When Is a Fatal Car Accident Considered Wrongful Death?      

Every year, thousands of drivers make mistakes behind the wheel that result in devastating car accidents. Unfortunately, many of these accidents are fatal. The Nevada Department of Transportation reported 284 fatal car accidents in 2019 alone. After the death of a loved one in a fatal car accident, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Las Vegas to seek financial compensation for their losses. Whether the family has the right to file depends on the circumstances of the crash.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Nevada’s definition of wrongful death is found in the Nevada Revised Statutes, Section 41.085. This law states that when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person, the heirs of the deceased person (the decedent) and the personal representatives of the decedent may each maintain an action for damages against the person who caused the death (the defendant). Damages is the legal term for financial compensation.

This state law means that surviving loved ones or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim in pursuit of financial compensation from a wrongdoer. This includes a death caused by a motor vehicle accident. If one or more parties caused the deadly crash through a preventable act of wrongdoing or negligence, the defendant(s) can be held liable for the death through a legal cause of action in Nevada.

When Can a Fatal Crash Result in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Motor vehicle drivers owe a duty of care to everyone else on the road, including other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. This duty of care includes a responsibility to follow traffic laws, roadway rules and street signs to prevent car accidents. Drivers must pay attention to the road, avoid driving distracted, yield the right-of-way when applicable, and take other actions to drive prudently and prevent collisions.

When a driver breaches or violates any of the duties of care, it is referred to as negligence. Negligence can give surviving family members or the decedent’s representative grounds to file a wrongful death claim in Nevada after a fatal car accident. Common examples of negligent and reckless driver behaviors that can cause deadly collisions are speeding, tailgating, wrong-way driving, making unsafe lane changes, driving while drunk, texting and driving, red-light running, and failing to stop for a pedestrian.

What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

If a driver’s negligence or recklessness behind the wheel results in a car accident that kills someone else, the at-fault driver can be held financially responsible through a wrongful death claim in Las Vegas. Proving a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident requires evidence of the following elements:

  1. The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased car accident victim.
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care in some regard.
  3. The fatal car accident would not have happened were it not for the defendant’s breach of duty.
  4. The decedent’s death resulted in compensable losses suffered by surviving loved ones.

As is the case in any civil lawsuit, the plaintiff or filing party has the burden of proof in a wrongful death case. This means the plaintiff must satisfy the required evidentiary standard to prove that the defendant is liable for a wrongful death. The required standard is a “preponderance of the evidence,” or clear and convincing evidence of fault.

How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?

You may need a Las Vegas wrongful death attorney to help you prove the elements of a claim, such as finding evidence to establish that the at-fault driver was drunk, distracted or drowsy at the time of the fatal accident. A lawyer will start by analyzing your case to let you know if it has merit.

Then, if you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, an attorney can fill out and file the legal paperwork on your behalf to bring a cause of action before Nevada’s deadline. For more information about a potential wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal car accident, consult with an attorney near you.