The emotionally devastating announcement of the sudden and unexpected death of a family member or friend presents a void that words cannot fill. We understand families and friends need time to digest and mourn their loss. Simple everyday tasks or common events become difficult and confusing. As part of your healing process, surround yourself by loved ones. Make an effort to eat and sleep which is a monumental task but important to those left behind.
One of the natural first thoughts a family has is “what happened”? This is a critical question from a legal standpoint and an independent investigation needs to preformed. We gather all of the facts, talk to witnesses, co-workers or others surrounding the unfortunate event. An exploration and methodical analysis by our team of legal and analytical experts in the immediate stages is of the highest importance to determine fault finding facts to hold the negligent party responsible. A proper inquiry sets the foundation for financial compensation and justice.
In Nevada, a lawsuit may be filed for the loss of a loved one, family member or friend when the decedent passes away due to the negligent acts or misconduct by a third party. Any deviation by the responsible party to act as a reasonable prudent person may result in a wrongful death claim. To file a wrongful death claim, the wrongdoer does not have to have the intent cause death, but rather has to have acted negligently. A wrongful death claim can be brought by the decedents heirs to hold those legally liable responsible for the death.
Under Nevada Law, Wrongful death is separate statutory claim that can be pled in conjunction with negligence, recklessness, or another theory of liability. This is codified in NRS 41.085.
ACTIONS FOR DEATH BY WRONGFUL ACT OR NEGLECT
NRS 41.085 Heirs and personal representatives may maintain action.
1. As used in this section, “heir” means a person who, under the laws of this State, would be entitled to succeed to the separate property of the decedent if the decedent had died intestate. The term does not include a person who is deemed to be a killer of the decedent pursuant to chapter 41B of NRS, and such a person shall be deemed to have predeceased the decedent as set forth in NRS 41B.330.
2. When the death of any person, whether or not a minor, is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, the heirs of the decedent and the personal representatives of the decedent may each maintain an action for damages against the person who caused the death, or if the wrongdoer is dead, against the wrongdoer’s personal representatives, whether the wrongdoer died before or after the death of the person injured by the wrongdoer. If any other person is responsible for the wrongful act or neglect, or if the wrongdoer is employed by another person who is responsible for the wrongdoer’s conduct, the action may be maintained against that other person, or if the other person is dead, against the other person’s personal representatives.
3. An action brought by the heirs of a decedent pursuant to subsection 2 and the cause of action of that decedent brought or maintained by the
decedent’s personal representatives which arose out of the same wrongful act or neglect may be joined.
4. The heirs may prove their respective damages in the action brought pursuant to subsection 2 and the court or jury may award each person pecuniary damages for the person’s grief or sorrow, loss of probable support, companionship, society, comfort and consortium, and damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement of the decedent. The proceeds of any judgment for damages awarded under this subsection are not liable for any debt of the decedent.
5. The damages recoverable by the personal representatives of a decedent on behalf of the decedent’s estate include:
(a) Any special damages, such as medical expenses, which the decedent incurred or sustained before the decedent’s death, and funeral expenses; and
(b) Any penalties, including, but not limited to, exemplary or punitive damages, that the decedent would have recovered if the decedent had lived,
Ê but do not include damages for pain, suffering or disfigurement of the decedent. The proceeds of any judgment for damages awarded under this subsection are liable for the debts of the decedent unless exempted by law.
(Added to NRS by 1979, 458; A 1995, 2667; 1999, 1354)
A wrongful death claim may be brought by the heirs of the decedent. In Nevada, heirs would include the parents, spouse, domestic partner, children, and brothers and sisters of the decedent. Often times families feel overwhelmed navigating the appointment of a personal representative or guardian of the decedents estate. We will assist and file the appropriate documents with the courts to establish an Estate which has the right to collect funeral costs and medical expenses. Further an estate should be established to obtain important medical records and autopsy reports if available. In certain circumstances we will have an independent autopsy preformed.
Specifically, who can bring such claims is covered under NRS 134 or “succession” statutes. This outlines who is a legal heir and had rights to bring a lawsuit. Family relationship may not be enough, and each family member has vested rights. For example, Under NRS 134 parents may lose claims if the deceased child is married or has children. Therefore, it is important to recognize who has legal rights to pursue the wrongful death claims under NRS 134 as a first step in the wrongful death analysis.
The legal team at Benson & Bingham has a proven history of successfully pursuing various types of wrongful death claims. The list below is an example of the scenarios which we have succeeded on behalf of families:
Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident – Theses accidents are often the result of distracted or drunk driving, running red lights, following to closely, driving while fatigued, driving to fast for condition and speeding. Many of the wrongful death claims handled by our firm involve semi trucks, tractor-trailers, busses or large commercial vehicles.
Construction Accidents or Unsafe Work Conditions – These accidents often involve OSHA violations leaving the possibility for falls off of platforms, scaffolding, roofs, through construction holes/cavities, or objects and equipment falling or collapsing onto the decedent, electrocution and burns, and pinch accidents. Failure to provide or implement safety harnesses or restraints. While operating industrial equipment, proper clothing must be observed and demanded by the employer to avoid being grabbed and pulled into the machinery.
Pinch Accidents – Those involving the decedent being placed between two objects. We often see these incidents taking place at construction sites. However, they also take place between pedestrians and vehicles in parking lots/garages or loading docks.
Defective Machinery or Equipment – Defective work equipment which does not preform as the user expected or manufacturer intended. These also include airbag failure, brake failure, and tire failure. On the job or at ones home we see consumers sustaining fatal injuries from non-compliant appliances, ladders, lawn equipment, and wood chippers.
Medical Malpractice – These cases provide the highest level of difficulty when determining or establishing liability. Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, overdosing, failure to treat, sepsis or MRSA, surgical errors, or faulty medical equipment are often involved.
Bicycle Accidents – Many times the negligent conduct of a driver in a motor vehicle is the direct cause of the accident. Failure to provide the cyclist the right of way, speeding, and failure to pay full attention. Many of these incidents take place in scenic areas. With the popular growth of cyclists sharing the roadway, fatal accidents have also increased.
In Nevada, the Estate is entitled to recover all medical expenses surrounding the event and funeral or burial costs. The heirs may recover damages for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and the loss of financial support including lost wages. Often times spouses and children are dependent upon the decedents income for basic necessities such as housing, vehicles, food and common utilities. Further, the heirs are entitled to future estimated earnings the decedent would have accumulated over his or her lifetime and average work life expectancy. At Benson & Bingham we retain economic experts to help ascertain the full value of a families loss. In certain cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the negligent party or to deter the defendant from engaging in similar conduct which formed the basis of the lawsuit. NRS 41.085(5)(a) & (b) cover the rights of the estate to collect such damages. In contrast, survivor Plaintiffs who file wrongful death actions are allowed to collect the pain and suffering, sorrow and grief, loss of consortium, economic damages caused by the wrongful death. Often the representatives of the estate and the survivor plaintiffs are the same people. Whether an estate should be set up and used in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the specific facts of the case as it may not make financial sense to do so, and could complicate matters.
If your family member or spouse was deprived of life as the result of an individual or companies negligence, contact our firm. The experienced legal team at Benson & Bingham can assist navigating the critical facts leading up to decedents passing, implore investigators and accident reconstruction engineers, and establish an Estate. Our team of compassionate and highly qualified attorneys are prepared to assist your family through these difficult times. Call us today for a no obligation consultation wherein we will evaluate your claim and guide you with clarity through these difficult times.