Wrongful death lawsuits are the most serious of all types of personal injury claims, but they differ significantly from a standard injury claim. One of the basic differences is the type of damages that can be requested in a wrongful death situation. When loved ones die needlessly in an accident, they often leave behind a family that is in financial peril compounded by the grief of losing a family member. Certain financial issues immediately arise along with mental anguish associated with the loss. This can be overwhelming for a family. Luckily in North Carolina, family members can be compensated when it can be proved in court that their loved one is denied in a wrongful gross negligence situation.
Who Can Sue?
The first question in a wrongful death claim is establishing who has first standing to file a claim against a negligent actor. North Carolina has designated that only the personal representative of the decedent estate may actually file the claim, also known as the “executor of the estate”. While this may or may not be someone from the immediate family, the proceeds are intended for the family asset inheritors. In fact, state law says the financial compensation for a wrongful death claim can never become part of the decedent’s estate, so the funds will pass outside of any probate claims on the estate and is their personal property.
The first element of a wrongful death claim in North Carolina is specified financial damage recovery for expenses that include medical and hospital bills, funeral expenses, and burial expenses. Also unique to North Carolina is the capacity to include financial compensation for general damages resulting from any pain and suffering endured by the decedent between the time of the incident and the actual time of death. Other specified financial compensatory elements include lost wage replacement based on earning power of the decedent and loss of support for the time leading up to adulthood for dependent children. For the spouse, it is a lifetime consideration. Non-economic damages can include recovery for loss of consortium, loss of society, and loss of a relationship with a parent as the children are developing into adults.
Mental Anguish Recovery
The ultimate element of any wrongful death claim in North Carolina is financial compensation for the overall mental anguish suffered by the family of the decedent. It is important to note that damages in a wrongful death lawsuit beyond expense recovery are intended as punishment for the defendant. Awards are specifically intended as financial compensation for the family regarding mental anguish suffered due to the needless death of their family member. The decedent can be a father, mother, or even a sibling in some cases. Just as the dynamics of the case apply with respect to economic loss, the level of punitive compensation awarded for mental anguish can be a substantial amount based on the material case factors. This is where a wrongful death claims lawyer can focus on the amount needed to equitably compensate the family for their loss.
Contact our Personal Injury Law Firm
The wrongful death claims lawyer that is chosen to represent a claim in North Carolina can be the difference between proper compensation or potentially no compensation at all. Wrongful death is considered a form of personal injury claim in the state, which means that the state contributory negligence law can be used against the decedent when the claim is adjudicated. Even the slightest evidence that the decedent caused their own death can result in a case dismissal under certain circumstances. An aggressive and comprehensive wrongful death claims lawyer can prepare for this defense and craft a case establishing total fault against the defendant in many cases. It is important to contact legal representation as soon as possible because evidence can fade fast, and there is a two-year statute of limitation for wrongful death actions.