Benson & Bingham

Reno Wrongful Death Lawyer

Death is tragic in any situation. However, if you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, that can make the death even more tragic. It may even leave you in financial peril. If you’ve lost a loved one in a wrongful death scenario in Reno, Nevada, a court may award you financial compensation. You should contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss your eligibility to file a wrongful death claim.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death is a legal term for a case in which the intentional, reckless, or negligent actions of one person cause the death of another. A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed in civil court, and usually must be filed within two years from the date of the death. Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims, except the family seeks compensation for the death instead of the injured individual seeking compensation for his or her injuries. To obtain compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, the estate or family members must prove that another party’s negligence or intentional harm caused their loved one’s death and that this death caused monetary injury to surviving family members or to the decedent’s estate.

Wrongful death can occur in a variety of ways. Below we discuss some of the most common events that can result in the death of a person:

  • Motor vehicle or other accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Unsafe premises
  • Criminal behavior
  • Defective products, food, or drugs

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The following are permitted to file a wrongful death claim in Nevada:

  • A personal representative of the decedent’s estate
  • The surviving spouse, partner, or children of the decedent
  • The decedent’s parents if there is no surviving spouse or child
  • Others who can show that they were dependents of the decedent at the time of his or her death (for example, stepchildren)

The Types of Damages Awarded Through Wrongful Death Claims

According to state law , the damage awards that are available in wrongful death claims include compensation for the following:

  • Grief and sorrow
  • Loss of probable support
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • The pain, suffering, and disfigurement of the decedent prior to death
  • Medical and funeral expenses incurred on behalf of the decedent

Individuals may also seek punitive damages in cases where a defendant’s behavior was particularly reckless or intentional. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the estate or the decedent’s family, but rather to punish the defendant for his or her behavior.

How Is a Wrongful Death Claim Different Than a Criminal Trial?

Wrongful death is a civil action taken by the family members or estate of a decedent to recover expenses related to his or her death. Homicide is a criminal charge brought by the state. An individual charged with murder will likely serve time in prison if convicted. A defendant in a wrongful death claim, if found negligent, will be ordered to pay the family or estate of the decedent damages. While prosecutors in a criminal trial must prove that the defendant committed a criminal act beyond a reasonable doubt, wrongful death actions involve a lower standard of proof, and the family or estate must only prove that the defendant’s negligence more likely than not caused the death of the decedent and resulted in the damages that they suffered.

It should be noted, however, that it is possible to file a wrongful death claim against a person who is also facing criminal charges for the decedent’s death.

How Is a Wrongful Death Claim Different Than a Survival Action?

A survival action is another option available to the loved ones of a decedent. While wrongful death actions seek compensation for family members due to damages that they incurred due to a decedent’s death, a survival action deals with the damages done to the decedent before his or her death. While wrongful death and survival action claims can be handled separately, they are often combined into one action.

Reno Wrongful Death in the News

In late May 2019, the family of a drug-dependent woman from Texas obtained a $2 million settlement after she died in a Mineral County jail. Prosecutors had imprisoned the woman for unpaid parking tickets when, in the summer of 2017, she died after suffering a seizure during drug withdrawals. The suit alleged that the Mineral County Sheriff and his deputies showed “deliberate indifference” to the woman’s medical needs when they refused to take her to the hospital despite knowing that she was suffering drug withdrawals, had suffered seizures, and was requesting medical attention. According to the lawsuit, when the woman requested medical attention, officers simply handed her a mop and told her to clean up the vomit in her cell. She died less than a half hour later. In addition to the $2 million settlement, a federal judge will now monitor the treatment of inmates at the jail for the next four years.

In June 2018, the Washoe County Commission voted to pay $100,000 to a family who had filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a frequent gambler who died while detained in a county jail in 2015. The gambler stopped breathing in his cell following a violent struggle with casino security guards and members of the Reno Police Department after he was arrested on trespassing charges. He continued to struggle at the county jail as deputies attempted to remove his handcuffs. The Reno Police Department, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, and the Peppermill in Reno were all sued for the death, which according to the lawsuit, excessive force by the officers, deputies, and security guards caused. The City of Reno previously settled with the family for $25,000, and the Peppermill settled for $50,000 for its liability in the death.

In September of 2011 residents of Northern Nevada can never forget the tragic events that happened at the Reno Air Races. A modified North American P-51D Mustang operated by Jimmy Leeward crashed, killing himself and 10 people on the grounds of the show. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report in August 2012 noting that due to the heavily untested modifications done to the plane to help reduce drag, including reused single-use locknuts in the elevator trim tab system, led to the loss of control of the airplane and the resulting deaths of the innocent spectators. Multiple wrongful death suits ensued, whereby the plaintiffs settled for nearly $10 million dollars.

Contact a Reno Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

If you’ve lost a loved one in Reno due to negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm caused by another person, you deserve to have a skilled and compassionate attorney answer your legal questions and help you determine your eligibility for compensation. To schedule your free consultation, contact Benson & Bingham online or by calling (775) 600-6000.

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