5 Steps on How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Nevada

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Friedman and Throop
How To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A wrongful death claim in Nevada allows families to seek compensation when a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence. Whether the death was caused by a car accident or medical malpractice, bringing a wrongful death lawsuit to court can help cover medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, and more. It’s a way for families to address the financial and personal impact of a preventable tragedy. Filing a wrongful death claim can be a complicated process, and navigating these procedural hurdles requires a deep understanding of Nevada’s wrongful death laws and claims process. This post provides an overview of how to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada, distinguishes between wrongful death and survival action, and examines how settlements are determined.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

To understand how to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s crucial to grasp the key elements and circumstances surrounding this type of claim. The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to seek compensation and hold responsible parties (individuals, companies, government entities, etc.) accountable when someone dies due to the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another person or entity. Essentially, it aims to provide financial support to the surviving family members who have suffered losses as a result of the death. Typically, there must be surviving family members or beneficiaries who have suffered harm as a result of the wrongful death—these individuals are usually the ones eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In many cases, a personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate is the one who files the lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members. To win a wrongful death lawsuit, there must be evidence that proves the liable party’s actions directly caused or contributed to the death. Additionally, the claim must be filed within Nevada’s statute of limitations period, two years from the death or date of discovery. As discussed in our other blog post, “Exploring 4 Common Wrongful Death Lawsuits with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Reno,” the most frequent types of wrongful death claims involve car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and workplace accidents. 

Survival Action vs. Wrongful Death in Nevada

Before delving into the process of filing a wrongful death claim, let’s examine the distinctions between survival action vs. wrongful death. The primary difference lies in who benefits from the claim. A survival action seeks to compensate the estate for harm the deceased person suffered before their death. In contrast, a wrongful death claim aims to compensate the surviving family for the harm caused by the person’s death. In the context of Nevada law, a survival action empowers the estate of a deceased victim to pursue compensation for injuries incurred before the victim’s death. This encompasses various forms of damages such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages. Notably, the executor of the estate manages the legal proceedings associated with survival action claims. Conversely, wrongful death claims center around the damages directly resulting from the death itself, e.g. funeral expenses. It is important to note that these two actions can be combined, but they serve distinct purposes. While survival actions address pre-death injuries, lawsuits, and losses, wrongful death claims specifically focus on the consequences of the individual’s death.

5 Steps on How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Step 1: Gathering Information and Evidence

To file a wrongful death lawsuit, the first step involves collecting essential information and evidence related to the incident. This includes official reports such as police, accident, and autopsy reports to determine the cause of death and establish legal responsibility. Medical records detailing injuries, treatment, and expenses are essential for quantifying damages, while employment and income records aid in calculating lost future earnings. Documenting funeral expenses, collecting eyewitness statements, and obtaining any relevant photos or videos from the incident scene are also vital. Thoroughly gathering this evidence forms the foundation for a viable wrongful death claim, and consulting an experienced attorney is recommended for guidance in this process.

Step 2: Identifying Eligible Parties

Only certain people can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada. It can be done by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, or by their close family members if there’s no will. If a married person is wrongly killed, their spouse or children can file the lawsuit. If the person wasn’t married or didn’t have kids, then their parents or siblings can do it. Other people, like boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancées, or close friends, can’t file this kind of lawsuit in Nevada, even if the person who died mentioned them in their will.

Step 3: Consulting with a Wrongful Death Attorney

Working with a seasoned personal injury attorney early on can make all the difference in seeking a just outcome. An attorney can advise on the viability of the claim, navigate complex legal procedures, determine the scope of damages, identify liable parties, and represent the plaintiff in reaching a fair settlement or winning in court. It is advisable to consult with a law firm that specializes in wrongful death litigation and has a proven track record, such as the Friedman & Throop wrongful death attorneys in Reno. With decades of experience, they have the expertise to build strong wrongful death cases and withstand challenges from insurance defense lawyers.

Step 4: Filing the Lawsuit and Meeting Requirements

The next critical step is filing the wrongful death lawsuit and meeting all the procedural requirements in Nevada. The lawsuit will need to be filed in the correct court, either state or federal depending on the circumstances. There are also strict time limits that must be followed. In Nevada, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within 2 years from the date of death or date of discovery, as per the statute of limitations. The eligible claimant or claimants from Step 2 become the plaintiff in the lawsuit. They can file the lawsuit on their own or through an attorney. Whoever is deemed responsible for the death, whether an individual, company or other entity, becomes the defendant. Proper notice must be provided to the defendant informing them a lawsuit has been filed. The plaintiffs must clearly state their allegations and basis of the wrongful death claim in the complaint paperwork. Sufficient evidence must be gathered and presented to prove liability on the part of the defendant for the wrongful death.

Step 5: Navigating Litigation

Once the lawsuit is filed, the litigation process begins. This involves various pre-trial procedures like discovery, depositions, interrogatories, requests for documentation, and negotiations between the attorneys. The discovery process allows both sides to obtain evidence and information from each other and witnesses. Depositions are out-of-court statements made under oath that allow attorneys to question parties and witnesses. Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered under oath. Attorneys will negotiate for a possible settlement before trial, but if no agreement is reached, the case goes to trial where a judge and/or jury hears arguments and evidence from both sides. Witness testimony and expert opinions are presented and cross-examined. After the trial, the judge or jury decides if the defendant is legally liable for damages and, if so, determines the compensation amount. 

Most personal injury cases get resolved through negotiation, allowing grieving families to sidestep lengthy and expensive trials. Although trials hold the potential for higher compensation, they come with risks—the defendant may not be found liable, and the litigation process can take years. Even if the defendant loses, they can appeal and prolong the process even more.

How are Wrongful Death Settlements Calculated?

Calculating wrongful death settlements involves considering compensatory and punitive damages—compensatory damages aim to compensate for actual losses, while punitive damages are intended to punish and deter wrongdoing. Several factors play a role in determining the total settlement amount, including the deceased person’s expected earnings and benefits throughout their full life expectancy (i.e. lost wages, retirement benefits, insurance, and other compensation); pain and suffering caused by the loss of companionship; funeral and burial expenses; and medical bills and debts incurred by the deceased, which must now be covered by the family. Factors like the deceased’s health, age, and circumstances leading to death also help determine the settlement amount. Each case is unique, and an experienced wrongful death Nevada attorney can help navigate these complexities to seek a fair settlement. 

Seeking Justice through Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Understanding how to file a wrongful death claim in Nevada is essential for families seeking justice and compensation in the aftermath of a tragic loss. Maneuvering through the complexities of gathering evidence, identifying eligible parties, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney, filing the lawsuit, and navigating litigation requires expertise and guidance. 

The death of a loved one is painful enough without having to deal with the complex legal processes. However, taking legal action can help families seek justice and closure after their loss. The compensation won through a wrongful death lawsuit can also provide much-needed financial support for funeral costs and ongoing living expenses. If you’ve lost a loved one and are pursuing wrongful death damages, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced wrongful death attorneys at the Law Offices of Friedman & Throop. Our team is committed to handling the legal complexities and negotiations on your behalf, allowing you the space to focus on grieving and healing. For additional information, we encourage you to visit our Wrongful Death page, book a free consultation, or contact us at 775-322-6500.