Do You Have to Go to Court For a Wrongful Death Case in North Carolina?

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A gavel and soundblock on a judge's bench, next to a microphone, with a black chair in the background.The death of a loved one is the worst nightmare for most people. When the loss is the sudden and unexpected result of someone else’s negligence, the devastation is made worse by the legal and financial burdens that must be dealt with.

Every wrongful death case is unique. There are countless factors involved in determining the outcome of these sensitive matters.

Consulting with a North Carolina wrongful death attorney is the best way to get a clear picture of the legal process and to understand what will happen in your situation.

What Percentage of Wrongful Death Cases Go to Trial?

Only a small percentage of claims for damages in a wrongful death case actually go to trial. The majority of cases are settled out of court.

A personal injury attorney will negotiate on your behalf to get you the settlement you deserve. The experienced lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson are knowledgeable about wrongful death cases and know what to push for and what to expect.

They will guide you through the settlement offers so you can be sure you are getting a fair amount.

Why Do Wrongful Death Cases Settle Outside of Court?

The probability of settling out of court depends on the circumstances surrounding your unique case. Most wrongful deaths are completely preventable, and courts are not always sympathetic towards the defendant.

The defendant and especially their lawyer know that they are not likely to win their case in court. In order to avoid costly court fees and possible punitive damages, depending on the severity of the situation, it is in the defendant’s best interest to settle out of court.

Insurance companies also want to avoid having to pay extra fees and will try to settle out of court. Your personal injury lawyer will assist you in knowing how much your case is worth so that you get fair compensation.

Why Should I Settle Out of Court?

Settling out of court will get you paid faster. Going to court takes time because you have to prepare your case, wait for your court date, and prove your case in trial, which can take time as well.

There will also be costly court and litigation fees. Just because you are offered a settlement does not mean that you have to accept it. However, there are some good reasons to accept a settlement offer:

  • If the settlement is enough to cover all your damages
  • You need the money right away and can not wait for further negotiations
  • You do not want to endure a long trial

Is My Settlement Offer Fair?

Insurance companies will often present a low offer as though it is very generous to make you believe that you are not entitled to more. In reality, what they have offered might not even cover all your expenses, not to mention everything else that you are entitled to receive.

Always contact a wrongful death lawyer to negotiate the settlement amount for you to make sure you get fair compensation.

What Types of Damages Can Be Claimed In a Wrongful Death Case?

The deceased victim’s family is the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s claimed damages.

The determination of the value of the award for damages potentially includes the following factors:

  • Funeral Expenses
  • Transportation Of the Deceased
  • Burial or Cremation Expenses
  • Medical Bills For the Deceased As a Result of the Accident
  • Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived
  • Pain and Suffering of the Deceased
  • A Reasonable Value For Non-Economic Damages

Funeral Expenses

According to Funeralocity, the average cost for a funeral in North Carolina is just over $8,000 and varies depending on the city, elected services, and service provider. Wrongful death accidents are unplanned events that can leave families unable to pay for funeral arrangements.

Transportation of the Deceased

Not all wrongful death accident victims die close to home. The cost to bring them home varies wildly depending upon the following criteria:

  • Distance They Must Travel
  • Fees for Shipping Arrangements
  • Method of Transportation
  • Weight of the Deceased

Burial or Cremation Expenses

Direct burials without the cost of a funeral added range between around $1,200 – $1,600. Cremation is approximately just under $1,000.

The cost for each method fluctuates depending on location and the type of coffin or urn chosen.

Medical Bills for the Deceased As a Result of the Accident

Wrongful death accidents are horrific, especially when high speeds or falls are involved. With the advancements in safety features in vehicles today, many people survive the initial crash.

Unfortunately, some still succumb to injuries and die in the hospital. Any treatment they received before their death, including transportation to the hospital, will be charged to their estate.

While families are not responsible for paying these expenses, medical bills are expensive and would take a large portion, if not all, of the deceased’s estate. Some families could be left with nothing, especially if family assets were only in the deceased’s name.

Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived

The income the deceased would have earned if the accident had not happened is also calculated in a claim for damages. This amount is significant to families who depend on the victim as the household’s primary income source.

Pain and Suffering of the Deceased

The family can also receive financial compensation for any pain the victim experienced from the accident until death. Some deaths happen instantly, while other victims experience extreme pain from their injuries, and they may have suffered for a long time before help arrived or if they were trapped somewhere.

A Reasonable Value for Non-Economic Damages

Family members are owed compensation for the loss of their loved one. Non-economic damages are for the loss of the individual.

For example, a child who lost a parent also loses a guide, counselor, and comforter. A spouse is losing a companion, support, and consortium.

They are losing future memories and will suffer emotionally for the rest of their lives.

There is also consideration given to the value of the victim’s life. For example, if the victim provided professional services, that would have allowed them to increase their earning potential exponentially.

Should I Go to Court?

Waiting to go to court is not for anyone. You should discuss your options with your attorney to decide what is best for your situation.

Some elements to consider include:

  • The legal precedence of your case (the type of outcome the court has given to cases similar to yours in the past)
  • The extent of damages from the accident
  • How likely you are to get sympathy from the jury
  • Whether the victim had dependents
  • The deceased’s age
  • How long you can wait for the money
  • Are you prepared to pay the legal fees
  • How much money do you wish to receive as compensation

The insurance company will also be looking at these factors when deciding if they wish to go to court or offer a fair settlement. Your attorney will help you weigh the pros and cons, but the decision is ultimately yours.

Can I Settle Out of Court Without An Attorney?

It is possible to accept a settlement offer without ever consulting a lawyer. However, insurance companies often offer less to victims without legal counsel because they know you do not have experience in legal matters, so you probably do not know how much your claims are worth.

Victims with lawyers negotiating on their behalf are usually offered fair settlements quickly. They also tend to have higher settlements than victims who pursue claims without lawyers.

How Can I Know if I Have a Strong Case?

There are many factors that impact the strength of your wrongful death lawsuit. Discussing these matters with your lawyer will give you a good indication of how well your case will go if it continues on to court. Some of the factors affecting your case include:

  • The liability of the defendant: You must be able to prove that the negligent acts of the defendant caused the death
  • The amount of strong evidence: The evidence against the defendant should speak for itself in providing proof that the defendant’s negligence or intentional harm caused your family member’s death
  • Jurisdiction: The state where the wrongful death occurred matters as well because different states have different laws and regulations that may affect your wrongful death claim
  • The amount of compensation you are seeking in your claim: Higher financial awards are more difficult to achieve because the defendant’s legal team will be fighting harder against larger payouts, and a jury might not be willing to award a significant sum if they feel sympathetic towards the defendant

Contact a North Carolina Wrongful Death Law Firm to Negotiate a Fair Settlement

At Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters, we offer free consultations to discuss your case, and we will not charge you anything until we have achieved a satisfactory outcome for you. Contact us at (800) LAW-0804 to speak with an experienced attorney.

We do not let insurance companies take advantage of our clients. Every case gets individualized attention and care.

With over sixty years of combined experience, you can be sure that you are in good hands.

You have been through a horrible tragedy by losing your loved one. Let us handle the fight to get you the best possible compensation.