Who can bring a wrongful death claim in Nevada?
The loss of a loved one is difficult. Knowing their death could have been prevented had someone else exercised proper judgement makes their loss even more difficult. Unfortunately, on a regular basis, we lose family members, friends, and coworkers because of the negligent behavior of other people.
Car accidents caused by drunk or distracted drivers, loss of a loved one following a criminal act such as a shooting or stabbing, or a power tool exploding due to a manufacturing defect can all result in the sudden death of a loved one. In these cases, no amount of money can ever compensate for the loss a family has suffered. The reasons for filing a wrongful death case include:
- Ensuring surviving family members have a secure financial future
- Holding a liable party accountable for their action or lack thereof
- Holding a negligent party accountable for poor security or quality control
When someone loses a family member because of negligence, they can get help by speaking with a wrongful death attorney in Nevada who can help them understand their rights.
Right to file a wrongful death lawsuit
Wrongful death cases are brought in civil courts. There are specific parties who are entitled to file these cases which include:
- The executor of the decedent’s estate
- A surviving spouse or surviving children of the decedent
- When there is no surviving spouse or child, the decedent’s parents
- When the parents are deceased and there is no spouse or child, siblings may file a wrongful death lawsuit
- When there is no spouse, children, parents, or siblings, the next closest family member may file a lawsuit
Survivors may find the wrongful death statutes in Nevada confusing which is why seeking legal help may be important. Oftentimes, a survivor does not understand the legal process, or how to prove someone was responsible for the death of a loved one.
Potential compensation for wrongful death
As with any personal injury lawsuit, the possible compensation which may be sought in wrongful death cases is different for each situation. Some of the basic compensation which may be requested includes:
- Medical bills — any medical bills which remain unpaid/uncompensated for treatment of the injury or injuries which resulted in death.
- Wages past and future — when someone loses their life and they were a full-time employee, their family counted on their income. Experts may be contacted to determine the loss of wages from the time of the person’s incapacity to their death, and for future loss of wages.
- Loss of benefits — when a family loses a loved one who maintained the family’s medical policies, life insurance benefits, or other benefits, the family is suffering a financial loss. These benefit losses may be included in a wrongful death claim.
- Expenses related to death — the cost of funerals, burials, and other expenses related to the death of a loved one can also be included in the claim made against a liable party.
- Punitive damages — in some cases, punitive damages may be awarded to survivors. These damages are meant to punish behavior that is considered egregious by nature which resulted in the death.
There may be other financial claims related to loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship which should be discussed with a wrongful death attorney.
Establishing liability in wrongful death claims
Before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed, liability must be demonstrated. Under Nevada law, liability means the following:
- The party who caused the death owed the decedent a duty of care
- The duty of care was breached
- The breach of care was a cause of the death
In some cases, liability can be easy to prove. For example, if a drunk driver hits a pedestrian, they had a duty of care, they breached that duty of care, and the cause of death was the injury the pedestrian sustained. Other cases may not be as straightforward. When someone loses a loved one, an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases may be able to assist a family determining liability.
Insurance and wrongful death claims
An insurance company treats a wrongful death claim the same as they would any other claim. This means they are not likely to automatically accept a claim and offer a settlement. Instead, they will be protecting their bottom line. The less they pay to a claimant, the better their profits.
When someone is injured in a car accident and loses their life, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is contacted. They may reach out to the victim’s family and attempt to reach a fast settlement. The amount they offer may be less than the insurance policies value. This is because they know if they can settle quickly, the survivors cannot file a subsequent claim for additional compensation.
Families should consider having any settlement offers reviewed by a competent personal injury attorney before they accept. This is the best way to ensure that their interests are protected, and that the insurer is not making an offer just to get the claim put to rest.
Civil lawsuits versus criminal lawsuits
Sometimes the person or party responsible for a death may be facing criminal charges. This does not mean that the survivors must wait for the criminal case to be decided before filing a wrongful death case. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil proceedings and need not wait until criminal charges, if any, are brought, or tried.
The level of proof is different in criminal lawsuits as well which is why there may be no criminal charges filed. Even if there are no charges, or if someone is found not guilty in a criminal trial, the civil case can go forward and may still be successful.
Contact a Nevada wrongful death lawyer
Families should not have to suffer the financial ramifications of losing a loved one when the death was preventable had it not been for the negligence of another person or party. While everyone knows money is no replacement for the loss of love and companionship suffered after the loss of a loved one, having financial security can make the future easier to face.