It’s tough to think about life without a loved one, but when someone dies as the result of another person’s negligence, you could be facing exactly that type of uncertain future. As a surviving spouse, there is the devastating emotional toll you feel as your trusted marital partner is no longer able to provide love and companionship. Children may also feel a range of emotions, including grief, depression, and anxiety. It’s hard to explain to young ones that their parent will not be around to offer guidance and support.
Through these difficult times, you must also deal with financial hardships. There are bills mounting related to your loved one’s passing. The costs of treating the victim’s last illness, funeral and burial costs, and other expenses add up. Plus, there is the increased burden of maintaining your family now that your loved one’s income is gone. Without the deceased’s contribution to the household, both financially and personally, you’ll experience a significant void.
To speak with a compassionate and experienced Las Vegas wrongful death lawyer, at Paul Padda Law, we are highly-skilled Las Vegas personal injury attorneys and can help you and your family through this difficult time. Call us at (702) 366-1888 or through our online form.
Why Speak with a Wrongful Death Lawyer
While it could never bring back your loved one, Nevada law does allow certain individuals to seek a financial award for the losses you experience after the deceased person’s death. Through a wrongful death action, you can obtain compensation for your out-of-pocket costs, as well as for the personal and emotional impacts you sustain as a family.
The wrongful death lawyers at Paul Padda Law in Las Vegas have the experience and in-depth knowledge necessary to fight for your rights. At the same time, our wrongful death lawyers have the compassion and understanding to help you cope with your situation. We will take on the tough legal battles involved with pursuing the party responsible for your loved one’s death, allowing you to focus on your own healing.
With compassionate and skilled legal representation, family members and/or the deceased’s estate can typically recover compensation for the financial support the deceased would have provided if they had lived, the loss of care and loss of companionship experienced by the survivors, the costs associated with any pre-death medical treatment, and the funeral expenses.
Liability in Nevada Wrongful Death Cases
Paul Padda Law represents clients in cases, where surviving family members have lost a loved one due to another person’s actions. Most wrongful death cases are based upon negligence, where someone acted carelessly and caused the victim’s death. There are two different theories of liability when a person dies as a result of negligence:
- The victim’s family members suffer various types of losses as result of their loved one’s passing under sudden, unexpected circumstances. These individuals can sue the responsible party for compensation to cover these losses.
- The victim sustained life-ending injuries, giving him or her the right to sue upon a type of personal injury case, called a “survival” action. The concept is the same as a negligence case, but the difference is that the victim died instead of merely suffering injuries. The plaintiff in this type of case is the victim’s personal representative, who acts on behalf of the decedent to recover compensation.
Under Nevada law, these types of actions can be joined together so that plaintiffs can pursue the responsible party in one case. However, a plaintiff must have a certain status to sue for compensation, a legal term called “standing.”
Plaintiffs in a Wrongful Death Case: There are two types of individuals that have proper standing to sue as a plaintiff in a wrongful death case:
- Heirs of the Deceased Person: According to the statute, these are the people that would inherit the property of the victim if he or she died without a will. Typically, they would be the surviving spouse and minor children; parents of the decedent may maintain a wrongful death action if there is no surviving spouse or child. In some cases, a stepchild who relied upon the deceased person for financial support may also sue for compensation.
- The Personal Representative of the Deceased Person’s Estate: Because the victim perished, another party must bring the case to court on his or her behalf. The individual acting as the personal representative in the deceased’s estate, either through designation in a will or through appointment by a Nevada court, would bring a lawsuit to recover losses.
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Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Case
The theory behind damages in a wrongful death case is that the deceased’s relatives suffer harm due to the victim’s death. In a survival action, damages are available to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering he or she suffered due to the life-ending injuries. In general, these losses include:
- Economic Damages: There are certain damages that have a definite dollar value because they’re ascertainable through documentation, such as:
Medical Bills: The deceased victim likely incurred significant medical bills for the treatment provided before and up to death. Regardless of the decedent’s passing, physicians, surgeons, emergency medical technicians, emergency room staff, ambulance services, and other healthcare professionals will still expect payment. The victim’s estate and heirs are entitled to reimbursement to cover these expenses.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses: The deceased’s passing will incur costs of preparing and transporting the body, funeral and burial, cremation, memorial costs, and related expenses. Nevada law allows the personal representative and surviving family to seek compensation for these amounts as well.
- Lost Wages: If the decedent was out of work for any period of time between the incident that caused injuries and death, it’s possible to recover these lost wages. This is especially important where the victim was unable to work for a significant amount of time before passing.
- Property Damage: When the incident caused by the responsible party’s negligence results in damage to property owned by the deceased, it’s possible to obtain compensation to cover the costs of repair or replacement.
- Non-Economic Damages: Surviving heirs suffer additional losses, even though there may not be an actual dollar value attached to these damages. Non-economic damages fall into separate categories depending on the status of the claimant.
- Non-Economic Damages Available to Heirs: The victim’s surviving family members may recover damages for the losses they experience themselves, as separate from what the victim suffered.
- Loss of Consortium: Damages for loss of consortium cover the losses a spouse experiences due to the void left by passing of his or her partner. Presumably, the victim contributed services to the household, such as mowing the lawn, caring for minor children, maintaining the home, and similar tasks. Plus, the surviving spouse suffers losses related to the marital relationship that cannot be expressed in dollar value, such as love, affection, companionship, advice, and sexual relations.
- Loss of Support: The decedent also contributed financially to the household, for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children. This loss of support is separate from lost wages, which can be established by reviewing pay stubs and tax records for the time period between the incident that caused death and the victim’s actual passing. Instead, loss of support refers to the income the victim would have earned had he or she not perished.
- Non-Economic Damages Available to the Decedent’s Estate: Because a survival action is akin to a personal injury case, similar damages are available. The estate stands in the shoes of the decedent to recover losses suffered by him or her, as separate from surviving family members.
- Pain and Suffering: The decedent no doubt experienced horrible pain and suffering in the incident caused by the responsible party, which may range from mild discomfort to severe agony. Though the victim is unable to testify, it’s possible to prove pain and suffering through use of medical professionals. Experts may testify regarding the type of injuries, medication prescribed for pain, and the level of suffering a patient with similar injuries would experience.
- Emotional Distress: The decedent likely suffered emotional distress as a result of the life-ending injuries, due to the devastating impact on his or her life. Medical experts are useful for establishing emotional distress through psychiatric records, diagnosis of a mental disorder, or prescriptions for emotional conditions.
Limitation on Wrongful Death Cases and Damages
There are multiple statutes and case law rules that limit different aspects of a wrongful death case, whether through a bar on bringing a lawsuit or reduction of compensation.
- Non-Economic Damages Available to the Estate: The amount of compensation a personal representative may be able to recover as non-economic damages may be limited if the victim’s death was instantaneous. The legal presumption is that the decedent didn’t experience pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of consortium because death came quickly. This would not impact the damages available to the surviving spouse, children, or parents, however.
- Statutory Cap: Nevada has enacted a statutory cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. The plaintiff in a wrongful death case may recover up to $350,000, though there is no limit on the amount of economic damages available. This statutory cap only applies in cases alleges professional negligence against a healthcare provider.
- Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases: Under Nevada law, there is a limited period of time to file a lawsuit, whether as the heir or personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Generally, you have two years from the date of the incident that caused life-ending injuries to the victim. However, this date may refer to the date of discovering injuries in certain cases.
For instance, some instances of medical negligence may not become apparent for some time after the actual incident that caused injury. In this type of medical malpractice action, the plaintiff would have two years from the date that the injuries were discovered.
- Actions of the Deceased: Certain legal concepts may also reduce compensation in a wrongful death case because the actions of the victim are a factor.
- Assumption of the Risk: This doctrine is a legal defense that shifts the responsibility for death to the victim who voluntarily engaged in potentially risk activities. Under Nevada law, a person assumed the risk of injury if her or she: Had actual knowledge of the risks involved with the activity; Fully appreciated the injuries that could occur from engaging in the activity; and, Either voluntarily accepted the risk through express agreement or by implying acceptance through conduct. Note that assumption of the risk is a complete defense to a wrongful death lawsuit. In other words, the responsible party could raise assumption of the risk and completely avoid paying compensation to the decedent’s heirs and personal representative.
- Comparative Negligence: If a victim’s conduct is partly to blame for his or her death, Nevada’s comparative negligence statute operates to reduce the total compensation in a wrongful death case.The law is one of modified comparative fault, which looks to how much the deceased’s own actions contributed to his or her demise. A percentage of fault is assigned to the victim’s conduct, and this amount reduces that compensation available to heirs and the decedent’s personal representative. However, where the deceased’s is more than 50 percent to blame, the situation can act as a complete bar to recovery.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Actions
Lawsuits based upon the theory of wrongful death can arise in almost any situation where the negligence of another party is a factor.
Car Accidents: Among the most common wrongful death scenarios is a traffic accident, where another motorist’s conduct leads to a collision. At times, death is instantaneous; in other cases, the decedent will succumb to injuries after the incident. The deceased’s heirs and personal representative can pursue the responsible driver for compensation.
Medical Malpractice: Medical negligence may cause death or life-ending injuries, such as through misdiagnosis of a condition, delayed treatment of a diagnosed condition, errors in prescribing medication, mistakes during surgery, and other incidents. Though the statutory cap applies, heirs and a personal representative can sue the healthcare provider for economic and noneconomic damages.
Defective Products: A defective product may cause death because it was manufactured or designed improperly, or because it lacked proper labeling for warnings or usage. The victim’s heirs and personal representative can pursue the manufacturer, distributor, or other entities involved with producing the item under products liability law.
Workplace Accidents: In most cases where a person is injured on the job, Nevada’s workers’ compensation laws step in to offer financial benefits. Likewise, the surviving relatives of a worker who dies in a work-related incident will receive death benefits through the state workers’ comp program.
However, there are certain situations where a spouse, children, and personal representative may file a wrongful death action to recover for their losses. The employer’s failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance gives rise to a cause of action. Plus, the intentional conduct of the employer or another employee may provide surviving family members to sue for wrongful death.
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Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer After Your Loss
The attorneys at Paul Padda Law have extensive experience in wrongful death cases, helping clients throughout Las Vegas recover compensation for the losses they suffer due to a loved one’s passing. Wrongful death cases are extremely complicated under Nevada law, and the court and procedural rules make them even more complex. Plus, you could be up against the insurer for the responsible party, a company that likely has a large legal team and a significant budget to defend its interests. Please contact our wrongful death lawyer today via our online form or at (702) 366-1888 to schedule a free case evaluation.