Wrongful death lawyers, how do they help you? A Wrongful death lawsuit arises when a person’s death occurs as a result of negligence on the part of another. These cases seek damages compensation for the loss of a loved one’s life.
Who Can Bring the Lawsuit
Under North Carolina law, a personal representative must bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative is generally the executor of the deceased party’s will and the will should explicitly list the name of the executor, also called the administrator. If the deceased party died without a will, the court appoints a personal representative, who is usually a family member or close personal friend. In the case of a minor victim, the parent generally acts as the personal representative.
The role of the personal representative, as explained under North Carolina law, is to distribute any award granted under a wrongful death lawsuit. In taking on this responsibility, this person must “take into consideration and to make a fair allocation to those claimants for funeral, burial, hospital and medical expenses which would have been payable from damages which might have been recovered had a wrongful death action gone to judgment in favor of the plaintiff.”
Common actions leading to wrongful death claims include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Product liability;
- Industrial accidents;
- Railroad accidents; and
- Medical malpractice.
Proving the Case
When establishing liability in a wrongful death case, you must first establish that the alleged at-fault party acted negligently. To do this you must prove three elements:
- The party had a responsibility to act in a reasonable manner in order to prevent injuries;
- The party failed to act in a responsible manner; and
- The lack of action proximately led to the death of the victim.
North Carolina places a statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, so you only have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. Failure to file within this time frame can prevention your ability to ever bring the suit.
Types of Damages
The personal representative can seek various types of damage awards when asserting a wrongful death claim. These claims include:
- Loss of income from the victim;
- Loss of services and affection to the descendants of the victim;
- Medical and funeral expenses; and
- Mental anguish and loss of support and consortium.
When considering intangible damages like mental anguish, the court seeks to find an amount that promotes fairness and justice. It looks at the nature and length of time for the relevant relationships.
If the case is successful, North Carolina law establishes how wrongful death awards are distributed by the personal representative:
- First, damages are used to cover financial obligations, including attorney’s fees, burial expenses and medical costs;
- Then, payments may go to the surviving spouse and children of the victim;
- If there is no surviving spouse or child, the victim’s parents and siblings receive distribution; and
- If a surviving spouse remains, but no children, the award is divided between the spouse and the parent.
Call a Charlotte North Carolina personal injury attorney for help if you believe you have a wrongful death claim.