Nevada, like all states, has specific laws governing wrongful death claims. In this article, we'll examine some key points of these laws, including who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada, the types of damages that could be available if the lawsuit succeeds, and the time limit for filing a wrongful death claim in the state's civil courts.
Nevada law defines a "wrongful death" as a death that is "caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another" person or entity. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.085 (2021).) In other words, a wrongful death occurs when one person dies as a result of the legal fault of another person or entity, including by:
A wrongful death claim can be understood as a type of personal injury claim in which the injured person is no longer available to bring his or her case to court. Instead, someone else must file the lawsuit in order to establish liability and seek damages.
As in other types of personal injury lawsuits, the defendant's liability in a successful wrongful death case is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation ("damages") that the court orders the defendant to pay to the deceased person's survivors or estate. This is one major difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal homicide case, where a conviction can result in jail or prison time, fines paid to the state, probation, and other penalties.
Another big difference between a criminal prosecution for homicide and a wrongful death civil lawsuit: In a criminal case, the accused's guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a very high bar for the prosecution to clear. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant's liability must be shown only "by a preponderance of the evidence," meaning it's more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the death. It is possible, though, for a single act to result in criminal charges and a wrongful death claim: A defendant can be sued for wrongful death in civil court while facing criminal charges related to the same death.
Get more details about proving liability in a wrongful death case.
Nevada law allows the following parties to file a wrongful death claim in the state's civil courts:
Read more about who has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Nevada imposes a time limit, set by a law known as a "statute of limitations," on filing wrongful death claims. A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed in a Nevada court within two years of the date of the deceased person's death. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 11.190(4)(e) (2021).) If a wrongful death claim is not filed within the two-year time limit, the personal representative or surviving family will almost certainly lose the right to file the lawsuit at all.
In a successful Nevada wrongful death lawsuit, the court orders the defendant to pay "damages"—or the plaintiff's claimed losses—to the deceased person's survivors or estate.
If the personal representative of the deceased person's estate files the wrongful death lawsuit, the estate can be awarded damages to compensate for certain types of losses, including:
If a family member of the deceased person files the wrongful death lawsuit, the family can recover damages to compensate for other types of losses, including:
Get more details on damages that might be available in a wrongful death case.
If you're considering a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada, it's a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney. Wrongful death claims can be complicated, and an experienced lawyer can explain how the law might apply to your specific case.