What defines a wrongful death claim?

While losing a loved one is never easy, the loss can be especially traumatic if it results from another’s negligence. A loved one’s untimely death puts a significant emotional and financial burden on your family. In Nevada, you may be able to take legal action against the responsible party. This guide from De Castroverde will help you understand what’s involved in a wrongful death lawsuit and how you can get the compensation you and your family deserve.

How Does Nevada Define Wrongful Death?

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According to NRS 41.085, Nevada defines wrongful death as a situation in which a victim dies as a result of another person’s unlawful actions. Wrongful death can occur whether the person at fault was acting intentionally or negligently. For a court to find the defendant liable, it would need to find that a person died due to the defendant’s unlawful actions. Additionally, the plaintiff would have to prove that they’re a rightful heir or personal representative of the victim (also known as the decedent) and that they incurred damages due to the victim’s death.

It’s important to note that wrongful death is statutory, meaning it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the defendant’s guilt. The court considers evidence such as surveillance footage, eyewitness and expert testimonies, and medical records rather than referencing rulings from past cases. Common examples of situations that can lead to wrongful death cases include:

  • Medical malpractice.
  • Criminal behavior.
  • Car accidents.
  • Occupational hazards.
  • Product defects.
  • Death during a supervised activity.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In Nevada, you can only file a wrongful death lawsuit if you’re a personal representative of the decedent’s estate or an intestate heir. An intestate heir is a legal term that refers to the decedent’s surviving family. If the decedent was married, their heirs would be their surviving spouse or children. The heirs of unmarried victims are their parents, siblings, or the closest surviving family member. Note that significant others, unmarried partners, and close friends cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit, even if the victim named these people as beneficiaries in their will.

Who Can You Sue for Wrongful Death?

A defendant can be any person, organization, or business responsible for a person’s wrongful death. Here are some examples:

  • A person who intentionally murdered someone.
  • A hotel’s excessive carbon monoxide levels led to a guest’s death.
  • A doctor killed a patient by recommending and performing unnecessary surgery.
  • A driver who killed a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol.

What Are Wrongful Death Defense Arguments?

When faced with a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant tries to prove their innocence by shifting the blame for the person’s death onto someone or something else. Examples of defense arguments include:

  • Another party falsely accused the defendant.
  • The defendant was present at the victim’s death but didn’t contribute to its occurrence.
  • The defendant acted in self-defense when they killed the victim.
  • The victim signed a waiver in which they took responsibility for their death.

For instance, if the decedent died because of a skydiving accident, the waiver they signed would likely relieve the skydiving company of all responsibility. A defense argument that might fail to work would be if the defendant tried to blame a venue that sells alcohol. If the defendant was over 21 years old and purchased alcohol from a venue, the venue wouldn’t be responsible for the actions the defendant performed while intoxicated.

What’s the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada is two years after the date of the victim’s death. If you try to file a lawsuit after two years, the court will likely approve the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case. That’s why it’s important to contact a lawyer immediately if you think you have a case. We’ll have plenty of time to collect the appropriate evidence and build a case by contacting one of our attorneys.

What Compensation Can You Receive From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits are civil rather than criminal cases, meaning the defendant cannot go to jail if the court rules in favor of the plaintiff. Instead, the defendant will be responsible for paying the damages that resulted from the victim’s death. If you’re the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, you can recover “special damages” such as medical bills that the victim incurred before their death and funeral/burial expenses.

You may also cover compensatory or punitive damages that the victim could have recovered. Compensatory refers to the estate’s actual losses, whereas punitive refers to payments that punish the defendant and discourage others from committing similar wrongdoings. If you’re an heir, you can receive compensation for the following:

  • Pain and suffering of the decedent.
  • Loss of companionship, society, or comfort.
  • Loss of the victim’s health insurance or wages.
  • Grief or sorrow.

Should You Settle?

Most wrongful death lawsuits settle through negotiation. This process allows the plaintiff to receive compensation that’s within the reason of the defendant. It also allows both parties to avoid the time and expense of a court trial. Additionally, settling benefits the plaintiff because it ensures a higher likelihood of compensation.

Despite the downsides of going to trial, some plaintiffs want to take the risk. A trial can provide closure by ensuring the law finds the defendant liable for a loved one’s death. Deciding whether to settle or go to trial is challenging, but an expert attorney can help you determine the best option for you and your family.


We hope this guide helps you better understand your rights in regard to losing a loved one as a result of another’s wrongdoing. If you need assistance with your wrongful death lawsuit, contact De Castroverde today. Our expert attorneys have helped families like yours obtain the compensation they deserve. We’re ready to help you build a case and provide expert legal representation during this difficult time.