When a person dies due to another person’s negligence the legal system offers a number of responses. Any time someone causes another person’s death there will be a criminal investigation, which may result in prosecution by the state. Depending on the facts of the tragedy, the responsible person might be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter or second-degree murder. The criminal prosecution may result in jail time for the defendant. In some circumstances the criminal court may also order the defendant to pay financial restitution to the deceased person’s estate.
The criminal justice system does not fully compensate victims
The criminal justice system’s ability to compensate victims is limited in a number of important ways. Criminal courts are constrained in the kinds of financial compensation they are allowed to grant to victims of crime. Convicted criminals can be ordered to pay restitution for economic damages, which includes things like medical costs, funeral expenses, and lost earnings. But a criminal court cannot order the defendant to pay compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering, or the emotional and life-altering harms suffered by the victim’s family.
Criminal prosecutions may fail to serve the interests of victims in other ways. Prosecutors may prefer to save resources and reach a plea deal that leaves out restitution altogether. The prosecution may take a long time. And due to the high standards required for conviction, the defendant may be acquitted.
Wrongful death offers family members a path to compensation
A civil claim for wrongful death is often an appropriate remedy for qualified plaintiffs who want financial compensation from the person responsible for causing another person’s death. A claim for wrongful death can seek compensation for a range of harms related to the death. In addition to economic losses associated with the deceased’s injuries, plaintiffs can also pursue compensation for their grief, loss of support, loss of companionship, and the pain and suffering of the deceased. These categories often capture significant losses.
Nevada law provides that only certain people have standing to bring a wrongful death claim. Two categories of people have standing. The first category is the deceased person’s personal representative. This typically means an estate lawyer or executor. The second category covers the deceased person’s legal heirs. These are the people identified in a will or, if there was no will, by applying default rules.
Wrongful death lawsuits can unwittingly give rise to conflicts among heirs and personal representatives, each of whom may have valid claims. This can be especially problematic if the defendant’s resources are limited. Ideally everyone involved in the lawsuit will agree upon the suit’s goals and how any financial awards will be allocated among them. If the plaintiffs have significant disagreements, especially if there is a significant potential recovery available, the parties may need to hire separate attorneys and negotiate a coordinated strategy amongst themselves.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has been committed to giving our clients the personal, caring attention they deserve. We represent clients in cases involving personal injury, including wrongful death. We work closely with clients to relieve them of the burden of protecting their interests and defending the legacy of their loved ones. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or contact us through our website.