The Las Vegas Wrongful Death Guide was created by experienced personal injury attorney Craig Murphy to help Nevada residents hold negligent parties responsible for their loss.
Losing someone is devastating. There is a lot of emotional damage when someone passes, and it can be hard to recover from. When someone is taken from you because of the negligence of another, it can be even more difficult to heal from. In these instances, you can file for wrongful death. While no amount of money can ever bring someone back to you, rightful compensation can be collected to help you financially manage your life following a tragic loss. With the right Las Vegas wrongful death attorney, you can seek this compensation.
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Las Vegas Wrongful Death Cases
Personal injury law covers many different legal claims, from motor vehicle collisions to slips and falls, from medical malpractice to dog bites, and from train accidents to burn injuries. Almost every case under the personal injury umbrella, regardless of the specifics, involves an individual who was injured due to another person’s negligence or recklessness. However, most of these cases focus on people who were injured but lived to tell the tale in the courtroom. There is another component of personal injury law that covers those who were not lucky enough not to have survived: wrongful death.
There is nothing that can fully prepare a person for the emotions that a loved one’s death can stir up. If the loved one had previously planned their wills, trust funds, and life insurance, this can ease some of the burden, but no legal or financial document will spare surviving friends and family the inner pain after the loss of a loved one. If you believe that a relative died as the result of a preventable issue, you may have the right to a wrongful death case. Once you feel ready to proceed, you can rely on our team of wrongful death attorneys to guide you through this difficult time.
Is Every Death Potentially a Wrongful Death Case?
The legal term “wrongful death” is far more specific than its wording would suggest. Much as other personal injury cases do, wrongful death lawsuits revolve around the responsibility to prove that a victim’s injury stems from a property owner or private citizen’s actions or lack thereof. In wrongful death suits, attorneys have to prove that this inaction or deliberate behavior was the primary catalyst behind another party’s death.
It is a common misconception that wrongful death cases and criminal cases are one and the same. Wrongful death cases are civil suits, which can certainly be paired with criminal lawsuits, but civil and criminal cases are unique from each other. In Las Vegas, if a person dies as the result of a car accident, a slip and fall, or even a shooting, criminal cases can commence against the driver, the property manager, or the gunman. Wrongful death suits would go along with these criminal cases, and the benefit of this pairing is that, if you lose one case, you don’t automatically lose both.
Are There Any Wrongful Death Cases That Are More Common in the Las Vegas Area?
2017 proved to be the deadliest year in the century for the people of Las Vegas and the surrounding suburbs. Including the tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police reported that 264 deaths by homicide occurred in the Las Vegas region. Factoring out the devastating shooting, the year’s 171 deaths just barely surpassed the record of 168 deaths set one year earlier. Not every single one of these homicides has the potential to spur a wrongful death lawsuit, of course, but those that involved accidental shootings or excessive force by police officers may be eligible.
In addition to firearm and violence-related deaths, the state of Nevada is home to several hundred traffic fatalities each year. In 2015, there were 321 deaths in motor vehicle collisions and accidents across the state, both a sudden jump from the 291 traffic fatalities in 2014 and the highest number of deaths since 2008. The number of annual deaths peaked in 2016 with 329 fatalities before decreasing to 305 the following year. But while deaths in motor vehicle collisions fell slightly, pedestrian fatalities jumped by 25% in 2017. Even as the Nevada Department of Transportation takes measures in order to improve road safety, pedestrians and drivers alike in the Las Vegas metro area still have to remain aware of the risks of using the road. In the majority of these motor vehicle fatalities, the drivers of the vehicle involved in the collision could be sued for wrongful death.
What Other Types of Wrongful Death Cases Appear in Las Vegas Courts?
Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, an ethical code, to demonstrate their commitment to treating the sick, and while most doctors in Nevada honor this commitment, there are some who fall short. Deliberate neglect or accidental oversight by a health professional can result in injury or death. An emergency medical technician may fail to take note of a significant wound, an anesthesiologist can over-prescribe medication, or a doctor may misdiagnose an ailment and instruct nurses to administer the wrong kind of treatment. Medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits often go hand-in-hand, both involving some of the same criteria and falling under the personal injury umbrella.
However, the laws in the state of Nevada differ with regard to the amounts that relatives of the deceased can receive in compensation. In wrongful death lawsuits, according to the Nevada Revised Statutes, relatives can seek damages according to a number of different factors, and there is no clearly defined limit to the compensation. With regard to medical malpractice, however, Nevada’s residents voted in 2004 for a cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages, and the Nevada Supreme Court upheld this limit in 2015. This difference in payout is stark, and advice from a personal injury attorney will help you to determine whether a medical malpractice or wrongful death case would be more appropriate.
What Else Should I Know About Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in Las Vegas?
As your Las Vegas wrongful death attorney will inform you, the statute of limitations in the state of Nevada to file a wrongful death case is two years after the death. There is no time limit, of course, in how long it can take for the family of the deceased to emotionally recover but attempting to file a wrongful death claim after that two-year window has closed will likely result in dismissal of the case. The spouse, partner, children, parents, and personal representative of the deceased are all eligible to file a wrongful death claim, and other relatives may be able to file if they can prove prior financial dependence on the deceased.
If you choose to file a wrongful death claim, your attorney can help you to receive compensation for matters such as medical expenses, lost wages, funeral costs, and loss of benefits. The path to a favorable verdict, though, is never clear-cut. Our team of dedicated Las Vegas wrongful death attorneys has years of experience navigating the complexities of all types of personal injury cases, and we would be glad to provide you with all the support and guidance that you need as you seek justice for your loss.
Frequently Asked Questions | Las Vegas Wrongful Death Guide
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
If someone was negligent and caused the death of a family member or a loved one, that is a wrongful death. Their negligence killed your family member or loved one, and that death is a wrongful death. It’s the same as an injury claim, except the injury is so severe that it killed your loved one.
If you’re a family member or a loved one of someone that you suspect was killed because of someone’s negligence, this is the type of claim that you can’t just go to any attorney for. You need someone who deals regularly with wrongful death because it is a very specific and complicated area of law. Make sure that you get someone that deals with these types of claims on a regular basis. The way you do that is you call around and ask. Check the websites, check references, and then talk to the attorneys to figure out who is going to spend the time with you to find out all the ramifications that this wrongful death has on your family.
When you figure out who is going to do that, you will know what you need to do, and they will help guide you through the procedure. It is, unfortunately, going to take some time and it opens a lot of worms. You must have somebody who you feel comfortable dealing with and someone that you feel is going to adequately protect you for your losses.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Claim?
The answer to that question is, oftentimes, the insurance company is not going to be willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility and pay the wrongful death claim.
Oftentimes, the damages can be great and they’re going to put it into litigation. Here’s an example: I had a case where I represented the family of an elderly woman who fell, and that set of injuries and the medical care led to her death. The insurance adjuster said to me repeatedly? “Why should I pay you any money in this case? Because she was going to die in a couple of years anyway.” I couldn’t believe it. This is how insurance companies think.
The unfortunate answer to the question, “Do I need an attorney?” is that the insurance companies are not going to just pay you the money. They are so callous and cavalier that they will do anything to avoid their responsibility. In most instances, yes, you’re going to have to have an attorney, and you need someone who has been through these numerous times, and who has the ability to deal with these insurance adjusters and companies. You want someone who is going to spend the time and figure out the full extent of your losses, and who’s going to put a game plan together to build your case and make that insurance company accept its responsibility for killing your loved one.
How Do I Choose a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If a close family member or loved one has been killed due to someone’s negligence, you’re going to wonder, “How do I choose the best attorney to represent me in this type of case?” It’s a very important question, and you have to come to the right answer of how you pick the right attorney. There are two things that you have to do. First, you have to make sure that the attorney has the proper qualifications. Just because they’re a lawyer, doesn’t mean they’re able to handle a wrongful death claim. In fact, just hiring any lawyer could harm your case. You can’t go get your divorce lawyer, or the guy who did your will. You must have someone who has handled several wrongful death claims.
You need someone who is a board certified personal injury specialist by the State Bar of Nevada and the Nevada Justice Association. More importantly, you need someone that truly cares about you and is going to spend the time that’s necessary to get to know you and all the aspects of your losses and damages because that is what this case is about. It is going to come down to your personal relationship with that lawyer. The only way you’re going to be able to do that, is to call a few lawyers. You can’t just hire the first lawyer that you get from TV. You need to talk to several lawyers and see who is willing to spend the time with you, to find out what your case is about, what it involves, who will answer your questions, and who you are going to be comfortable with working with them for the next few years.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain people are entitled to file wrongful death claims. You have to have a certain family relationship to the person that was unfortunately killed due to someone else’s negligence.
There are two aspects to these types of claims. There will be the aspect for damages that the deceased suffered prior to their death, and then there will be the aspect of your damages due to the loss of that person.
Can a Sibling File a Wrongful Death Claim?
This question cannot be easily answered because there are a lot of factors that must be analyzed.
What must be analyzed is the degree of the relationship and who the heirs of that decedent under are Nevada law. Under probate law, it is going to say who the heirs are and depending on your level of relationship, you may or may not have a cause of action. If that person was married and had children, unfortunately, as a sibling you’re not going to be able to bring a case. If they had no wife and no children, you may be able to.
The value of your claim is going to be dependent upon the nature of your relationship with that decedent. That’s why you need an attorney who has a lot of skill and experience in dealing with these types of cases, because it’s not strictly a matter of law. The right attorney is someone who’s going to spend the time to really develop the facts, the nature of your relationship, and of your loss. That will be very important in determining the value of that claim.
When someone has a wrongful death claim, they may have done a little research on Google, or some other websites, and found some information. They will call and ask me, “What’s the difference between survival and wrongful death? It doesn’t seem like the two can be congruent. If you have a wrongful death, what does survivor or a survival claim mean?” Those are very legitimate questions because when you are dealing with a wrongful death, there is a split of two types of claims that you’re dealing with. There is a survival action. which means is the person who wrongfully died because of someone’s negligence are entitled to the pain, suffering and damages that they had to go through before their death. Those claims, even though they died, survive, or carry on. They are still legitimate claims, and someone can bring a case for those types of damages.
Then there is the wrongful death action; this is a separate issue. This is for the close relatives of the decedent who have a claim under Nevada Probate Law for their losses. this covers their loss of consortium, which basically is the loss of your spouse, your companionship, the love, everything that you had with your relationship with that person, and you’re entitled to support. If they were the breadwinner for the family, there’s going to be a long income loss claim that is available to you. These are very complex cases because they involve various levels of damages, and personal relationships.
How Much Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Cost?
A wrongful death case is typically very complex. Very often, it’s going to require the filing of a lawsuit. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they should pay those costs up front. In other words, they don’t have to come out-of-pocked. Because it’s involved in litigation, those costs can be very expensive. If you’re looking for an attorney to handle a wrongful death case, you better know that your attorney is committed to that case. When I say committed, that means that they’re willing to spend the time and money that is required to build that case, and if the case can’t be settled, be able to take it to trial.
In many instances, with very significant injuries and significant losses due to the wrongful death, the cost to take a case like that to trial could cost a couple hundred thousand dollars. This is not a cheap endeavor, and you don’t want an attorney who doesn’t have the ability to go the distance, or who doesn’t have the commitment to the case to do it justice. If the insurance company knows that your lawyer is going to fold and cave in at the end, they’re just going to pay in pennies on the dollar.
You need somebody who’s committed and who will be ready, willing, and able to take that case to trial if necessary. That’s the only way that you are going to get a full and fair settlement of the case.
How Do You Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?
You must prove that there was negligence on the part of somebody that caused the wrongful death. A wrongful death is really a negligence claim that results in someone’s death, but there are specific legal aspects of it that make it a very specialized area that requires an attorney who is accustomed to dealing with these.
First of all, you have to prove that someone was negligent and through that negligence, they caused a chain of events that led to the death. Then, in addition to that, you will have to prove that under Nevada law, you are one of the survivors who is entitled to receive compensation for the loss or the death of that individual. You’re going to need somebody who not only has the ability to figure out who is entitled to compensation, but to even go back further and prove the chain of events to establish that negligence, and that negligent person is the one who’s responsible to you for all of your losses.
What Happens During the Wrongful Death Case Process?
There are many things that can be involved in a wrongful death claim. It involves a full investigation of the negligence that caused the death as well as what the injuries, damage and suffering that the decedent suffered before their death. You need somebody that analyzes the legitimate claims for a loss due to a wrongful death.
It starts with an evaluation. Once that evaluation is made, there are certain steps or procedures that can be done on a regular basis. It includes notifying the insurance companies who have responsibility, collecting all of the relevant medical evidence relating to negligence, and filing and preparing a lawsuit so that we can ensure that you are fully protected and fully compensated for your loss due to that wrongful death.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
Typically, you will have two years because it will be a negligence cause of action. Someone’s negligence caused the death of your loved one, and we have two years to file that type of case to preserve your cause of action.
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Sometimes I will have someone call and say, “I have a wrongful death claim. I want to pursuit it, but I don’t want to do a medical malpractice case.” Wrongful death is the type of damage that was sustained; it’s not the type of case that it is. If the death of your loved one was caused due to a medical error, you have just one year to file. It’s a medical malpractice case that resulted in a wrongful death. The fact that there was a wrongful death does not entitle to you to the two years. If it’s due to a medical mistake, you only have one year. You can’t delay. You must call and get an attorney right away because there are a lot of requirements and a lot of work that is involved in a medical malpractice case that must be done well in advance of that one year.