The wrongdoer should be held accountable. Although no amount of money will replace your loved one, a full settlement of a wrongful death claim may help your family regain financial stability, pay debts, reach a sense of closure about your loved one’s loss and move forward with dignity.
Even though you may still be mourning your loved one’s death, time is of the essence in considering a wrongful death claim. It is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Choosing an experienced wrongful death attorney is one of the most important steps you can take. Our compassionate attorneys at Hardison & Cochran can guide you through the legal process and stand by you every step of the way. Contact the North Carolina wrongful death lawyers at Hardison & Cochran toll free at 800-434-8399 today or through our online contact form to discuss your case. You’ll get a response within 24 hours, and your initial consultation is always free.
Wrongful Death Claims in North Carolina
A wrongful death is a legal term that refers to a death caused by someone else’s negligent action, failure to act or criminal misconduct. Survivors can file a wrongful death lawsuit against a reckless or negligent party to seek compensation for their loss. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary compensation. The civil lawsuit may be brought even if there is an ongoing criminal prosecution related to the death. It is separate from any criminal prosecution that may arise after a death caused by malice or misconduct.
North Carolina General Statute 28A‑18‑2 says that when a person’s death is caused by “a wrongful act, neglect or default of another,” the person, corporation or entity responsible may be sued just as they could have been if the deceased person had lived. Such claims are pursued by the deceased’s family member or on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
To prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit, a deceased’s survivors or the estate must show that a wrongful act, neglect or default on the part of the defendants caused the death.
What Proof is Required in a Wrongful Death Case?
A person who brings a wrongful death lawsuit needs to show proof that the alleged wrongdoer:
- caused the individual’s death
- should have foreseen that the individual’s death was a predictable result of his or her carelessness, failure to act or misbehavior.
For example, car accidents are common causes of wrongful death cases. A driver who is exceeding the speed limit and driving 90 miles per hour should be able to foresee that their unsafe driving may cause a serious or fatal car crash. If the speeding driver causes a fatal accident, the negligent driver may be held liable for providing compensation to the family of the person or persons killed.
What Services Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Provide
Our attorneys will perform a number of steps if we handle your wrongful death claim. They include:
- Investigating the cause of the wrongful death
- Determining individual, business or other entity responsible for the death.
- Identifying applicable insurance policies to provide compensation
- Identifying individuals entitled to receive wrongful death compensation
- Preparing evidence of damages
- Filing claims with insurance companies
- Preparing a wrongful death lawsuit
Does it Matter if the Deceased Was Partly at Fault for the Accident?
Under the North Carolina law of contributory negligence, an individual who is partly responsible for an accident is not allowed to recover damages. But the determination of fault and who is negligent are legal issues that may be complicated. It is important to have a knowledgeable lawyer review the specific facts of the accident and advise you of your legal options.
What Types of Compensation May be Sought in a Wrongful Death Claim?
North Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act spells out the types of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death action. Compensation may be claimed for:
- Medical expenses including hospitalization and hospice care
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering the person suffered before death
- Income and benefits the deceased person would have earned
- Loss of companionship and services that the deceased would have provided
- Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the wrongdoer, may be sought if the death was caused by willful acts or malicious conduct–not all wrongful death lawsuits seek punitive damages
- Additional damages as the jury sees fit.
The law does not address specific grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. Incidents that may lead to a wrongful death lawsuit include, but are not limited to:
- Car accidents involving fatalities, including those caused by drunk drivers, drugged drivers, distracted drivers, speeding drivers or other types of driver negligence;
- Deadly motorcycle / moped accidents, including those caused by automobile drivers who failed to see motorcycles, drunk drivers, drugged drivers, and distracted drivers;
- Fatal truck accidents involving tractor trailers and other vehicles caused by violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations by a truck driver or carrier company or other driver;
- Boating accidents, including personal watercraft / Jet Ski, water skiing, and tubing accidents;
- Workplace injuries, such as construction site accidents;
- Occupational exposure to hazardous materials or substances such as asbestos;
- Nursing home neglectand abuse;
- Defective products, including dangerous drugs and defective medical devices.
Regardless of how your loved one’s death occurred, our dedicated attorneys are ready to assist. Wrongful death cases require thorough investigations that must start promptly so that records can be obtained, medical experts can be consulted and witnesses can be interviewed before their memories fade and evidence is lost. Wrongful death lawsuits in North Carolina must be filed within two years of the decedent’s date of death.
When someone dies unexpectedly, it is crucial that the surviving family members contact an experienced North Carolina wrongful death lawyer, such as the attorneys at Hardison & Cochran, as soon as possible to discuss the details. Our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys offer a courtesy consultation to review your loved one’s accident and explain your legal options. People who lose a loved one on whom they depended financially and emotionally deserve to be compensated for their losses. Aggressive legal help is usually required to realize that goal.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?
North Carolina law pertaining to wrongful deaths specifies that the administrator or executor of the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. In some instances, a surviving spouse, parent or an adult child may serve as executor. The suit seeks compensation on behalf of the estate and the legal beneficiaries who typically are the surviving spouse and children.
If the individual who died had a written will, the executor named in the will serves as the personal representative who may bring a wrongful death case. If the person died without a will, then the court appoints an administrator of the estate and the administrator is responsible for bringing the claim.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?
The survivors of an individual killed in an accident or a representative of the person’s estate has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. In certain cases, more than two years may be allowed to file a lawsuit.
It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible about your family’s loss because of the amount of time needed to gather evidence and file a wrongful death lawsuit before expiration of the statute of limitations.
Contact Our North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
If a loved one has died unexpectedly at the hands of another person in North Carolina, call the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Hardison & Cochran toll-free today at 800-434-8399, or fill out our online contact form. We represent families who have lost loved ones in wrongful deaths in Raleigh, Cary, Wake County, Research Triangle Park, Durham and elsewhere in the Triangle; in Fayetteville, Dunn, Southern Pines, Wilmington, Person County, Greensboro and the Triad; and across North Carolina.