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Government Immunity In Wrongful Death Cases

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Madeleine Jones
December 16, 2020

The basis of a wrongful death claim can be provided by a death that was caused by the negligence of another party. This personal injury claim’s goal is to provide some type of financial resource to the surviving family for the wrongful action of the negligent party. However, there are certain exceptions that exist involving immunity. For example, government agencies. If you lost a loved one because of the actions of a government entity or worker, you should talk to an experienced Las Vegas wrongful death lawyer to learn how government immunity can impact your claim.  

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When Lawsuits Are Filed Against the Government

Generally, lawsuits that are filed against a federal, municipal, or state agency are extremely complicated. For example, this kind of lawsuit has a shorter statute of limitations and there normally is a cap on non-economic damages for the victims. In some cases, a victim is completely unable to file a claim at all. This happens when the government agency is immune to any liability for the wrongful death.

A claim filed against the federal government will most likely be applied under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

When Does The Government Have Immunity from Liability?

Government immunity from liability for a wrongful death case under federal and state statutes can be possible when one of the following situations apply:

  • The death was caused by the enforcement or the execution of a court order
  • The wrongful death happened because of civil disobedience, including failure to provide police supervision
  • The death occurred because of a natural, temporary hazardous condition on a roadway, such as slippery roads
  • The death happened by natural conditions on government property

There are other cases where a surviving family member applies to seek damages against a government agency. This is possible when a government employee causes a death related to their employment scope. Other situations where a wrongful death claim can be filed against a government entity include:

  • When the government doesn’t repair hazardous roadways
  • When they fail to properly maintain roadways
  • A government employee acts negligently or misconducts in a government building

The Federal Tort Claims Act

The Federal Tort Claims Act establishes federal government immunity in all cases from punitive damages. Even if a government employee contributed to the death of another, the surviving family can only recover economic damages from the person that acted negligently. Economic damages include:

  • Expenses related to death or injury, including medical costs.
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • If the deceased was the primary income earner in the household, their future loss of income
  • Any concrete loss related to the death

These damages can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a government entity. To make sure you get the entirety of the damages that you are entitled to after the death of a loved one, you need to contact an experienced Las Vegas wrongful death attorney to build a strong case. Having legal representation on your side will make sure you’re treated fairly and you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.

Family Members Can’t Recover Punitive Damages

Some punitive damages can’t be recovered by family members through a wrongful death claim against a government entity. The punitive damages include pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Under federal law, federal agencies are immune from punitive damages

Filing a Claim Against The Government in Nevada

Nevada law dictates certain procedures for filing any claims against a government agency. For example, in order to file a claim, the surviving family member of the deceased has to file and sign a written notice of claim at the Nevada Board of Examiners. This notice must contain:

  • The number of damages wanted
  • How the wrongful death took place
  • Why the government agency is responsible
  • Medical report from a physician that treated or attempted to treat the deceased

The Attorney General’s office receives this notice of claim and they approve or deny it. It is rare the claim is ever approved. If the government denies all liability for the wrongful death, the surviving family member can file a wrongful death claim. Unfortunately, there is a limit on the amount you can recover for these type of claims in Nevada.  For more information, consult with a Cogburn Law attorney.

Wrongful Death Attorneys In Las Vegas

If you need more information about your available options after losing a loved one in a wrongful death accident, call Cogburn Law for a free consultation today at (702) 748-7777.

Do you want to learn more about the wrongful death claim process? Add your email below and we will send you our guide free of charge. It includes useful tips on things to avoid when going through a wrongful death claim and how you can give yourself the best chance of winning it.

Erik was incredibly compassionate with our family after we lost our dad. It really made us feel safe and in good hands. We needed that. I would say Cogburn Law is an outstanding firm that has its client’s interest at heart.

Jenna F.