The emotionally devastating announcement of the sudden and unexpected death of a family member or friend presents a void that words cannot fill. Simple everyday tasks or common events become difficult and confusing. As part of your healing process, surround yourself with loved ones. Make an effort to eat and sleep, which are monumental tasks, but important to those left behind. We gather all of the facts, talk to witnesses, co-workers, or others surrounding the unfortunate event. Our Las Vegas Wrongful Death Attorneys will determine fault and find facts to hold the negligent party responsible. A proper inquiry sets the foundation for financial compensation and justice.
What a Wrongful Death Lawyer Does
A wrongful death claim is not a criminal charge brought by the state to find someone guilty for causing the death. Wrongful death alleges negligence in causing the death, but it does not allege an intent to kill or harm the person. When a person is killed intentionally, the state prosecutes the case, and guilt or innocence is decided in criminal court.
Wrongful death claims, however, take place in civil court rather than criminal court. The state does not prosecute—people who have suffered harm because of the death file their claims against the responsible parties. In Nevada, heirs of the deceased and personal representatives of the estate can bring a civil claim for damages resulting from the death, both economic and non-economic.
Eligible individuals may file a wrongful death claim even if a criminal trial is proceeding or expected to proceed. Criminal and civil cases are completely separate. You can also bring a wrongful death claim if there is no criminal charge or trial.
If your loved one has died and you believe another party was responsible, talk to an experienced Las Vegas wrongful death attorney at Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC today. Wrongful death is complex. We can explain Nevada law concerning it, advise you on your case, and fight to see that justice is done.
You may feel great emotional pain and experience financial duress due to the loss. We have helped families recover just compensation for both, including $2.9 million in damages in a wrongful death case, $425,000 for a wrongful death accident in a parking lot, and $300,000 in a case with policy limits. That money didn’t bring our clients’ loved ones back, but it gave them the resources to seek help in overcoming their emotional losses and recovering their financial losses.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Nevada law, a deceased individual’s heirs and personal representatives can bring a claim for wrongful death. The law defines “heir” as a person who would be entitled to the deceased person’s property under state law if the decedent died intestate (that is, without a will). In Nevada, that could be the spouse, domestic partner, parents, children, and siblings of the deceased person. Heirs are discussed more here.
A family relationship is not necessarily sufficient, under the law. For example, parents may not be able to bring wrongful death claims if their child has a spouse or children.
Often, families feel overwhelmed navigating the appointment of a personal representative or guardian of the decedent’s estate. We will assist and file the appropriate documents with the courts to establish an estate, which has the right to collect funeral costs and medical expenses. Furthermore, an estate should be established to obtain important medical records and autopsy reports if available. In certain circumstances we will have an independent autopsy performed.
Specifically, who can bring such claims is covered under NRS 134 or “succession” statutes. This outlines who is a legal heir and had rights to bring a lawsuit. Family relationship may not be enough, and each family member has vested rights. For example, Under NRS 134 parents may lose claims if the deceased child is married or has children. Therefore, it is important to recognize who has legal rights to pursue the wrongful death claims under NRS 134 as a first step in the wrongful death analysis.
The law is complicated, so consult an attorney to determine your eligibility to file such a claim.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
If an estate brings a wrongful death claim, it can recover damages for all medical expenses related to the death (for example, emergency responses, ambulance, any medical treatment before death). The estate may also recover damages for funeral or burial costs.
The heirs can receive a different set of damages. They can recover economic losses and prospective economic losses related to the deceased person’s lost wages, loss of financial support, and expectations of future earnings. The law recognizes that families are often dependent upon breadwinners for food, shelter, and other basic necessities of life. Future earnings take into account estimated earnings and life expectancy.
Heirs can also recover damages from multiple non-economic damages under Nevada law, including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and sorrow and grief.
At times, heirs and estate representatives may be the same individuals. It is highly advisable to seek legal advice about whether or not you should set up an estate following the death of a loved one.
At Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, we retain economic experts to help ascertain the full value of a family’s loss. In certain cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the negligent party or to deter the defendant from engaging in similar conduct that formed the basis of the lawsuit. NRS 41.085(5)(a) & (b) (see below) cover the rights of the estate to collect such damages.
If your family member or spouse was deprived of life as the result of an individual’s or company’s negligence, contact our firm. The experienced legal team at Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, can assist navigating the critical facts leading up to decedents passing, implore investigators and accident reconstruction engineers, and establish an estate. Our team of compassionate and highly qualified attorneys is prepared to assist your family through these difficult times. Call us today for a no obligation consultation wherein we will evaluate your claim and guide you with clarity through these difficult times.
Definition of Wrongful Death
The law has a specific definition of wrongful death. The death needs to have occurred as a result of the negligence or misconduct of a third party to qualify as wrongful. People and other entities, such as companies and government bodies, owe a duty of care to other people. Drivers, for example, must drive safely and obey laws. Companies must make sure the products they manufacture are safe. They must make sure their premises are safe. Government bodies must make sure they don’t cause harm to the public. If these entities don’t fulfill their duty of care, they may have legally breached their duty of care under the law.
There is also a “reasonable person” standard. If conditions, products, or premises are unsafe, or a reasonable person would believe that they are unsafe, the responsible parties must fix them as soon as possible. If they can’t fix the problem quickly, they must properly warn the public with signs. In other words, if a construction company knows that there are not enough safety harnesses for the workers it has hired to work at tall heights, they need to supply an appropriate number. Failure to do so breaches both the duty of care and reasonable person standards.
More specifically, in Nevada, a lawsuit may be filed for the loss of a loved one, family member or friend when the decedent passes away due to the negligent acts or misconduct by a third party. Any deviation by the responsible party to act as a reasonable prudent person may result in a wrongful death claim. To file a wrongful death claim, the wrongdoer does not have to have the intent to cause death, but rather has to have acted negligently. A wrongful death claim can be brought by the decedent’s heirs to hold those legally liable responsible for the death.
Under Nevada law, wrongful death is separate statutory claim that can be pled in conjunction with negligence, recklessness, or another theory of liability. This is codified in NRS 41.085.
ACTIONS FOR DEATH BY WRONGFUL ACT OR NEGLECT
Heirs and personal representatives may maintain action.
As used in this section, “heir” means a person who, under the laws of this State, would be entitled to succeed to the separate property of the decedent if the decedent had died intestate. The term does not include a person who is deemed to be a killer of the decedent pursuant to chapter 41B of NRS, and such a person shall be deemed to have predeceased the decedent as set forth in NRS 41B.330.
When the death of any person, whether or not a minor, is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, the heirs of the decedent and the personal representatives of the decedent may each maintain an action for damages against the person who caused the death, or if the wrongdoer is dead, against the wrongdoer’s personal representatives, whether the wrongdoer died before or after the death of the person injured by the wrongdoer. If any other person is responsible for the wrongful act or neglect, or if the wrongdoer is employed by another person who is responsible for the wrongdoer’s conduct, the action may be maintained against that other person, or if the other person is dead, against the other person’s personal representatives.
An action brought by the heirs of a decedent pursuant to subsection 2 and the cause of action of that decedent brought or maintained by the decedent’s personal representatives which arose out of the same wrongful act or neglect may be joined.
The heirs may prove their respective damages in the action brought pursuant to subsection 2 and the court or jury may award each person pecuniary damages for the person’s grief or sorrow, loss of probable support, companionship, society, comfort and consortium, and damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement of the decedent. The proceeds of any judgment for damages awarded under this subsection are not liable for any debt of the decedent.
The damages recoverable by the personal representatives of a decedent on behalf of the decedent’s estate include:
(a) Any special damages, such as medical expenses, which the decedent incurred or sustained before the decedent’s death, and funeral expenses; and
(b) Any penalties, including, but not limited to, exemplary or punitive damages, that the decedent would have recovered if the decedent had lived, but do not include damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement of the decedent. The proceeds of any judgment for damages awarded under this subsection are liable for the debts of the decedent unless exempted by law.
(Added to NRS by 1979, 458; A 1995, 2667; 1999, 1354)
How Does Wrongful Death Occur?
Wrongful death can occur as a result of accidents, unsafe conditions, improper training, carelessness, failure to follow established safety protocols, and more.
The Las Vegas wrongful death attorneys at Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, have a proven history of successfully pursuing various types of wrongful death claims. The list below is an example of the scenarios in which we have experience working on behalf of families:
Fatal motor vehicle accident – Theses accidents are often the result of distracted or drunk driving, running red lights, following too closely, driving while fatigued, driving too fast for conditions and speeding. Many of the wrongful death claims handled by our firm involve semi trucks, tractor-trailers, busses or large commercial vehicles.
Construction accidents or unsafe work conditions – These accidents often involve OSHA violations leaving the possibility for falls off of platforms, scaffolding, roofs, through construction holes/cavities, or objects and equipment falling or collapsing onto the decedent, electrocution and burns, and pinch accidents. Failure to provide or implement safety harnesses or restraints. While operating industrial equipment, proper clothing must be observed and demanded by the employer to avoid being grabbed and pulled into the machinery.
Caught-between or pinch accidents – Those involving the decedent being placed between two objects. We often see these incidents taking place at construction sites. However, they also take place between pedestrians and vehicles in parking lots/garages or loading docks.
Defective machinery or equipment – Defective work equipment that does not perform as the user expected or manufacturer intended. These also include airbag failure, brake failure, and tire failure. On the job or at ones home we see consumers sustaining fatal injuries from non-compliant appliances, ladders, lawn equipment, and wood chippers.
Medical malpractice – These cases provide the highest level of difficulty when determining or establishing liability. Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, overdosing, failure to treat, sepsis or MRSA, surgical errors, or faulty medical equipment are often involved.
Bicycle accidents – Many times the negligent conduct of a driver in a motor vehicle is the direct cause of the accident. Failure to provide the cyclist the right of way, speeding, and failure to pay full attention. Many of these incidents take place in scenic areas. With the popular growth of cyclists sharing the roadway, fatal accidents have also increased.
Product liability (dangerous or defective products)
Slip and fall accidents
Unsafe conditions in public places, such as hotels, casinos, or malls (e.g. mold or other toxic conditions, improper construction causing roof failure, improper design, failure to warn of unsafe conditions)
Las Vegas Wrongful Death FAQ
Known for its bright lights and entertaining attractions, Las Vegas has long been a place that people from around the world look forward to visiting. However, there are many aspects of Las Vegas that can cause death. When someone else’s careless or reckless actions cause a death, it can leave the family not only emotionally devastated but financially devastated as well. If you have lost a loved one due to a Las Vegas accident or intentional act, there is a legal process to recover compensation.
Read on for answers to the questions our Las Vegas clients ask most frequently about wrongful death.
Negligent acts, such as careless driving or a premises liability complaint.
Intentional acts, such as assault.
Strict liability actions, which apply in defective products cases or cases in which the defendant engaged in risky behavior that caused the plaintiff’s death.
According to Nevada law: “When the death of any person, whether or not a minor, is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, the heirs of the decedent and the personal representatives of the decedent may each maintain an action for damages against the person who caused the death, or if the wrongdoer is dead, against the wrongdoer’s personal representatives, whether the wrongdoer died before or after the death of the person injured by the wrongdoer.”
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Las Vegas?
The legal process by which the family members of the decedent are permitted to recover damages is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a civil action that generally must be filed in court within two years after the death occurs. Those who are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Las Vegas include the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s children, the parents of the decedent if there is no spouse or children, and a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
What damages are recoverable in a Las Vegas wrongful death lawsuit?
Some of the damages that family members and representatives of the estate can recover through this type of legal action include:
Medical expenses resulting from the treatment of the decedent’s final injury.
Funeral and burial or cremation expenses.
Property damage resulting from the accident that caused the death.
Lost wages and benefits, including those the deceased would have likely earned had he or she lived to retirement age.
Loss of benefits to heirs.
Loss of companionship, affection, guidance, and care that was provided to the family member by the deceased.
What must I prove to succeed in a Las Vegas wrongful death lawsuit?
You must show that the at-fault party was liable for the death.
Liability is proven by establishing the following elements of negligence:
The at-fault party owed the deceased a duty of care.
There was a breach in the duty of care.
This breach caused the deceased’s death.
In addition to proving liability for your loved one’s death, you must also show the damages that the deceased’s family experienced, such as expenses and non-economic life impacts.
My husband died as a result of a work-related accident in Las Vegas. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit?
It depends on the facts of the case. If your husband’s work-related accident was caused by his own actions, those of his employer, or those of his co-workers, then you would likely need to file a workers’ compensation claim to obtain death benefits, including lost wages. However, if the accident that resulted in your loved one’s death was the result of a third-party’s actions, then a wrongful death action would likely be appropriate.
An example of a third-party situation would be if your husband died as a result of a transportation accident during the normal scope of his on-the-job duties, and the at-fault party was another driver completely unrelated to the business.
Is my Las Vegas wrongful death settlement taxable?
According to the Internal Revenue Service, wrongful death and personal injury settlements or awards are not considered income and, therefore, are not taxable. The exception to this rule is when the settlement includes punitive damages, which are unrelated to a victim’s injuries or expenses and are, instead, awarded to punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior. If you receive punitive damages as part of a court award in your case, you are responsible for paying tax on that portion of the award.
Do I need an attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Las Vegas?
To ensure your best chance of success, you should retain an attorney to file your Las Vegas wrongful death lawsuit. These cases are often complex and time-consuming.
Your attorney can:
Determine all sources of liability and all insurance resources that are available for compensation.
File court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction and representation at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
Guide you through the legal process as well as advice and information that can help you make important decisions in your case.
Evaluate your case based on the expenses that you have incurred as well as the ways the loss has negatively impacted your life.
Collect evidence and witness testimony necessary to prove your claims.
Consult experts, such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists, to strengthen your case.
Negotiate to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf.
In lieu of a fair settlement, litigate your case all the way to trial. This includes the delivery of opening and closing arguments, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.
Assist in collecting your settlement or award.
Provide further representation if the defendant in your case files an appeal.
Let the experienced Las Vegas wrongful death lawyers at Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, help you understand the legal process of recovering damages after the loss of a loved one. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Let a Las Vegas Wrongful Death Attorney Help
Death is tragic, and a death that occurs as a result of someone else’s negligence compounds the tragedy.
Wrongful death cases are not only devastating to survivors, but also they are complicated. An experienced wrongful death attorney can give advice about the case, including who has the right to bring a claim, what the claim can include, and whether to set up an estate. The experienced attorneys at Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC have offices in Las Vegas and deep roots in the community.
Contact us today online or at (702) 382-9797. Our initial consultation is always complementary