If you suffer the loss of a loved one in a traumatic accident in Nevada, your family may be eligible for financial compensation through a Las Vegas wrongful death lawsuit. The ability to file a claim depends on the circumstances of the fatal accident – mainly, whether or not someone else caused or contributed to the death. Wrongful death lawsuits are founded on four key elements.
Death of a Person
What differentiates a personal injury claim from a wrongful death claim is the death of the victim. If the injury proves fatal, the victim’s family may be able to file a wrongful death claim rather than the victim filing a personal injury lawsuit. If the victim was able to file a personal injury case before passing away from the injury or illness, family members may be able to pursue a survival action, instead.
A survival action is separate from a wrongful death lawsuit. It is the estate of the deceased person seeking compensation for injuries sustained by the decedent before he or she died, rather than compensation for surviving loved ones. There needs to be proof in the form of a death certificate or medical records to show that a person has died. If a death has not yet occurred, a personal injury action must be brought by the victim or a representative rather than a wrongful death claim.
Negligence or Wrongful Act
The second element needed for a wrongful death lawsuit is negligence. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise ordinary care. Whether or not someone was negligent is typically determined based on what a reasonable and prudent person would have done in the same or similar circumstances. Negligence is a breach of the duty of care. If the accused party (defendant) owed a duty of care to the decedent, breaching or violating this duty of care constitutes negligence.
A wrongful act could also be grounds to file a wrongful death claim. This could mean a crime committed against the deceased victim or intent to harm the victim displayed by the defendant, such as a case of assault with a deadly weapon, homicide or manslaughter. Note that it is not necessary to prove that a crime took place to hold a defendant liable for wrongful death.
The third element is causation, meaning a causal connection exists between the defendant’s negligent or wrongful act and the death of the victim. There must be evidence that the death would most likely not have happened were it not for the actions or omissions of the defendant. This burden of proof is known as a preponderance of the evidence, and it must be established by the filing party (plaintiff) in all civil claims. There must be evidence that the death was a result of the negligent act or violent crime.
Finally, there must be damages suffered by the plaintiff or the decedent’s estate because of the death. Damages can encompass both economic and noneconomic losses. They are the reason for the wrongful death claim; the filing party is seeking financial compensation to make up for these losses. Compensatory damages may include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- The cost of the decedent’s final medical expenses
- Any property damage incurred in the accident
- Lost wages and benefits
- Lost inheritance
A family or estate could also recover compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering, lost companionship and care, and survivors’ own grief or mental anguish. In some wrongful death claims, punitive damages are also available to punish the defendant for egregious acts, such as driving under the influence or intentionally injuring the victim.
To find out if your family has grounds for a wrongful death claim in Nevada, request a free case consultation with an attorney at Koch & Brim, LLP.