5 Things You Need to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death LawsuitFiled under Wrongful Death
When someone dies a premature and avoidable death, survivors are often devastated emotionally as well as financially. A wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada is a vital tool that allows them to obtain compensation for damages associated with their loss.
But not every death can be a viable wrongful death case. Worse, not every wrongful death case gets pursued — often because of misconceptions regarding how the civil action works.
To ensure that you get justice and recover damages in appropriate situations, consider these five factors before deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit with the help of a wrongful death lawyer in Las Vegas.
1. Only Certain People Can File for Wrongful Death in Nevada
The most important thing to remember when considering a wrongful death lawsuit is that the state of Nevada — and most other states — have very specific rules in place regarding the availability of a wrongful death action to survivors.
According to Nevada Revised Statutes §41.085, only “heirs” of the deceased are able to recover damages from a wrongful death event. “Heirs” in this instance refers specifically to family members who would automatically inherit property in an intestate death (one without a will).
Specifically, Nevada uses the following order to designate family members who are allowed to file for wrongful death. If the person at the top of the list is deceased, does not exist, or waives their right to a wrongful death suit, only then can the next person file their own suit:
- Surviving children
The only way parents can file, for example, is if no spouse or children currently exist or if those people waive their rights to a lawsuit. Additionally, the executor of the estate of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim as a “survival action” similar to a personal injury lawsuit.
2. The Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Nevada is Two Years
Survivors only have two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file their wrongful death claim. If they miss this deadline, then any suit can be dismissed immediately, with few exceptions.
While two years may seem like a long time, those in mourning often need several months to handle their grief as well as the administrative tasks of handling the deceased’s estate. They must therefore prioritize filing their suit before the deadline even if it is something they would rather put off. Otherwise, they may not be able to recover damages at all.
3. Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Different Than Murder/Homicide Charges
Homicide is a criminal charge brought up against those who directly caused deadly harm to the deceased or intentionally brought about their demise. To find someone guilty of a homicide charge, the jury must find them guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Wrongful death is a civil action against any parties who were negligent or who intentionally caused the deceased’s death. To find someone liable for wrongful death, the jury only needs a “preponderance of evidence” to consider it “more likely than not” that the actions in question constitute a wrongful death.
Because of these differences, a homicide trial and a wrongful death trial can occur at the same time. The accused in a homicide trial may also be found “not guilty” but still be found “liable” for a wrongful death because of the different evidentiary weight needed — as was the case with the death of Nicole Brown Simpson allegedly at the hands of O.J. Simpson.
Similarly, someone may not have performed a homicide but could still have caused a wrongful death to occur.
4. Wrongful Death Suits Are Based in Negligence and Can Include Medical Malpractice
Most wrongful death suits use similar legal tests to negligence complaints to establish liability. For negligence, the plaintiff must generally show:
- That the defendant had a duty of care towards the deceased, either as an “ordinary person” would or as part of a special relationship, like employer/employee or doctor/patient
- That the defendant breached their duty of care through actions that would have likely brought about great harm to the deceased, even if the deceased’s death was not their goal
- That the defendant’s breach in their duty directly lead to the death of the deceased
Legal concepts like “assumption of risk” or “comparative negligence” can complicate these legal tests. Even if the deceased engaged in risky behavior of their own, the defendant is still liable if their own negligence is considered greater than the deceased’s contributory negligence.
5. You Can Recover Direct and Indirect Costs from a Wrongful Death Complaint
When filing a lawsuit for wrongful death, you can demand the following damages to repay for your losses:
- Cost of medical care and related expenses
- Costs for funeral and burial
- Loss of expected income for dependents
- Loss of an inheritance
- Loss of services deceased provided, such as transportation or household chores
- Loss of love, companionship, and consortium
- Pain and suffering of the deceased before their death (filed as part of a survival action)
Pursuing Wrongful Death in Nevada
There are many complex factors at play during a wrongful death trial, often necessitating representation from an experienced Las Vegas wrongful death lawyer to assemble your case and all the needed evidence.
If you have recently suffered the loss of a loved one or are the designated executor to a deceased’s estate, then you have a right to recovery. Contact Paul Padda Law Trial Attorneys now for a case evaluation and to potentially begin filing your wrongful death complaint today.