Losing a loved one, whether a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, is a painful experience, regardless of the circumstances. However, if your loved one is gone due to someone else’s action or negligence, the pain of loss is compounded by frustration, anger, and even fear of an uncertain future.
While receiving compensation for your loss may not ease your grief or bring someone back, holding the responsible party accountable for the loss of your loved one can offer closure and help you and your family move forward. Additionally, the compensation you receive can provide you with the security necessary to care for your home and family, and protect your future.
Having a team of experienced personal injury lawyers in Raleigh working on your behalf in your wrongful death claim is necessary to a successful outcome of your case. The lawyers at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, & Thomas, LLP have represented clients in all types of cases and have helped our clients receive fair compensation for the loss of their loved one. To learn more about wrongful death, we wanted to provide an overview of information to help you know how to move forward with a possible case.
Understanding Wrongful Death in North Carolina
Wrongful death is defined by N.C.G.S. 28A-18-2 as a death caused “by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” Wrongful death claims fall under personal injury, but in these cases, the injured person, or decedent, is unable to bring forth his or her own case. Instead, a representative acting on behalf of the deceased may file a civil claim pursuing damages.
Criminal and Civil Cases Regarding Wrongful Death
In North Carolina, a wrongful death case may be filed even if the circumstances surrounding the death also meet the North Carolina felony guidelines. Because a wrongful death case is a civil matter, the claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased, and fault is determined and expressed through monetary compensation. In a felony case, it’s filed by a prosecuting attorney in criminal court and, if the defendant is found guilty, he or she will be punished through jail time or fines.
Who Files a Wrongful Death Claim?
In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the claim must be filed by the person who is designated to be the deceased person’s personal representative. If there is a will, the representative is the person named as executor. However, if the deceased had no will, the representative will be the person who qualifies as the estate administrator as determined by North Carolina succession laws (laws determining inheritance if there is no will).
Requirements for Successful Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim
For a successful outcome of a wrongful death case in Raleigh, the plaintiff must prove two things:
- Cause in Fact: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was directly responsible for the victim’s death
- Proximate Cause: The plaintiff proves that the victim died due to a foreseeable result of the defendants action or negligence.
The case must also be brought forth within the North Carolina statute of limitations. Claims must be filed within two years of the date of decedent’s death in order for the court to hear the case.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
- Medical malpractice or medical negligence
- A car accident caused by driver negligence, like texting and driving or driver intoxication.
- Workplace accidents caused by unsafe working environments
- Dangerous or defective products
Pursuing Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
When a defendant is found liable for a wrongful death due to action or negligence, the jury or judge may require them to pay damages, the monetary compensation for victims’ families. Damages may include compensation for:
- Medical bills and expenses accrued prior to death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income, service, protection, care, and companionship
- Compensation for pain and suffering
If the plaintiff proves the defendant acted with malice or willful conduct, the court may award punitive damages to the plaintiff as a punishment of conduct.
What is the First Step Toward Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you have lost a loved one, North Carolina does make it possible to hold the responsible party liable. However, to improve the likelihood of success for your case, you want to speak to a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible to help you navigate the legal system and receive expert counsel. At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, Thomas, we work with families around Raleigh, helping them receive the compensation they deserve after losing a loved one.
Contact Our Raleigh Wrongful Death Attorneys for Help with Your Claim
To learn more about wrongful death and personal injury cases in North Carolina, we encourage you to call our attorneys at (919) 615-2473 or fill out the contact form below. We’re here to help you get the compensation you deserve so you can experience the closure you need, knowing the responsible parties were held accountable. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!
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