose the defendant is a professional lifeguard who failed to save the deceased as he/she drowned. In that case, it will be negligent to omit the liable party for failing to undertake a duty.
Alternatively, a defendant may also be liable for an omission if he/she is responsible for creating risky situations that impose a duty of care to any possible victims who suffer the effects of such situations. For example, if a nanny negligently leaves a young toddler unattended to, he/she must deal with the possible effects of the child choking on small plastic parts or falling and hitting his or her head. A failure to attend to such emergencies by calling medical services or administering first aid will lead to legal repercussions because there existed a duty of care.
There Was a Breach of the Duty of Care
Once your attorney establishes all the necessary elements for the imposition of a duty of care, he/she must demonstrate that the defendant violated it, leading to the deceased's severe harm resulting in death. Proving that a breach occurred depends on the set of circumstances related to the accident victim's death and the environment he/she was in when the death occurred.
Nevertheless, there are several factors that your lawyer should touch on and present in court to show that the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to uphold a duty of care, but failed to do so. Firstly, your attorney will have to prove that the risk of harm to the deceased was evident to the defendant. Proving such an element is relative, based on the sources of evidence you have managed to gather. If supposing the deceased worked for the defendant in a factory where harmful chemicals were always in use, your lawyer can prove that there was an apparent risk of harm. The evidential sources presented by your lawyer will succeed if he/she manages to prove matters like the victim had no safety gear and apparatus available when handling the chemicals.
Additionally, your lawyer must also prove that the defendant belonged to a particular group of persons who ought to have applied special professional skills but failed to. The element is paramount in cases involving medical negligence, whereby you are suing a doctor and a medical facility for a breach of duty. One strategy that your lawyer can apply is obtaining information from other doctors practicing in the same field of specialization as the defendant on how they would have handled the situation to save the deceased's life. Suppose the witnesses who appear to provide professional statements provide available alternatives that any reasonable professional should have applied to avoid wrongful death. In that case, it will prove that the defendant breached a duty of care.
Moreover, your lawyer needs to show that it was practical for the defendant to prevent the risk of harm to the deceased and that he/she did not take responsibility for providing care. Such evidence may come from witness statements or even surveillance footage to show that there was a reasonable chance to save the accident victim from impending harm. In the case of workers in a construction site, for example, if the defendant could erect warning hazards that required workers to beware of maintenance holes covered by debris and stones but failed to put the warning signs up, the judge considers in determining that there was a breach of duty.
Generally, proving that the defendant breached a duty of care will require your lawyer to use the facts of the case as primary evidential sources. Such a strategy can be helpful, especially when you do not have direct sources like witness testimonies and surveillance footage to justify the claims. Once the judge assesses the facts and infers the breach, your case will proceed to the next stage.
The Direct Cause of Wrongful Death was the Defendant's Breach
The causation element is another necessary part of your case because it lays the liability on the defendant. In proving that the causation of wrongful death as a result of the defendant's breach, your lawyer must establish the two different types of causation and provide sufficient proof of their existence. The two causation elements are:
- Factual causation
- Legal causation
Establishing the factual causation that places the defendant’s liability requires your injury attorney to show that the deceased would not have faced injury or harm if the defendant did not behave negligently. The comprehensive test applied in such cases is called the "but for" test. The assessment requires your lawyer to provide sufficient evidence to show an existing link between the defendant's actions and their consequences on the deceased. Usually, the best point of the argument is to analyze facts and raise persuasive arguments that place liability on the defendant.
The case may become more complicated when there is a possibility that the wrongful death arose from separate events that may have transpired separately. For instance, if the defendant suffered from a severe car accident caused by a driver's negligence, then they received poor medical and treatment. The primary legal guideline requires the imposition of liability to fall on all parties that caused damage and harm to the deceased. However, suppose, for example, the car accident was the primary cause of severe injury, and the victim died when seeking proper medical care. In that case, liability will remain at the original party that caused the accident.
Establishing legal causation requires that your lawyer shows an existing relationship between the severe injury suffered by the deceased and existing laws that aim to prevent such occurrences. For example, section 41.130 of the Nevada State Law states that negligence occurs when a defendant engages in unreasonable activities that cause harm and damages to a victim. Thus, when proving legal causation, your lawyer should show that the defendant's actions caused the breaking of laws established to prevent negligence and its effects.
You Suffered Damages from the Wrongful Death
The final element is to prove that you suffered significant losses from the deceased's negligence. For a claim for wrongful death, it is already apparent that you have experienced several losses because of the accident victim's death. Thus, your primary task will be to prove these damages for accountability and validity before the court.
Your injury lawyer will inform you that you can sue for losses incurred before the victim dies and damages suffered after the person's death. In all these claims, the judge requires valid documentary evidence to show that all your claims are substantial and accurate. When proving the financial losses sustained when the victim of negligence was still alive, you can provide medical records like X-Ray images and doctor's reports to show the different treatment methods.
Moreover, providing all the in-patient medical bills and the prescribed medication that the deceased had to take while he/she was still alive is necessary. It provides accurate figures to justify the amount you disclose in your demand letter. Any medical records and receipts of all surgeries that the deceased underwent are also vital in proving that you and your family faced severe financial constraints caused by the defendant's negligence.
Losses may have also arisen from the different professionals you had to hire once the deceased was discharged from the hospital before his/her death, including home care nurses and professional physiotherapists. They had to schedule several appointments to provide specialized care. Your lawyer will help you gather all invoices and receipts of payment you made to these professionals as additional proof of damages.
In some cases, the deceased may have also been the breadwinner of the family, meaning that you and other family members relied on the person for upkeep. Therefore, you are justified to file for the loss of income you suffered after the deceased first suffered injuries. For example, if he/she became paralyzed and unable to work, your lawyer will help you make estimations of the total amount you can claim from the defendant.
On top of this, you can also bring claims for the damages suffered after the accident victim died. The central claim here may be compensation for funeral expenses, including all the money you spent holding a funeral ceremony for the deceased. A claim for the loss of consortium is also acceptable for a spouse filing a suit. You will have lost companionship and help in raising and providing upkeep for your family.
Special damages are also acceptable claims for your case; the most common one is experiencing pain and suffering from the death of a loved one. While there is no standard system applied to measure pain and suffering in monetary figures, the judge will apply different systems to award damages.
Period Available for You to File for a Wrongful Death Claim
In Nevada, statutory limitations apply to ensure that all compensatory suits proceed within the stipulated period. The time provisions allow you to file for a suit within two years of the victim's death. We encourage you to observe the time limit, as it saves you a lot of turmoil experienced when you make late applications.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Building a case for wrongful death compensation may be challenging and stressful to you, mainly because of the many requirements you need to fulfill before the judge grants you the compensation. Therefore, it is necessary to seek a personal injury attorney who will guide you through the entire litigation process.
With the help of a lawyer from the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, you could build a strong case and obtain rightful compensation for your loved one's wrongful death. Over the years , we have helped multiple aggrieved parties in Las Vegas, Nevada, to file for rightful compensation and help them proceed with life despite their painful experiences. For more information, call us today at 702-996-1224.