Losing a loved one is devastating, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the death. If you believe one or more parties had the power to prevent your loved one’s fatal injury or illness, however, it can be even more difficult to accept the loss and heal. A Las Vegas wrongful death lawsuit presents an opportunity to get answers and demand justice for your loved one’s passing. Learn Nevada’s laws for filing a wrongful death claim, including who can file and recover financial compensation.
What Is Wrongful Death?
According to Nevada Revised Statutes Section 41.085, wrongful death is the loss of a person’s life due to someone else’s legal fault, such as negligence, medical malpractice or intent to harm. Negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit refers to the failure to act with reasonable or ordinary care, such as by doing something that a prudent person would not have in the same or similar circumstances.
Medical malpractice is negligence on the part of a trusted health care provider, such as a doctor, that results in the death of a patient. Intent to harm means the knowing and willful infliction of injury against a victim, such as physical assault or battery. If the defendant intended to take the victim’s life, intent to harm can also meet the definition of the crime of homicide in Nevada.
Who Has the Legal Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought against one or more parties in pursuit of financial compensation for someone’s preventable death. If your loved one lost his or her life under avoidable or suspicious circumstances, such as in a Las Vegas car accident or because of a criminal attack, your family may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for related losses.
Only certain people have the right to file a wrongful death claim in Nevada. Unlike a criminal case, a wrongful death lawsuit is not filed by a city prosecutor but by a private party. State law says that a deceased individual’s (decedent’s) heirs and personal representatives may maintain a wrongful death cause of action. The law defines an “heir” as someone who is entitled under Nevada law to succeed to the property of the decedent had he or she died intestate. It does not include anyone who is determined to have caused the decedent’s death.
Heirs can include a surviving spouse, domestic partner, adult child, sibling, parent or next closest family member. The personal representative, also known as the executor or administrator, of the decedent’s estate is someone who may be named in the decedent’s will, if he or she had written one prior to passing. If there is no will, the courts in Nevada can name a personal representative. It is most often a close family member, heir of the decedent or a hired professional.
How Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed?
If a wrongful death claim in Nevada results in a successful settlement or jury verdict awarded to the plaintiff, the financial compensation won is distributed to the estate and/or eligible surviving loved ones. Most settlements are divided into two parts: damages awarded for the decedent’s losses, such as pain and suffering, and compensation for the family’s losses, such as funeral costs and medical bills.
The portion granted to an estate can be used to pay off any of the decedent’s outstanding debts. Then, any amount left over is distributed to beneficiaries. Any financial compensation given to beneficiaries is distributed fairly among them based on Nevada’s rules for intestate succession. In general, the largest portion will go to the surviving spouse or domestic partner, followed by any surviving children. Any amount left may be further divided among anyone who can prove that they were economically reliant on the decedent at the time of death.
For more information about a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada, speak to an attorney at Koch & Brim, LLP.