Difference Between Accidental Deaths and Wrongful Deaths
Suppose you’ve recently lost a beloved family member in the most tragic way possible. We understand dealing with any fallout and legal proceedings is the last thing on your mind. You are considering your options under the law, but the terms can seem confusing or overwhelming even with a clear mind. What exactly is an accidental death? What is wrongful death? How do you know which category fits the definition of your family’s tragedy, and how do you avoid making a mistake? Allow our caring, experienced team at De Castroverde Law Group to look after you every step of the way.
The Las Vegas personal injury attorneys with the De Castroverde Law Group, are here to help. We have extensive experience in both accidental and wrongful death claims and have put together this short guide to help you understand the differences and make the best decision possible.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
Nevada law considers it a wrongful death when someone dies due to a wrongful act or through recklessness or neglect. The wrongful or reckless act does not need to be intentional, meaning that the person who commits it can be held liable on the wrongful or neglectful basis of the act alone.
Wrongful death cases are not limited to specific kinds of incidents. They can evolve from medical treatment, car accidents, occupational hazards, products liability, or criminal activities. Wrongful death lawsuits provide compensation to those who survive the victim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The law allows wrongful death suits from the heirs of the person who died and their personal representatives. So, for instance, if one partner in a marriage dies, the surviving spouse would be considered an heir with the right to file a wrongful death case.
If the person was unmarried and had no children, then law indicates that the heirs would be considered their parents, followed by their siblings, followed by their next closest relative. A personal representative is generally the executor for the person’s estate who may also be an heir.
Wrongful Death Damages
Under the law, heirs can recover damages for:
- Grief or sorrow.
- Loss of financial support, both real and probable.
- Loss of companionship, society, comfort, and consortium.
- Damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement of the person who died.
Heirs can also seek compensation for medical and funeral expenses for their loved one, as well as punitive damages. Punitive damages differ in that they are intended to punish the person who committed the wrongful act and send a message to others that there is a price for negligent, reckless, or criminal behavior.
What Is an Accidental Death?
By contrast, accidental deaths are unanticipated, resulting from incidents or actions that no one could reasonably foresee or predict would lead to tragic consequences. These could come from a car accident, a slip or fall, a drowning incident in a pool or lake, or other types of similar events.
Sometimes the line between wrongful and accidental death isn’t easily distinguished. Someone who runs a red light and is then killed in a collision is an accident victim. If, however, someone runs a red light and, as a result, causes a fatal accident, that person may be liable under wrongful death statutes in Nevada.
In the insurance world, accidental death may have an even broader definition. According to Petersen’s International Underwriters, under accidental insurance policies, an accident is considered any death from circumstances other than natural causes.
As a general matter, accidental deaths do not lead to civil litigation as there is no one to hold responsible. The incident happened by accident. A critical piece of evidence in determining accidental death is the ruling of the coroner or local medical examiner.
What Happens if I File the Wrong Claim?
A court may dismiss a claim filed under wrongful death statutes if an investigation determines that a person’s death was accidental. Sometimes that line is difficult to spot. Other mistakes can also happen, such as filing a suit in the wrong jurisdiction.
The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group are here to ensure your rights are protected. Let us provide you with a no-obligation assessment of the circumstances of the death of your loved one so that you can make the proper legal decisions. If a wrongful death claim is not possible, there may be other legal avenues to obtain compensation.
Statute of Limitations
It is wise to consult a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Nevada law puts a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death cases. That means if you file your lawsuit after the two-year period expires, a court may decide to dismiss your case as untimely. The two years begin on the date of your loved one’s death. While that seems like a long time, there is much work to be done to assess and properly investigate your case before it can be filed. Don’t wait until the last minute to seek counsel from wrongful death attorneys.
It’s also wise to begin the process early because attorneys representing you may be able to negotiate a settlement without having to file litigation. Your attorneys may even be able to resolve the case in discussions with the involved insurance companies. It won’t bring back your loved one, of course, but receiving quick compensation for their death can help speed a sense of closure for you.
The Experienced Counsel You Need After a Wrongful Death
It’s upsetting whenever you lose a friend or family member, but it’s even worse if it involves a wrongful or accidental death. You are filled with questions about what to do next and your right under the law. Let the De Castroverde Law Group attorneys guide you through these uncertain moments. Our personal injury and accident teams believe in going out of their way to deliver the individual, one-on-one attention each client deserves and are committed to securing the best possible outcome for each of their clients. Call us or contact us today online for a free consultation.