Every state has its own laws regarding wrongful death. In this article, we take a look at the different Nevada laws that affect wrongful death lawsuits filed in the state. We'll start with Nevada's definition of wrongful death and the time limits for filing this kind of claim in court. Then, we'll look at who may file such a lawsuit and what damages may be available if the claim succeeds.
What is Considered "Wrongful Death" in Nevada?
A wrongful death claim is a civil remedy that is available in Nevada when the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of one party causes the death of another person. A wrongful death claim can be understood as a personal injury claim in which the injured person is no longer available to bring his or her own claim into a Nevada court. Instead, someone else must bring the claim to court to establish liability and seek damages.
What is the Time Limit for Filing a Nevada Wrongful Death Case?
Nevada law imposes a time limit, or "statute of limitations," on wrongful death claims. A wrongful death claim must be filed in a Nevada court within two years of the date of the deceased person's death.
If a wrongful death claim is not filed within the two-year time limit, the defendant will almost certainly file a motion to dismiss the case, and the court will grant the request. If you are running close to the end of the two-year filing period, it may be time to speak to an experienced Nevada wrongful death lawyer to learn how the deadline applies to your case, and to make sure that your legal options are preserved.
Who May File a Nevada Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Nevada allows the following parties to file a wrongful death claim:
- the personal representative of the deceased person's estate
- the surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children of the deceased person, and
- the parents of the deceased person, if there is no surviving spouse or surviving child.
Other individuals may be allowed to file a civil claim for wrongful death if they can demonstrate to the court that they were actually dependent on the deceased person at the time of death. For instance, stepchildren or stepparents who were relying on the deceased person to support them may be able to establish a wrongful death claim in court. Likewise, a child who is not related to the deceased person -- but who can prove that the deceased person supported him or her for at least half of each calendar year -- may be able to bring a wrongful death claim and to receive damages if the claim succeeds.
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. This means that it must be filed in court by the personal representative or surviving family members directly, and that liability in the suit is expressed solely in terms of money damages. By contrast, a criminal charge for homicide is filed by the prosecuting attorney, and a conviction may come with a sentence to imprisonment, probation, or other penalties.
A wrongful death claim may be filed in Nevada even if a criminal case based on the same death is already in progress.
What Damages are Available in a Nevada Wrongful Death Claim?
The types of wrongful death damages available in Nevada wrongful death claims are governed by Nevada Revised Statutes section 1.085. They generally fall into one of two categories: special damages and penalties.
Special damages are damages actually suffered by the deceased person, the estate, or the surviving family members. They include awards for losses like:
- reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- medical expenses resulting from the deceased person's final illness or injury
- property damage incurred in the events that caused the death
- lost wages and benefits, including those the deceased could reasonably have been expected to earn if he or she had lived
- loss of companionship, care, and affection of the deceased person, and
- loss of benefits to heirs.
In addition, exemplary or punitive damages may be available in some Nevada wrongful death cases. Unlike special damages, punitive damages are not awarded to compensate the estate or the family for the loss of the deceased person. Instead, they are awarded as a way to penalize particularly bad conduct, such as intentional or reckless behavior, that resulted in death. Courts in Nevada use punitive damages as a way to "send a message" that egregious behavior will not be tolerated, especially when it results in death.