The death of a family member is a traumatic and life-altering experience. The resulting grief and pain is made even worse when a family member’s death results from another person’s negligent actions. Nevada law allows surviving family members to obtain financial compensation via a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is not a criminal case; it is another way of holding a person accountable for his or her actions. While the financial compensation from a wrongful death claim cannot replace the loss of a loved one, it can provide surviving family members with a sense of justice and closure. Nevada Law specifies who is entitled to wrongful death benefits in the state.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
Pursuant to Nevada Law, a wrongful death occurs when a victim’s death is caused by a person’s negligent or intentional actions. Nevada defines negligence as the breach of legally recognized duty that causes a victim to suffer an injury or death. Las Vegas wrongful death incidents occur in a variety of circumstances, including:
- Automobile Collisions
- Motorcycle Collisions
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Truck Collisions
- Medical Malpractice
- Slip and Falls
- Dog Bites
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that is asserted against the person or entity who caused the victim’s death. This type of negligence claim may be asserted by eligible family members. In a wrongful death claim, surviving family members seek monetary damages from the negligent party. To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%, that the opposing party’s negligent act caused the victim’s death. In addition to a wrongful death claim, Nevada Law permits a survival action to be asserted against the person who caused the victim’s death. Unlike a wrongful death claim, a survival action is not asserted by surviving family members. Instead, a survival action is asserted by the victim’s estate.
Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?
A person’s entitlement to wrongful death benefits depends on his or her relationship with the victim. A wrongful death claim can be asserted by a deceased victim’s personal representative or his or her heirs. Nevada State Law defines “heir” as the persons who would have been entitled to inherit a portion of the victim’s estate in the event the victim died without a will. Accordingly, a victim’s surviving spouse and children are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. If a victim was not married or had no surviving children, his or her parents are entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. Additionally, if a victim had no surviving spouse, children, or parents, Nevada Law allows the victim’s siblings to assert claims for wrongful death. However, the law precludes a potential heir from asserting a wrongful death claim if that person was the cause of the victim’s death.
Unlike a wrongful death claim, the executor of the victim’s estate is the individual with the legal authority to assert a survival action. A survival claim is the personal injury claim the victim could have asserted had they not died. Accordingly, the victim’s estate, through the executor, steps into the shoes of the victim to assert a survival claim. Normally, a victim’s will identifies the individual who will serve as the executor of the victim’s estate. If a victim dies without a will, Nevada Law identifies individuals who can serve as the executor of the victim’s estate.
Nevada Wrongful Death Damages You May Be Entitled to Receive
The word “damages” is a legal term that is used to describe the losses a victim suffered. A claim for damages allows a personal injury victim to obtain financial compensation for his or her losses. Three types of damages are available under Nevada State Law. A claim for economic damages is meant to compensate a victim for his or her financial losses. Similarly, a claim for non-economic damages allows a victim to receive compensation for his or her emotional injuries and pain and suffering. Finally, a victim may also be able to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate a victim for his or her losses. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish a tortfeasor and deter future tortfeasors. Obtaining punitive damages can be difficult, as a victim must prove the tortfeasor acted maliciously or the actions were egregious.
In a wrongful death case, the victim’s surviving heirs can obtain financial compensation by making claims for economic and non-economic damages. Plaintiffs can obtain compensation for the loss of financial support the victim provided before his or her death. Financial support includes any type of benefits the victim provides. Additionally, the victim’s surviving family members can obtain financial compensation for the loss of companionship and comfort the victim provided them during their lives. Further, the victim’s family members can also obtain financial compensation for the sorrow and grief they experienced as a result of the victim’s death.
About survival actions, the victim’s estate can claim economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Regarding economic damages, the victim’s estate can seek financial compensation for the cost of the victim’s funeral and burial. Additionally, the victim’s estate can also seek monetary compensation for the medical expenses the victim incurred before his or her death. Further, the victim’s estate can also seek compensation for the victim’s past and future lost wages. The victim’s estate can also seek financial compensation for the non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, the victim endured before his or her death. Punitive damages may be awarded if the person who caused the victim’s death acted egregiously and maliciously. For example, a punitive damages claim may be asserted in a case where a hit-and-run becomes wrongful death. This is because the driver’s actions of fleeing the scene, along with actions surrounding the collision, may be sufficient to demonstrate malice.
How Are Wrongful Death Benefits Distributed?
The Nevada Wrongful Death statute recognizes two classes of claimants. These are the victim’s estate and the victim’s heirs. Under Nevada’s Wrongful Death statute, heirs will have to appear in court to prove the damages they suffered. Each heir must demonstrate the loss of companionship and comfort the person suffered as a result of the victim’s death. Additionally, plaintiffs must prove the grief and loss they experienced. Typically, these losses are proved by the heirs providing detailed testimony. Following this testimony, the Court will divide the money from a wrongful death award among the surviving heirs. In most cases, the surviving spouse will receive the largest share of the award, followed by the victim’s children. Regarding the surviving children, the Court will divide the money based on the amount of emotional and financial losses the children experienced.
The distribution of benefits from a successful survival action is different from a wrongful death claim. This is because a survival action belongs to the victim’s estate, not the victim’s surviving heirs. While the victim’s estate receives financial compensation from a survival action, it does not retain the money. Instead, the money is distributed according to the terms of the victim’s will. If a victim dies without a will, the money is distributed according to Nevada’s intestacy statute.
Do You Need to Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney to Recover Benefits?
If your loved one passed away because of negligence, hiring a wrongful death attorney early on is essential. Wrongful death cases are legally and factually complex matters to litigate, and an experienced attorney can improve your chances of receiving compensation. For example, truck accidents involve FMCSA regulations, and they typically feature extensive evidence. It is also common for fatal truck accident cases to involve multiple defendants, like trucking companies, truck drivers, and even commercial truck manufacturers. A victim’s heirs will have a better chance of winning a case prior to the expiration of Nevada’s two-year statute of limitation if they are represented by experienced Las Vegas trucking accident attorneys.
Wrongful death claims create high financial exposure for insurance companies due to the number of damages that can be claimed. Accordingly, insurance companies fiercely defend against wrongful death lawsuits. An attorney can investigate the facts surrounding a victim’s death and collect evidence to support a wrongful death claim. An attorney may involve accident reconstruction specialists, medical experts, eyewitness testimony, and black box data to prove negligence.