When someone you love is taken from you, you want to know why, you want to reverse it, you want relief. Unfortunately, some of these solutions and answers are easier to come by than others. As the heir or personal representative of someone who passed because of another’s wrongdoing, you have legal options for getting financial relief. Money doesn’t fix tragedy, but it’s important for negligent and wrongful actors to be held responsible.
If you’ve suffered a personal tragedy, we are very sorry for any loss you have had to endure. At Morris Injury Law, we can help you get relief. Our personal injury firm focuses on helping the victims of others’ negligence and misconduct recover damages in civil court.
How Often Does Someone in the United States Die Because of Another Person’s Actions (or Inaction)?
Many of the leading causes of death in the United States are diseases and other illnesses. But a significant number of Americans die each year at the hands of another. If you have a loved one who died at the hands of another, you might have multiple legal options for seeking justice. A civil option is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit against someone who committed a crime against your loved one. You can also file a wrongful death lawsuit against someone who was negligent toward your loved one.
Homicide Statistics in the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there were 24,576 deaths by homicide in the United States in 2020. Grieving families of homicide victims can find justice in criminal prosecution alone. These families can also choose to file wrongful death lawsuits in civil court.
Unintentional Injury Statistics in the United States
Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death in this country. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that unintentional injuries were the fourth leading cause of death in the United States in 2020. Out of the 200,955 unintentional injury deaths that occurred in the United States in 2020:
- 42,114 were unintentional falls,
- 40,698 were motor vehicle traffic deaths, and
- 87,404 were unintentional poisoning deaths.
Sadly, we can safely assume that many of these fatalities could have been avoided if third parties had acted with more care and vigilance.
In many cases, someone causing an unintentional, fatal injury to your loved one is not liable for a criminal offense. Also, the standard for convicting someone of a criminal offense is significantly higher than the standard for holding a wrongful actor accountable in civil court.
If your loved one died from an unintentional injury, a wrongful death lawsuit might be your best (or only) legal option for seeking justice against the perpetrator. We cannot change the past, but a good attorney can help grieving parties hold wrongful actors accountable. Las Vegas wrongful death attorneys can help grieving parties file wrongful death lawsuits and maximize their legal recoveries.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Personal tragedies can harm grieving families in so many lasting ways. Many people need legal recourse to help them handle the aftermath of their personal tragedies, and wrongful death lawsuits can help.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that allows certain individuals to sue someone whose negligence or wrongful acts caused the death of another. The defendant’s actions don’t have to rise to the level of criminal liability in a wrongful death suit. The law recognizes that people who hurt others through their unreasonable actions need to be held accountable for the pain they cause, even if they didn’t act with criminal intent.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 41.085, only heirs and personal representatives of a deceased person (or “decedent”) can file wrongful death lawsuits. These two groups have precise definitions under Nevada law, so let’s discuss them in detail.
A personal representative is someone who is responsible for handling, dividing, and closing a decedent’s estate after they die. Someone who qualifies under state rules can be a personal representative if they’re designated as such in the decedent’s will, or if they’re appointed. On behalf of the decedent’s estate, personal representatives can sue others who negligently or wrongfully caused the decedent’s death.
For the purposes of a wrongful death lawsuit, an heir is anyone who could have inherited from the decedent’s estate if the decedent passed without a will. Heirs differ depending on the makeup of the decedent’s family. Under NRS 134.040 through 134.120, the following people are heirs in the following scenarios:
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse and children, the spouse and the children are heirs;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse and children who have already passed, the spouse, the living children (if any), and the deceased children’s offspring (if any) are heirs;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse and the decedent’s parents are heirs;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children or surviving parents, the spouse and the decedent’s siblings are heirs;
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children, offspring of children, surviving parents, or siblings, the surviving spouse is the only heir;
- If the decedent doesn’t have a surviving spouse or children, the decedent’s parents are heirs;
- If the decedent has living siblings but doesn’t have a surviving spouse, children, or surviving parents, the siblings are heirs;
- If the decedent has deceased siblings but doesn’t have a surviving spouse, children, or surviving parents, the offspring of the deceased siblings are heirs;
- If the decedent has no living siblings, surviving parents, surviving spouse, or children, the next of kin are heirs; or
- If the decedent doesn’t have a surviving spouse but does have children, the children are heirs.
Determining who is and isn’t an heir for a wrongful death lawsuit can be difficult. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one and you’re unsure whether you have standing to file a wrongful death suit, speak to a Las Vegas wrongful death lawyer about your options.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Your incredible loss can’t be reduced to dollars, but seeking compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is one way to hold wrong actors accountable. The financial award you can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit is meant to cover and lessen your losses in many ways. The types of damages you can recover differ depending on whether you’re an heir or a personal representative of the decedent. Whether you’re a representative or an heir, experienced wrongful death lawyers in Las Vegas can calculate how much your case is likely worth from a legal standpoint.
Damages Heirs Can Recover
When you’re grieving the loss of a family member, money isn’t the first thing on your mind. Family tragedy can cause not only emotional pain but also financial strain. You should be compensated for the suffering and the strain. If you are an heir filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you can recover damages for:
- Your grief or sorrow,
- Your loss of probable support from the decedent,
- Your loss of companionship from the decedent,
- Your loss of society from the decedent,
- Your loss of comfort and consortium from the decedent,
- The decedent’s pain,
- The decedent’s suffering, and
- Disfigurement of the decedent.
Creditors of the decedent’s estate cannot take any money from an heir’s wrongful death award to cover the decedent’s debt(s).
Damages Personal Representatives Can Recover
If you are the personal representative of someone’s estate and you are suing for wrongful death, the damages you can receive for the decedent’s estate include:
- Medical expenses,
- Funeral expenses,
- Punitive damages, and
- Other penalties to which the decedent would have been entitled.
Creditors of the decedent’s estate can use proceeds from a personal representative’s wrongful death award to pay for the decedent’s debt(s).
Heirs and personal representatives who choose to sue for the wrongful death of the same decedent can join their cases in court. If you have questions about this option and whether it’s best for you, speak to a wrongful death attorney about your options.
Who Is Legally Responsible for a Wrongful Death?
The person whose neglect or misconduct caused the death of your loved one is responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the wrongful actor isn’t always the only responsible party. What happens if the negligent or wrongful actor doesn’t have the resources to adequately compensate you? Or what if they have also passed away? The law allows you to recover from others responsible for the wrongful actor, including:
- The wrongful actor’s personal representative (if the wrongful actor passed away),
- The wrongful actor’s employer (if applicable), and
- The personal representative of the wrongful actor’s employer (if the employer is also responsible and is no longer alive).
Filing your wrongful death lawsuit against the correct defendants is crucial to the viability of your case and your ability to receive proper compensation.
Defendants who are liable in a wrongful death suit could come from anywhere and could be anyone. You might have wrongful death claim against someone who was:
- A Careless driver,
- A negligent doctor,
- An inept general contractor,
- An unqualified caretaker,
- An irresponsible pet owner, or
- A reckless individual.
The responsible party or parties could be anyone, but you want to make sure you identify the right individuals. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrong person can unnecessarily cost you time and money. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrong person could also jeopardize your opportunity for legal resolution. It’s best to speak to Las Vegas wrongful death lawyers to help ensure that you file your lawsuit against the right parties.
The Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Mourning after a tragedy is a very personal matter that takes time. However, if you’re contemplating a lawsuit and want to know when to hire a lawyer for wrongful death, know that it’s best to do so as soon as possible. Under NRS 11.190, you typically have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This time can move quickly when you’re handling a devastating loss, but an attorney can fulfill your important case deadlines and maximize your recovery.
What You Can Do to Prepare for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The best thing you can do to prepare for a wrongful death lawsuit is speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney. To prepare for an initial consultation with an attorney, it’s helpful to gather:
- Detailed notes about how your life has changed since the decedent passed,
- Invoices for funeral expenses,
- All the decedent’s related medical bills,
- Medical reports about the decedent’s fatal injury,
- Police reports about the fatal incident,
- Witness statements about the fatal incident,
- The decedent’s financial and wage statements, and
- Statements that show any kind of financial support the decedent provided to you or your family.
You also need to gather this information as soon as you can, regardless of whether you choose to hire counsel.
We understand if you’re unsure about whether you want to take legal action after a loved one dies. Talking the matter through with an attorney can help you gain clarity about your desires and preserve your rights if you choose to file a lawsuit.
You Don’t Have to Handle Grief Alone
One of the main things many in mourning need is support. At Morris Injury Law, we offer our clients the kind of one-on-one attention they don’t typically receive in large firm settings. Scott D. Morris is an experienced wrongful death attorney driven by a sense of justice and a commitment to improving the Nevada community with his legal expertise. Scott has won hundreds of thousands of dollars to over one million dollars for victims of others’ carelessness. If you’re going through a moment of tragedy, Scott can be your advocate, your champion, and your support. There’s no pressure. We can start with a simple conversation about your needs. Give us a call at 702-850-5555 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.