Wrongful death cases are emotionally charged legal battles that arise when the negligence or misconduct of one party leads to the death of another. Wrongful death claims require evidence such as police reports and medical examiner reports to prove that someone breached their duty of care to your loved one and caused their demise. In Nevada, as in many jurisdictions, the pursuit of justice for cases where a person died because of another’s negligence or misconduct is achieved through wrongful death lawsuits.
This article explores notable examples of successful wrongful death suits, outlines the key evidence often required to win a case, and delves into the intricacies of filing, funding, and distributing compensation in these challenging legal proceedings.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Car Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents and Semi-Truck Accidents
Successful wrongful death suits must first establish that there was a duty of care between the defendant and victim, then show how this duty was breached and led directly to fatal injuries to the victim. For a car accident this typically means showing how they failed to check blind spots or drive at an acceptable speed; evidence from traffic cameras, eyewitness accounts or cell phone videos could help establish this element of your claim.
Fatal Drunk Driving Accident (2020): Michael DeMella was awarded $24 million by a jury after his pregnant wife was killed by a drunk driver who plowed into the poolside cabana where they were lounging at a Fort Lauderdale hotel.
Defective Products or Services
Toyota Sudden Acceleration Lawsuits (2010): Wrongful death claims were filed against Toyota after reports of sudden unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles. In cases where this defect led to fatal accidents, families pursued legal action against the automaker. The resulting settlements highlighted the responsibility of manufacturers in ensuring the safety of their products.
O.J. Simpson Civil Trial (1997): One of the most infamous wrongful death cases involved the former football star O.J. Simpson. Although acquitted in his criminal trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, he was found liable for their deaths in the subsequent civil trial. The families of the victims were awarded $33.5 million in damages.
Tobacco Industry Litigation: In the late 20th century, numerous wrongful death suits were filed against tobacco companies. The cases claimed that the companies knowingly concealed the dangers of smoking, leading to fatal health issues. Many of these suits resulted in substantial settlements, sending a powerful message about corporate responsibility.
Accidents on Venues or Premises
The Station Nightclub Fire (2003): In this tragic incident in Rhode Island, a fire at The Station nightclub claimed the lives of 100 people. The victims’ families filed wrongful death suits against the club owners, alleging negligence in maintaining the venue and inadequate safety measures. The case resulted in multi-million dollar settlements.
Kroger Grocery Store Slip and Fall (2008): While this case is not a wrongful death case, it is a case that emphasized premises liability. An individual slipped on smashed fruit on ground at a grocery store and suffered debilitating injuries preventing him from going back to work. The store was found negligent in maintaining its premises, Had he died of the injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident his family could have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Medical Malpractice: Dr. Conrad Murray (2011): In the case involving the death of pop icon Michael Jackson, Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Although a criminal case, the Jackson family also pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against Murray, seeking financial compensation. The suit concluded with a multi-million dollar settlement.
Bayer’s Contaminated Blood Products (1980s): In the 1980s, Bayer faced numerous wrongful death lawsuits after it was revealed that their blood-clotting products were contaminated with HIV. Families of those who contracted the virus and ultimately died pursued legal action, resulting in significant settlements and shedding light on the importance of product safety.
Evidence Often Used to Win a Wrongful Death Case:
Wrongful death cases are complex and vary greatly in terms of evidence needed, yet in every case the defendant must prove that an innocent loved one died due to negligence or misconduct on the defendant’s part.
No matter the cause of death; be it drunk driving, substandard sidewalk maintenance or an employer failing to provide safety equipment; victims’ families can bring wrongful death actions against these negligent parties in Nevada courts and be compensated for their losses.
Surviving loved ones of the victim must establish that the defendant caused his or her death through overwhelming evidence; this standard is lower than what must be shown in criminal murder trials.
Successful cases often include:
- Causation Evidence: Establish a direct link between the defendant’s actions or negligence and the victim’s death.
- Expert Testimonies: Engage expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists, to provide credible opinions on the case.
- Documentary Evidence: Present documents, emails, or records that demonstrate the defendant’s awareness of potential risks or negligence.
- Eyewitness Testimonies: Gather statements from individuals who witnessed the incident or can attest to the defendant’s negligence.
- Duty of Care: Show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- Breach of Duty: Prove that the defendant breached their duty through negligence or misconduct.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Nevada?
In Nevada, the right to file a wrongful death suit is typically granted to immediate family members including spouses, partners, children, and parents of the deceased can file a wrongful death suit. Nevada statutes regulate who is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The costs associated with a wrongful death lawsuit are typically covered by the plaintiff or their attorney, often working on a contingency fee basis. If the case is successful, the attorney’s fees and expenses are deducted from the awarded damages.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Though no amount of money can truly compensate for the death of a family member, suing those responsible can help ease financial burdens and help families cope. Furthermore, legal action sends a powerful message that such reckless acts won’t be tolerated.
Damages awarded in wrongful death suits typically fall into two categories: economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages might cover items like medical bills and lost income for the victim.
Noneconomic ones account for pain and suffering experienced prior to their death, funeral costs, as well as intangible benefits like companionship that the deceased provided their family members. Therapy and counseling may be required for survivors who have experience the trauma of losing a loved one. These costs can be included in the resulting settlement or court finding.
The distribution of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is typically outlined in state statutes. In Nevada, damages are distributed to the heirs of the deceased in proportion to their losses. This may include compensation for medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and emotional distress.
Wrongful death cases are complex legal battles that demand a thorough understanding of the law, strong evidence, and skilled legal representation. By examining past cases and understanding the key elements of a successful suit, individuals can navigate the legal process with a greater chance of obtaining justice for their loved ones. The pursuit of accountability in wrongful death cases serves not only to compensate the grieving but also to promote a safer and more responsible society.