What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Nevada?
Wrongful death is best described as the death of a person which would not have occurred had the person acted in a manner which protected the decedent. Family members have the right to seek compensation for their losses following a wrongful death through civil means including filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
What many people are unaware of is that there is a strict time limit imposed on those who are seeking compensation for their loss. The time limit is known as the statute of limitations. In Nevada, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the death per Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.085 (2021).
Understanding the wrongful death claim process
Two years may seem like a long time following the death of a loved one due to someone’s negligence. However, this time passes quickly and failing to file a suit within the referenced time period could jeopardize a claim. In general, the following will occur prior to a lawsuit being filed:
- There was a death that could have been prevented
- Evidence is reviewed showing the death could have been prevented
- An insurance claim will be filed with the responsible party’s insurance company
- Negotiation with the insurance company will begin
Keep in mind, once a demand for settlement is issued to an insurer following a death, the insurance company has time to review the claim and either agree to the demand, make a counteroffer, or deny the claim outright.
In the event of a counteroffer, there will be negotiations with the insurance company. In the event the insurer outright rejects the claim, then an appeal may be filed with them to have them reconsider. All these things take time which begins to run the clock out on the timeframe allowed to file a suit.
Gathering evidence and time frames
There is little doubt that time fades memories. A wrongful death lawyer can help a family obtain the required evidence to prove a wrongful death case. Witnesses who may have witnessed the incident which led up to the death, surveillance or traffic cameras, and police reports as available will all need to be reviewed and analyzed. This is all part of the process of establishing who is liable for the injuries which led up to someone’s death.
Evidence gathering requires time. Witnesses may have to meet with a lawyer multiple times to ensure they are providing a full statement. Police reports may not be available for days or weeks following an accident. Obtaining some evidence may require asking the court to issue a subpoena on behalf of the client.
Calculating financial losses a family suffers
One of the first steps a wrongful death attorney will take when working on a case is to determine the losses a family has suffered. Some of the immediate financial losses may be easy to calculate including:
- Medical costs — the costs which were associated with the decedent’s treatment prior to death.
- Lost wages — for the time the decedent lost from work from the date of the incident through the date of their death.
- Funeral and burial expenses — which the family had to pay after the loss of a loved one.
However, there are other costs which may be included in wrongful death claim which are not as easy to calculate including:
- Future lost wages and benefits
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Compensatory damages
These types of losses often involve hiring an expert to determine the maximum potential compensation a family could see when filing a demand for settlement for the loss of a loved one.
Insurance company negotiations following a wrongful death
Insurance negotiations take time, often a lot of time. The first step that is necessary is to prove to the insurer there is liability in the person’s death because of an action or inaction of their client. Assuming they accept the liability, then the negotiations will begin. Seldom will an insurer simply accept the demand made initially.
Once the negotiations with an insurer begin, they could go back and forth for several weeks or months. There may be several settlement offers made which a wrongful death attorney will take to their client and explain the pros and cons of each offer. The client ultimately will decide whether the offer is acceptable.
In the event no acceptable offer is made by the insurer, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed in civil court. This must be done before the two-year statute of limitations expires, or the court may refuse to hear the claim. Even if the court does not throw the case out, the attorney representing the person responsible for the death will likely make a motion for the case to be dismissed. There is a high probability the court will agree.
Benefits of working with a Nevada wrongful death lawyer
Whether someone loses a loved one due to a car accident, medical malpractice, or a defective product, there is no amount of money which will provide any comfort. The purpose of filing a wrongful death case is to provide some financial stability after a devastating loss.
An attorney who has experience handling these challenging claims can do some of the following on behalf of the survivors:
- Gather and analyze evidence
- Provide proof of liability
- Negotiate with insurance company
- Provide legal advice throughout the process
- Be prepared for court in the event a settlement cannot be reached
These are important things which will have an impact on the success of a wrongful death lawsuit. While many people avoid filing these lawsuits because of their concern about paying an attorney, a free consultation can provide them with the information they need to determine whether they have a valid case to pursue.
In many cases, attorneys will accept wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. This means a family will not be required to pay for legal services unless a settlement is reached. While there may be other fees such as filing fees, or document preparation fees, the family will not be asked to pay for legal services if a lawyer is unable to secure a settlement on their behalf.
Contact a Nevada wrongful death attorney as soon as possible
It is never a good idea to wait until the statute of limitations is expiring to consider speaking with an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases. The sooner an attorney is contacted, the sooner the process can get underway.