When someone loses their life due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional act of another party, the family of the victim has legal rights. No amount of financial compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one in a preventable accident. However, a wrongful death lawsuit can provide families with financial support for the personal and financial difficulties they face as a result of their loved one’s death.
At the Cottle Firm, our team of dedicated, experienced, and compassionate wrongful death lawyers stand by families in this difficult situation. If you believe that your loved one’s death was the result of negligence, we are prepared to help your family recover the damages you need and deserve. Contact us today to learn more about your options in a free consultation.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed against a negligent party responsible for causing a preventable death. These claims are legally similar to personal injury claims but are filed by the family members of the deceased. Proving negligence is the cornerstone of both personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Each state has its own wrongful death statutes. In Nevada, wrongful death is defined as a death “caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another” person or entity. This means that any death that occurred due to the legal fault of another party constitutes a wrongful death, including deaths caused by negligence or intentional acts, such as murder.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
There is a wide range of accidents and situations that can result in wrongful death. Here are some of the most common types of wrongful death cases seen by our lawyers.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), motor vehicle accidents account for the second-most preventable deaths in the United States, at 21%. Since most motor vehicle accidents are caused by negligence, this means that car accidents are also one of the most common causes of wrongful death.
If you are injured in a car accident and survive, you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit if another driver’s negligence caused the crash. In fatal car accidents caused by negligence, the families of the victims can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver responsible for causing the crash.
When a patient passes away due to a negligent mistake by their doctor, that patient’s family may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit based on medical malpractice. To file a lawsuit, there must be proof that your loved one’s death was the direct result of medical negligence and not a natural progression of their illness or injuries.
Common forms of medical malpractice that can be fatal for patients and result in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 100,000 Americans die or become permanently disabled due to misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses, or failure to diagnose. Those who suffer permanent disabilities and the families of those who die from these preventable medical errors deserve justice. For many families, a medical malpractice lawsuit can help provide vital financial assistance for the difficulties they face.
Prescription Drug Errors
Prescription drug errors include doctors prescribing the wrong medication or dosage, nurses administering the wrong medication, and pharmacists making errors when filling prescriptions. If a prescription error results in health problems or turns out to be fatal for the patient, the responsible party could be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Precision is paramount in surgery, as even the slightest error could cause lifelong complications or even death for the patient. Surgical errors are among some of the most common types of medical malpractice.
Some of the most common types of surgical errors that can lead to a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim include:
- Operating on the wrong side or body part
- Failure to diagnose a medical condition that occurred during surgery
- Anesthesia errors
- Damaging healthy organs
- Failure to prevent or address complications
- Failure to monitor the patient after surgery
Birth injuries are another one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. These injuries often lead to lifelong complications for the child, and sometimes errors made during childbirth can even be fatal for the child or the mother.
Some preventable mistakes that can cause the death of an infant during childbirth include:
- Using too much force with forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failure to prevent strangulation by the umbilical cord
- Preventable complications due to failure to monitor the mother
- Failure to monitor or diagnose symptoms of fetal distress
- Failure to perform a medically necessary C-section
Construction workers are one of the highest-risk groups of workers for fatal on-the-job accidents. The family members of construction workers who die in these tragic accidents can recover financial compensation, but the process differs significantly from non-work-related wrongful death lawsuits.
Like other workers in Nevada, construction workers are typically covered by workers’ compensation insurance. This means that in the event of on-the-job injuries, construction workers cannot sue their employers, even if their negligence caused the injury and accidents. Instead, they must file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. When a fatal construction accident happens, the family of the deceased worker qualifies for death benefits under workers’ compensation.
While employers typically cannot be sued for work injuries in Nevada, a lawsuit can be brought against other third parties if their negligence caused the accident and injuries. For example, if your loved one died in a construction accident caused by a defective piece of heavy machinery, the manufacturer of that defective product could potentially be sued in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Manufacturers of all types of products have a legal duty to make sure that all of their products are safe for use before being released to the market. Defective and inherently dangerous products put customers at risk of serious and sometimes even fatal injuries.
When a defective product causes deaths, the families of the victims may seek justice and financial compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the product manufacturer based on product liability. If the family’s attorney can establish that their loved one’s death was directly caused by the defect, the family could recover damages.
According to Nevada’s premises liability law, property owners are legally obligated to keep their premises free of hazards that could end up injuring their guests, customers, or other property visitors.
When a visitor is injured or dies on someone else’s property, the property owner can be held liable if the following conditions apply:
- A dangerous condition was present on the property
- The property owner was either aware or should have been aware of the danger, but failed to remove it
- This dangerous condition directly led to injury or death
For example, if someone dies in a slip-and-fall accident on an uncleared icy sidewalk outside of a business, the business owner could be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Nevada, a wrongful death lawsuit may only be filed by the family of the victim (or their attorney), or a personal representative of the victim’s estate as named in their will. Surviving spouses and children may file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of an adult family member, while the parents may sue for the wrongful death of their child.
Under Nevada law, certain individuals who are close to the deceased may not be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, such as finances, foster children, stepchildren, and unmarried partners.
What Damages Can Families Recover in Wrongful Death Claims?
Like a personal injury lawsuit, the damages in a wrongful death claim depend on the circumstances of the case and the losses suffered. Both economic and non-economic damages may be included in a settlement or court award.
Available damages in Nevada wrongful death claims may include:
- All medical expenses up until the victim’s death
- Property damage involved in the incident
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost earnings and inheritance for family members
- Lost employment benefits
- Loss of consortium (the companionship of the deceased loved one)
- Punitive damages in cases involving gross negligence or malice
- Emotional distress
What Is the Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Cases?
The burden of proof for civil wrongful death claims differs significantly from criminal cases. In a criminal case, a conviction can only be reached if there is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the offense. In wrongful death claims, the plaintiff and their attorney only need to prove that there is a “preponderance of evidence” to support their claim – meaning the defendant’s guilt is more likely than not.
Due to this lower burden of proof, the families of violent crime victims often turn to civil courts for justice when the criminal justice system fails to reach a guilty verdict. Civil wrongful death claims also allow these families to seek financial support for the difficulties they face, while a criminal court typically focuses on punishment.