Las Vegas Wrongful Death Lawyer

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What is wrongful death?

An unexpected death can be painful for the surviving family members. The grief, devastation, and damages can be overwhelming. Anger magnifies that loss when someone a person dies due to someone else’s negligence,. There is no sum of money, which will bring that person back. You can hold liable the party responsible. Wrongful death laws in Nevada can provide financial support for surviving family members.

Wrongful death is when a person’s death occurs as a direct result of someone else’s negligent, careless, unlawful act, or failure to take action.

When a wrongful death occurs, the estate or heirs may be able to bring a lawsuit against that person or entity. Wrongful death is the basis of a personal injury lawsuit to establish liability and seek compensation for damages, pain, and loss.

Some circumstances can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit, including:

  • Car Accidents
  • ATV Accidents
  • Truck Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Boating Accidents
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Nursing Home Neglect
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Defective Products
  • Parental Neglect
  • Premises Mismanagement or neglect
  • Criminal Acts.

Wrongful death is not a criminal case; it is a civil case. If someone dies as a result of a criminal act, the criminal goes to trial in a criminal court for punishment. To collect monetary damages connected with their loved one’s wrongful death, a family member must file a lawsuit in civil court.

In December 2019, Tracy Ann Cihal, a 57-year-old widow, died trying to escape a fire in the Alpine Motel Apartments in Las Vegas. Channel 8 News reported that Deborah Crawford, a family member, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against apartment owner. The suit claims negligence and wrongful conduct led to Cihal’s death.

A fire inspection report showed the apartment building had many violations, including:

  • Missing smoke alarms.
  • Exit doors bolted shut.
  • Defects in the fire alarm system, and
  • Fire doors that would not close.

Firefighters found Cihal’s body in the main hallway near the barricaded back exit door. Six other people also died, and 13 people were injured in the fire. The owner of the Alpine Motel Apartments and an associate were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal neglect in July 2020.

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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Nevada’s wrongful death statute allows a representative of the decedent or their estate and the intestate heirs to sue for damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.

Nevada statute 41.085(5) allows a personal representative of the deceased to recover special damages, including:

  • Medical expenses incurred before the person’s death, and
  • Funeral expenses, and
  • Any punitive damages the decedent would have recovered if they had lived.

Nevada intestate succession law 134.030 permits the decedent’s heirs to recover for:

  • Grief or sorrow
  • Loss of probable support
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of comfort and consortium
  • Pain, suffering, or disfigurement of the decedent.

Even if they are a beneficiary in the decedent’s will, the following do not qualify as an intestate heir: 

  • A Fiancée
  • An unmarried partner,
  • An un-adopted stepchild
  • A foster child

Nevada law specifies who would be entitled to the deceased person’s property and assets, included awards in the lawsuit if no will has been made. The surviving spouse, then the children, and the dead person’s parents, may recover damages.

What are Damages in a wrongful death suit?

Nevada statue 41.085 entitles qualifying family members to recover for damages.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses spent on the deceased
  • Out-of-pocket burial and funeral expenses spent on the deceased
  • Loss of the deceased’s wages and benefits 
  • Loss of the deceased’s protection
  • Loss of companionship and marital relations
  • Loss of parental guidance and instruction
  • Pain and suffering

There are two classes of Damages in a wrongful death case.

Special (or Compensatory) Damages - Special damages are the expenses or losses of the deceased, the surviving family members, or the estate.

Punitive Damages - Most wrongful death lawsuits don’t involve an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are usually awarded to “punish” the guilty party and send a message to others to deter them from similar willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.  Punitive damages can be calculated as a multiple of the total special or compensatory damages amount, such as 2X total damages. Punitive damages can substantially increase the defendant’s liability.

Suppose, as an example, that a person dies in a vehicle accident caused by a driver under the influence. All drivers have a civic duty to obey the laws of the road, so the driver was negligent. That driver was guilty of gross negligence, as it was not reasonable for that person to drive a vehicle after they had too much to drink.

A family member initiates a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver requesting special damages of $150,000. The court rules that the drunk driver is guilty of wrongful death due to their gross negligence and awards punitive damages of $350,000. The punitive damages of $350,000 are three times the special damages of $150,000 for an award for total damages of $500,000. 

Establishing evidence of negligence

The outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit usually depends on whether the plaintiff can establish that the person’s death was due to another party’s negligence or gross negligence.

Negligence - To prove negligence, the plaintiff must provide evidence that each of the following is true:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care. They were required to follow the law, policy, or procedure to avoid causing an accident or harm.
  • Doctors and healthcare providers have a more specific duty of care, according to Nevada statute 41A.015. They must use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge that would ordinarily be used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced healthcare providers.
  • The defendant breached this duty of care. The defendant did not act as any reasonable person would in the situation that resulted in the decedent’s death.
  • The breach in the defendant’s duty of care led to the death of the decedent. The defendant’s breach of their duty caused the death of the decedent.
  • The decedent’s death caused the damages the plaintiff is seeking to recover. The expenses and losses or suffering incurred by the deceased, the intestate heirs, or the estate were due to the person’s death.
New Mexico Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How are wrongful death settlements are paid?
The insurance provider who provided liability coverage for the guilty party pays out wrongful death suit settlements. Most insurance policies have a policy limit ceiling. If the court awards a settlement amount above the insurance company’s cap, the guilty party is liable for the difference in the amount.
What is the upper limit of a wrongful death award?
There are no caps or limits on wrongful death awards in Nevada. However, if a wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, under Nevada medical malpractice laws, the amount that eligible family members can receive is $350,000 in non-economic damages.
How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take to settle?
While some may settle quickly in a matter of months, other wrongful death lawsuits can take an average of one to four years to resolve. First, it takes time to prepare the case, which involves:

  • Collecting expert testimonies
  • Conducting investigation
  • Evaluating the police and medical reports
  • Filing legal paperwork
  • Gathering evidence
  • Identifying the liable party
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Performing research
Next, once the suit goes to the court, even if the case does not go to trial:

  • Presentation of Facts and evidence
  • Hearing of Testimony
  • Interpretation of the law
  • The deliberation of the case and settlement
Should you hire an attorney to file a wrongful death claim?
The law can be complicated, and wrongful death can happen due to many causes. Settlement amounts for a wrongful death case can be significant, depending on the amount and type of damages incurred. An experienced attorney will review your case and advise you of the types and amount of damages you can expect.

Most insurance companies are very adept at finding ways to deny or reduce your claim.

Family members dealing with the loss of a loved one will need an attorney’s help to protect their legal rights. An attorney will be able to negotiate settlement offers and make sure the family is not pressured into accepting an unfair amount for the tremendous losses suffered.

A personal injury attorney experienced in dealing with insurance companies in wrongful death cases will present evidence of your losses and damages. If the case goes to trial, they can obtain witness and expert testimonies to support your claims. A skillful attorney will fight to hold the guilty party responsible for their negligence and achieve the best settlement possible.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Nevada to assist you in pursuing a wrongful death legal action.

Gross Negligence

A Nevada court would need evidence that an award for punitive damages is justified. The defendant must have committed some act of willful, intentional misbehavior or gross negligence. Nevada Statutes define the term of gross negligence as a person’s indifference to their legal duty of care to prevent harm to others.

In January 2019, Dwayne Murray and his daughter were awarded $43 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit filed against Dr. Mandip Arora and Nevada Hospital Group for the wrongful death of his pregnant wife due to medical malpractice. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, “Murray’s wife died as the result of the administration of more than the recommended dosage of Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.”

To justify a gross negligence award, there must be proof that the defendant:

  • Had an obligation to provide the decedent a duty of care, and
  • Breached their duty of care to the decedent, and
  • Engaged in willful, or intentional misbehavior or conduct, and
  • The breach of their duty of care combined with their willful or intentional misconduct caused the decedent’s death, and
  • The defendant was aware the consequences of their misconduct but had no regard for them, and
  • The plaintiff suffered losses and damages as a result of the defendant’s negligent actions.

Whether the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or uncaring as to justify punitive damages depends on the facts of the case. The more willful or malicious the defendant’s conduct, the higher the likelihood that a jury or the court will grant punitive damages.

The most common examples of a negligent act that would justify a wrongful death claim are:

  • A vehicle accident where the driver of the other vehicle was reckless or disobeyed the law;
  • An accident that takes place on someone else’s property due to improper maintenance;
  • Accidents caused by an unsafe product that was defectively designed or manufactured;
  • Workplace accidents involving unsafe working conditions; or
  • Medical malpractice by a physician or surgeon.

How Wrongful Death Damages are Calculated

The court considers many facts and circumstances when determining the amount of damages to award, including:

  • The age of the decedent.
  • The decedent’s earnings and future earning capacity
  • The decedent's training and education
  • The decedent’s health and life expectancy before they passed away
  • The circumstances and age of the dependents of the decedent
  • The value of lost health, retirement benefits
  • Actual Funeral expenses
  • The decedent’s medical bills

Often an economist or other actuary is requested to provide calculations of specific elements related to loss.

There is no specific cap or ceiling on punitive damages. In most states, punitive damages cannot exceed four times the amount of special or compensatory damages.

Nevada’s statute of limitations on a Wrongful death claim

According to Nevada statute 41A.097, the appropriate parties must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the decedent’s death.

A wrongful death suit against a healthcare provider due to medical malpractice must be filed within three years of the underlying injury leading to death or one year after the discovery of malpractice has occurred.

A failure to file a wrongful death claim within the required time may cause eligible family members, and the estate to lose damage awards and obtain justice on their loved one’s behalf.

More Information

Some location-specific wrongful death content can be found in the links below:

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