Losing a loved one is a devastating experience. You will feel more hurt when the death results from another person’s negligence. In Nevada, a person’s actions are considered negligent if they disregard the safety and well-being of others. Wrongful death can result from medical malpractice, criminal acts, or auto accidents. The death of a loved one can leave you and your family with extreme emotional and financial struggles.
Fortunately, you can be compensated for the death by filing a wrongful death claim. A successful wrongful death claim starts by identifying the parties liable for the death and proving their negligence. Additionally, you must show how their actions resulted in your loved one’s death.
You can negotiate a wrongful death claim with the at-fault party out of court or file a personal injury lawsuit in court. Filing a wrongful death claim can be challenging. Unfortunately, you must file a lawsuit even when grieving your loss. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is crucial. At Dallas Horton & Associates, we offer expert legal insight to all our clients seeking wrongful death compensation in Las Vegas, NV.
What is a Wrongful Death claim?
In Nevada, wrongful death is caused by another person's negligence or wrongful acts. The circumstances that caused the death could have been prevented in most wrongful death cases. Negligent individuals act in a way that disregards the safety of others. The court compares the defendant’s actions with those of a reasonable person to determine negligence.
You can file a wrongful death claim if you lose a loved one because of another person’s negligence. Wrongful death claims are like personal injury cases where the victim cannot seek compensation. However, not everyone can file a wrongful death claim. Before you file the claim, you must ensure you can.
The following individuals can file the claim and recover compensation:
- Representative of the deceased’s estate. If the deceased had a will, they likely named a representative of their estate in the will. In this case, the representative can file the claim and recover compensation for the heirs.
- Children of the deceased. If you have lost a biological or adoptive parent through another person’s negligence, you can file for compensation for wrongful death.
- Spouse of the deceased. The death of your spouse can leave you struggling financially and emotionally. You can claim wrongful death benefits if you have documents proving your marriage is legal.
- Parents of the deceased. The parents can file the claim if there are no surviving children or the deceased's spouse.
- Siblings of the deceased. If there is no surviving child, parent, or spouse, the siblings of a deceased person can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In addition to these individuals, any dependent of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This will include siblings and stepchildren, among others. However, you must prove that the deceased supported you for six months or more.
You can negotiate a wrongful death settlement with the defendant without going to court. However, you must quickly contact the defendant to begin the negotiations. In a successful claim, you can be compensated for economic and non-economic damages resulting from the death.
Common Reasons for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
Most wrongful death lawsuits arise when someone dies because of negligence. Some of the common reasons for filing a wrongful death claim include the following:
Car accidents cause many deaths in the United States. Most auto accidents result from the negligence of drivers or other road users. Car accidents can involve single or multiple vehicles, depending on the circumstances. The following acts of negligence can cause a fatal car accident:
- Drunk driving,
- Distracted driving,
- Defective vehicle parts,
- Poorly constructed roads.
If your loved one dies in a car accident, you should investigate the accident. The investigation will reveal the specific cause of the accident. This will help you identify the liable parties and file a wrongful death claim.
Doctors and other health practitioners are highly regarded in society. When you visit the hospital with health complications, you expect to receive the best care to ensure your recovery. Unfortunately, negligence from healthcare providers can have devastating effects on your life.
Common forms of medical malpractice that can result in death include the following:
- Surgical errors. Doctors must exercise reasonable care during surgical procedures to ensure the surgery succeeds. Errors like making incisions in the wrong areas or removing organs can cause the patient's death.
- Congenital disabilities. Giving birth is supposed to be a joyful event. However, when negligence occurs in the birth procedure, the mother or the child can lose their lives.
- Failure to diagnose. When doctors fail to diagnose a disease condition like cancer properly, you may not receive treatment on time. This can cause the condition to progress. Late treatment can cause more damage to the body or death.
Manufacturers of different products must ensure their products are safe for consumption. When these products contain harmful substances, their consumption could result in serious injuries or death. If your loved one dies after using a defective product, you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer.
People in different professions use different machines to perform their duties. Workplaces are supposed to be safe for all workers. Employers must ensure no one suffers an injury or death at work. This is by providing a safe working environment. Some of the negligent acts that could result in death at the workplace include poorly maintained machinery and a lack of training in machine operations.
In Nevada, assault involves using physical force against another person. Assault results in serious injuries or the death of the victim. Although assault will attract a criminal conviction, it can be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Potential Defendants in a Wrongful Death Claim
A person, organization, or company can be named a defendant in a wrongful death case. However, there must be evidence to show the relationship between their actions and your loved one’s death. Common defendants in wrongful death cases include:
- Reckless drivers. Many wrongful death cases in Nevada are the result of auto accidents. Driver error is a significant contributor to these accidents. Some negligent acts by drivers include speeding, drunk driving, and failure to follow traffic rules. If your loved one died under these circumstances, you could file a claim against the driver.
- A doctor. Medical malpractice is another reason for wrongful deaths. Doctors are trained to protect and save lives. Negligent doctors can cause the death of their patients. Common forms of medical malpractice involve birth defects, failure to diagnose, and surgical errors.
- A person who commits murder. Murder suspects are often arrested and charged in criminal court. Even when the defendant is acquitted, they can face a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. The evidence required to recover compensation for wrongful death is lower than needed to obtain a murder conviction.
- An employer of the deceased. Nevada law requires all employers to keep their workplace safe for all employees. If your loved one suffers an injury or dies at work, you can file a lawsuit against your employer. Your lawsuit will be based on the employer's negligence.
Even when the defendant's actions are not the only factor in the victim’s death, their contribution must be significant.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Nevada
The devastation of losing a loved one due to negligence can take a toll on you. However, you must collect your thoughts to file a wrongful death claim before the statute of limitations elapses.
Most defendants in a wrongful death claim will fight hard to avoid liability for their actions. Therefore, it would be best to work with a skilled lawyer. A wrongful death lawyer will help you follow the following steps for claiming compensation in a wrongful death claim:
Collect Evidence for Your Claim
Compensation does not come easy in a wrongful death lawsuit. You must present sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was negligent. Additionally, you should establish a relationship between their actions and your loved one’s death. Unfortunately, the main witness in a wrongful death case cannot give testimony.
Therefore, your attorney must work hard to collect the evidence necessary to solidify your case. If your loved one dies in a car accident, you can return to the scene to collect evidence. Additionally, the attorney can find victims to testify about the crime. Although each wrongful death claim is different, the following evidence can be useful in your case:
- A video or surveillance footage of the event.
- Medical records of the deceased.
- Testimony from individuals who witnessed the events.
- Written or recorded communication by a defendant.
- Expert testimony from event reconstruction.
File Your Claim
Most wrongful death claims are resolved out of court. Therefore, your lawyer will gather all the evidence for your claim and file a claim with the defendant's insurance company. After the wrongful death of your loved one, you should minimize interactions with the at-fault party's insurance company.
When you file a claim with the insurance company, they will offer a settlement. Most of the time, the initial settlement will not be enough to cover all the losses you may have incurred from losing your loved one. Therefore, you should assess all your expenses and present a demand letter indicating what you seek as compensation.
After assessing your demands, the insurance adjuster will return with feedback on their intention to settle or offer a lower amount. Although the back and forth can continue for a while, you should not settle for less than you deserve. Most insurance adjusters will prey on your grief to convince you to accept a low settlement.
A skilled criminal lawyer can guide you through the negotiations and recover maximum compensation.
Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim
Liability is crucial to a wrongful death claim. Before you can recover compensation for your loved one’s death, you must prove that the defendant is responsible. In Nevada, liability is based on negligence. The following elements help prove negligence in your case:
Duty of Care
Every person must act reasonably to avoid causing harm to others. Therefore, proving that the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care is easy. For example, when you go to a hospital for treatment, your doctor has a duty to ensure your safety and well-being. This is because of the relationship of trust that you build with the doctor.
Breach of Duty
A person breaches their duty of care by placing others in danger, injury, or death. Therefore, showing that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care will not be enough to hold them responsible for the death. You must further prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. The following are some examples of a breach of duty in a wrongful death claim:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reckless driving.
- Failure to use the correct diagnostic tools for different diseases.
- Failure to follow the right treatment procedures.
- Failure to maintain safety at the workplace.
- Shooting a gun in a public area.
- Manufacturing defective products.
- Exposing other people to dangerous substances.
The final element of negligence in a wrongful death claim is causation. This element requires you to establish the link between the defendant’s breach of duty and your loved one’s death.
Negotiate a Settlement
Insurance providers for wrongful death defendants are not always willing to compensate you for their client’s negligence. Therefore, your attorney can use their negotiating skills to ensure you recover maximum compensation for the wrongful death. Most insurance companies will offer a meager settlement.
You should never accept the first settlement offered. You must factor in all your damages and expenses before accepting a payout. You can file a civil lawsuit if you cannot reach a favorable settlement out of court.
Take the Case to Court
The insurance companies of at-fault parties are not quick to compensate you for the losses and injuries caused by their clients. Sometimes, the insurance company will offer a lower settlement than you deserve for your loss. In this case, you can take the case to court by filing a formal lawsuit.
The judge will decide the amount you deserve as compensation when your wrongful death case goes to court. When you file a lawsuit, you should present all the necessary documents and evidence to support your compensation claim.
In addition to filing your lawsuit, your lawyer will protect your legal rights. There is no specific time that you must wait to recover compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. Therefore, your attorney will guide you on the steps to take for a speedy settlement.
Compensation Benefits in a Wrongful Death Claim
The statute of limitations is when you can file your claim and recover compensation. In Nevada, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. You cannot be compensated if you file the lawsuit after two years.
The negligent death of your loved one can devastate your emotional and financial life. If the deceased were a breadwinner, you might face difficult times. Additionally, you can suffer mental anguish from the incident. If your claim for wrongful death is successful, you can be compensated for the following:
Medical Expenses Accumulated Before Death
Not all victims of wrongful death die when the negligent act happens. Sometimes, the victim may have suffered a serious injury that they spent time and money trying to treat. For example, if your loved one was a victim of medical malpractice, they may have undergone extreme procedures and treatments to correct the mistake.
Before their death, the victim may have spent a long time in the hospital. This can leave behind expensive medical bills. Paying medical bills for a deceased loved one is a challenging experience. However, if you file a wrongful death claim, you can be compensated for the bills that the deceased accumulated before their death.
Burial and Funeral Expenses
Losing a loved one can be very painful for you and your family. You want to give your loved one a proper burial after their death. This could result in expensive burial and funeral costs. Suffering financially for the wrongdoings of others is challenging. Fortunately, you would be compensated for the burial and funeral expenses if another person caused the death. Some of the reasonable burial and funeral expenses include:
- Cremation fee.
- Cremation drawer.
- Embalming body preparation.
- Rental facilities for the wake ceremony.
- Transfer of the body to a funeral home.
- Death notice and obituary.
Loss of Earnings and Inheritance for Heirs
Losing your loved ones means that you will lose the income they brought into the family. Additionally, you will lose any potential inheritance they could have received from the deceased. In your wrongful death claim, you can be compensated for these losses. The amount you can recover for loss of earnings and inheritance is affected by these factors:
- The age of the deceased. If your loved one died young, you could argue that they could advance their careers and earn more money. Wrongful death compensation benefits for a young person could be higher than those for an older individual.
- The health and life expectancy of the deceased. In cases where your loved one was healthy, and their life expectancy was high, you can recover more compensation. This is because they could have earned more money if the negligent acts had not happened.
Loss of Consortium
Under Nevada law, the "consortium" is the moral support, companionship, and intimacy that married or domestic partners enjoy. You can claim compensation for the loss of consortium when your spouse or domestic partner dies from another person’s negligence. Before you recover this type of compensation, you must prove the following:
- You have a lawful marriage or registered domestic partnership.
- Your spouse or partner suffered a wrongful death.
- You have lost companionship and love due to her wrongful death.
Proving the loss of consortium can be uncomfortable. This is because you must disclose intimate details of your relationship. Other people, like doctors, friends, or therapists, may be required to know the details of your intimacy.
Grief and Sorrow
The death of a loved one under avoidable circumstances can cause severe emotional and mental suffering. The thought that you will no longer see your loved one can leave you devastated and unable to concentrate.
Grief and sorrow can be challenging to explain or equate to a dollar value. Therefore, there is no exact amount that you can recover from this damage. However, having a skilled lawyer handle your wrongful death case is critical to ensuring you recover maximum compensation.
Under NRS 42.005, the court can award punitive damages in your case if the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or malice. Unlike compensation for pain, suffering, and medical expenses, punitive damages punish the defendant for wrongdoing and discourage others from engaging in similar behavior. Some wrongful death claims that can result in punitive damages include deaths from criminal acts like assault.
Find a Las Vegas Wrongful Death Lawyer Near Me
You can recover monetary compensation during difficult times if you have lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence. By filing a claim with the liable party's insurance company or filing a civil lawsuit in court, you can prove that the death of your loved one is a direct consequence of the defendant’s actions.
If you are successful in your lawsuit, you can recover compensation for burial and funeral expenses, medical bills accumulated by the deceased, and loss of financial support. Additionally, you can recover from the loss of consortium and companionship. Although monetary compensation cannot bring your loved one back, you can use the money to reduce the financial strain resulting from wrongful death.
Navigating a wrongful death lawsuit is complicated since the defendants will do their best to avoid liability for their actions. Therefore, hiring and retaining a knowledgeable attorney is a good way forward. You will benefit from the legal guidance and representation we offer at Dallas Horton & Associates when you file a wrongful death lawsuit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Call us today at 702-820-5917 to discuss your case.