When you believe the death of a loved one might have been preventable, it can be agonizing. Often, people in this position wonder if it possible to bring a lawsuit against the person or organization they believe to be at fault for the death. These lawsuits are possible in certain circumstances, but there are also regulations which guide when and how a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed.
Who Can File?
While many people may be affected by the death of an individual and feel compelled to file a wrongful death claim, certain restrictions apply. In Nevada, only an “heir” or personal representative of the deceased person's estate can file such a claim. An heir includes a spouse, domestic partner, or child of the deceased. If none of these parties are alive, the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit. Stepchildren or stepparents who can prove that they were dependent upon the deceased at the time of death may also file a claim.
Statute of Limitations
If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, you must act fairly quickly. These claims must be filed within two years from the date that the death occurred. It is important to note that the two-year window begins at the time of death, not at the time of the accident which caused the injuries leading to the death. For example, if someone sustained severe injuries in a car accident, and was hospitalized for three weeks before their death, their loved ones would have two years from the time of death, not from the time of the car accident.
Examples of Wrongful Death
Many different kinds of actions can be the basis for a wrongful death claim. The action can be criminal, such as when a family member is murdered. Although the perpetrator may be facing criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment, in order to receive compensation, the family will still need to file a civil claim. Wrongful death can also be claimed if the accident was caused by another person's negligence. Negligence means that an individual or organization -- such as a business or governmental entity -- did not take appropriate or reasonable care to prevent accident and injury.
For example, a common situation in which wrongful death claims are filed is automobile accidents in which the family of the deceased believes that the other driver was being negligent, such as in a DUI or distracted driving case. In addition, deaths resulting from defective drugs or other products, medical malpractice, public transportation accidents, and poorly maintained properties can also be the basis of a wrongful death claim.
Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases
Damages in a wrongful death case can include expenses incurred by the deceased as well as economic losses suffered by the deceased family members' who are filing the claim. Economic damages that can be claimed include the deceased's medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages. They may also include future lost wages upon which the family depends. Noneconomic damages that can be claimed include pain and suffering on the part of the deceased, and loss of companionship or “consortium.” On occasion, the court may also award punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for their negligence and to discourage others from committing similar actions. However, this is usually only awarded if the defendant's behavior was particularly egregious.
In addition, the law distinguishes between the damages that an estate manager may recover on behalf of the deceased and the damages that heirs may recover. Estate managers can sue for “[a]ny special damages, such as medical expenses, which the decedent incurred or sustained before his death, and funeral expenses; and . . .[a]ny penalties, including, but not limited to, exemplary or punitive damages, that the decedent would have recovered if he had lived.” Heirs may recover damages for “grief or sorrow, loss of probable support, companionship, society, comfort and consortium, and damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement of the decedent.”
Wrongful Death Lawyer in Nevada
If you have lost a loved one, and you believe negligence or criminal conduct was involved, you may be entitled to compensation. At The Jacks Law Group, we will work to uncover the true causes of your loved one's death and hold people responsible who might have prevented it. We understand the emotional trauma of dealing with unexpected and can help you by guiding you through the process of legal action. You can contact us online, or call us today at (702) 834-6300 to get an experienced attorney on your case.